While the New England Patriots’ offense has had its moments over the last few games, as a whole the unit is currently lacking consistency both on the ground and through the air: from Tom Brady missing passes, to the protection and blocking up front breaking down at times, to receivers not getting open, the entire unit has struggled to get into a rhythm recently — and the challenges are not exactly getting any easier at this time of the year.
Just this week, for example, the Patriots will have to go up against one of the best defensive teams in all of football when the Buffalo Bills come to town. Surrendering just 14.2 points per game, the Bills’ defense is currently ranked second in the NFL in scoring behind only New England (10.9) and it will present a major challenge to Tom Brady and company — something Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made clear earlier this week.
“I think Leslie [Frazier] and Sean [McDermott] do a tremendous job with their entire defensive unit,” he said during a media conference call on Monday. “This is the best defense that we play, and the challenge is incredible. We’ve gotten to see them once this year, and now we have another opportunity to prepare and play an incredibly important game to our season this week. They’re well-coached at all three levels.”
The last time New England went up against Buffalo, the Bills were able to hold the team’s offense to just nine points while also forcing an interception and giving up just 11 first downs and only 224 yards. Needless to say that a repeat performance could spell trouble for the Patriots on Saturday, despite the team fielding tremendously successful units on defense and in the kicking game as McDermott’s team found out during its 16-10 loss in Week 4.
For McDaniels, meanwhile, the strength of the Bills defense lies not just in its coaching but also the aggressiveness of its front-seven. And according to the veteran play-caller, the entire unit — one that ranks fourth in the NFL according to Football Outsider’s DVOA statistic (-13.3%) — feeds off of it: “Their whole defense really plays off of the disruptive plays that their front makes, and they do a really good job.”
“Their entire front is disruptive. Shaq [Lawson] — they move him around, he plays end, he plays inside sometimes in passing situations,” McDaniels said about a key member of Buffalo’s defense. “He can play on either side of the line, so everybody has to block him — disruptive guy, certainly has grown into his role in their defensive scheme. He can beat you inside, he can beat you outside, he plays hard, he’s got a good motor, got a good skill set.”
“It complements all their other guys,” he continued. “[Tremaine] Edmunds does a tremendous job in the middle — plays every play, very disruptive guy. We’re going to have to do a good job of preparing for him and knowing where he’s at on every snap. [Jerry] Hughes is very disruptive; we’ve played a lot against him. [Jordan] Phillips has been really, really a disruptive guy in terms of tackles for loss, sacks, getting people in the back field this year.”
“[Trent] Murphy, we’ve played against him quite a few times. He’s a good player on the edge — long, a little different skill set, but nonetheless very disruptive. [Ed] Oliver has stepped in and done some really good things for them. They’re deep up front,” McDaniels concluded about the Patriots’ division rival. The Patriots being able to contain all this talent — something they did comparatively well last week in Cincinnati — could go a long way towards them winning the game and securing the AFC East.
Likewise, Lawson, Edmunds and company are certainly capable of wrecking the game and keeping New England’s offense off rhythm throughout the contest.