The talking is nearly over as Sunday's 1 p.m. matchup between the Bills (5-3) and the Patriots (3-4) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo is just around the corner. While the story of the game is Drew Bledsoe playing his former team, the game also has significant importance in terms of playoff possibilities for both AFC East teams.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said on Friday at a relaxed press conference that one key playing the Bills will be keeping the team's high-powered offense from playing with good field position.
"No question, field position is the big key," Belichick said. "You definitely don't want to put Buffalo on a short field. You want to make them go the length of the field and not give them a lot of opportunities in the scoring zone or they're going to score a bunch of points. I'm not saying that they can't move the ball down the field, because they've had a lot of good drives this year, too. But from a field position standpoint defensively, you always want to put an explosive offense as far away form the goal line as possible and make them execute as many plays as you possibly can."
The coach went on to say that by putting the Bills in those sorts of positions with a long field in front of them that it creates chances for an opportunistic defense.
"I mean nobody goes out there and averages 30 yards a play," Belichick said. "There are always going to be some opportunities to create some negative plays, create a turnover or create some punting situations where you can maintain good field position on the other side of the ball. Those are the ones that we're going to have to capitalize on. But the further you can get them away from the goal line, definitely that's the way to play them. You don't want to give them the ball on a short field."
But not to curiously, Belichick's final press conference prior to the game ended with two Drew Bledsoe related questions. Belichick was asked again about trading Bledsoe within the division and what went into that process. His final answer pretty much summed up his thoughts on the trade of the former franchise quarterback and the message he has been sending all week.
"He's a significant player and they gave up a significant draft choice for him," Belichick said. "They know they're getting a good player. We know we're trading a significant player. But, you can only have one quarterback."
That quarterback is Tom Brady. He, like the rest of Patriots have a simple task this Sunday. It has nothing to do with the quarterback on the other side of the field. The task is the same one they have been facing for three weeks now, end the losing and get back on the winning track.
On the Clock
Belichick clarified the roster situation a bit on Friday. While the team currently has just 52 players on the active roster, cornerback Leonard Myers (Physically Unable to Perform list) and rookie running back Antwoine Womack (Non Football Injury list) are both practicing with the team. Myers is in his second week of practice, while Womack began practicing on Wednesday. The team has 21-days from each player's first practice to make a decision as to whether to activate them or place them on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
The Patriots did not make any changes to the injury report for Friday. Tight end Daniel Graham (shoulder), linebacker Larry Izzo (leg), defensive end Anthony Pleasant (shoulder), center Grey Ruegamer (foot) and cornerback Otis Smith (arm) are all listed as Questionable. Izzo was the only player that did not practice on Friday.
Patriots vs. Bills Game Notes
The two teams have met 84 times over the years. The Patriots have a 44-39-1 series advantage. The 44 wins are the most for the Patriots against any opponent. … Four of the last five games in the series have been decided in overtime. The teams have split those four games. … Going into Sunday's game the Patriots previous four opponents have a combined 23-6 record. Including the Bills, the Patriots next four opponents have a 13-16 record. … Patriots safety Victor Green has been a part of 5 defensive takeaways this season with two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception. Each of those 5 takeaways have been converted in touchdowns by the Patriots. … The Bills have the number two ranked offense in the NFL averaging 384.0 yards per game. … Only eight times in NFL history has a quarterback thrown for more than 25,000 yards for a franchise and returned later in his career to play that team. In those eight games, accounted for by six different players, the quarterbacks went a combined 8-0 against their former teams. Drew Bledsoe and the Bills will look to make it 9-for-9 on Sunday.