Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe features defensive back Randall Gay, who has been thrust into the starting lineup with the injuries to Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. Gay, the undrafted free agent from LSU was torched for a 47-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Plaxico Burress moments after he stepped in for the injured Law. "The play could have been traumatizing, writes Dell'Apa. "But Gay recovered, then performed well as a starter in a 40-22 win at St. Louis last Sunday, his first professional start at cornerback."
In his notebook, Dell'Apa reports the respect that still exists in the Patriots locker room for former teammates Lawyer Milloy and Drew Bledsoe, both now Bills players. Dell'Apa also updates the progress of the injured Deion Branch.
Michael Felger of The Boston Herald notes the challenges facing the Patriots offense Sunday, as they go up against a Bills defense sure to be more stingy than it was the last time the two teams met. "The Bills aren't in the habit of giving up 31 points a game, which is what they did in the Pats' 31-17 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium. In fact, the Bills haven't even given up more than 20 points in any other contest this season," writes Felger.
Felger also reports on the Patriots ability to score at key times in each game. They have scored first in 16 consecutive games and, in six of their eight games thus far this season, have scored on their final possession before halftime.
In his notebook, Felger chronicles the Pats lack of depth on the offensive line, particularly at the tackle position. "From the outside, the Pats appear to be playing with a razor-thin margin up front. But the same thing was said of their depth in the secondary, and on that score Belichick proved in St. Louis, for roughly the 1,000th time, that he knows what he's doing," Felger writes.
The Herald runs another excerpt from Felger's book, Tales From the Patriots Sidelines.
Paul Kenyon of The Providence Journal features offensive lineman Stephen Neal, who, despite not playing football in college, has developed into a solid NFL player. "The 28-year-old Neal had played in only two NFL games before this season," writes Kenyon. "He has played in every Pats game this year and has started the last six at guard."
In his notebook, Kenyon examines the trend of using two-way players, a strategy the Patriots feature prominently and the Bills have employed as well. "Not that long ago, the movement was to specialization, with many players having narrow assignments. Now, more and more players are seeing work on both sides of the ball, in a variety of assignments," writes Kenyon.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call highlights last weekend's showing by the defensive line, pointing out their growing formidability. "The trio of Jarvis Green, Ty Warren and Richard Seymour each finished with a sack, and nose tackle Vince Wilfork held his own against a veteran line as the Patriots quieted the Rams' high-powered offense," writes Parente. "They also held St. Louis to 81 rushing yards and took pressure off the banged-up secondary."
In his notebook, Parente zooms in on the performance of Seymour, who has come on strong after what many perceived to be a slow start. Parente also reports on Branch, as well as the unlikelihood of another Adam Vinatieri touchdown pass.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant spotlights starting right tackle Brandon Gorin, who has proved invaluable with the injuries on the offensive line. "When you're a former practice squad player and seldom-used reserve, as Gorin was until two weeks ago, you tend to seek a low profile, which is easy for such an unassuming and soft-spoken guy," writes Greenberg.
Ian Clark of The Union Leader commends the performance of third-year receiver David Givens, who has emerged in 2004, holding up a depleted receiving corps. "Givens has a streak of three straight 100-yard receiving games going right now, with four overall 100-plus games. His previous high for yards in a game was 87 at Denver last year, where he caught the game-winning touchdown pass," writes Clark.