The New England Patriots’ upcoming opponent is not exactly an offensive powerhouse: the Buffalo Bills rank just 31st in the NFL with an average of just 14.7 points scored per game. The team’s offense failed to score a touchdown in four of its 14 games so far this season and turned the football over a whooping 26 times. That being said, the Bills are playing their best offensive football of the season since their week 11 bye.
Over the last four games, the team went 2-2 — the same record as the Patriots over that same timespan — and averaged 19.5 points a contest. Not necessarily enough to label the Bills as an offensive juggernaut but still a clear improvement when compared to the team’s early season and the struggles it had. Why is that the case? The availability and play of quarterback Josh Allen is the first aspect to look at.
“With Josh Allen you can think of a quarterback that the team just played in Ben Roethlisberger,” said Corey Giacovelli about the rookie passer. Corey covers the Bills for our sister site Buffalo Rumblings and took the time earlier this week to break down the upcoming matchup between the two teams. And when it comes to the battle between Buffalo’s offense and New England’s defense, Josh Allen is the starting point.
While Allen’s passing statistics do not stand out — he has completed just 52.2% of his pass attempts (132 of 253) this season for a mere 1,633 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions — he is a threat as a ball carrier: the seventh overall selection of this year’s draft leads the Bills in every major rushing category and despite all the Cam Newtons and Lamar Jacksons is the NFL’s most dangerous scrambling quarterback.
“The guy is big with an even bigger arm and is tough to bring down by yourself,” Corey said about the 22-year old, who missed four games earlier this season — including the one against New England — with an elbow injury. “The one thing that Allen does more being a rookie is use his legs which he has done well this season. Since he has returned from injury, the offense has been opened up for Allen with his targets running deep routes down the field so expect Allen to be slinging it all day long.”
How do you defend a player like that? According to Corey, keeping a spy on him could do the trick. “It may be best occasionally to have a spy on Allen during the game because with all the vertical routes there is sometimes a lot of green grass in front of him,” he said. However, trying to keep the rookie from scrambling is only one way to impact him: the Patriots’ defense also needs to be proactive .
“When the Patriots are on defense keep the pressure on Allen,” Corey said about defending a quarterback that has turned the football over a combined 11 times this season. “The offensive line is probably the weakest on Buffalo’s team so getting to the quarterback may be easier than it seems. At the end of the day, Allen is a rookie so if you get in his face you may be able to force some mistakes.”
Of course, slowing down Allen is only one part of stopping the Bills offense. Players like running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory or wide receivers Robert Foster and Zay Jones also need to be contained. According to Corey, the Patriots also need to keep an eye on one of the team’s tight ends: “On offense look for tight end Jason Croom,” he said when asked about the Bills’ under-the-radar player on offense.
“With the appearance of Charles Clay being in the dog house recently we are starting to see Croom play more and more,” Corey continued about a player that has caught 16 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown so far this season. “He had a big play against the Lions to keep the clock moving and the guy is a competitor who works hard. If you remember in the Monday Night Football game it appeared he made a great catch that was ruled incomplete.”
“Look for him to make some plays,” Corey said about Croom. While New England’s defensive focus needs to be primarily on Allen, it is players like the 24-year old tight end that might ultimately make a difference in the game.