There is no secret formula to stopping the Buffalo Bills offense. Teams don't need to come up with exotic defenses or plan for a state-of-the-art passing game. In order to stymie the Bills offense, the Patriots, and every other team in the league, knows they need to take Bills running backWillis McGahee out of the game. It's just that simple.
In the four games McGahee has carried the ball at least 20 times, he has rushed for 117, 140, 86 and 143 yards and the team is 3-1. In the Bills other three games, McGahee carried the ball 13, 16 and 16 times and the team went 0-3. It's pretty obvious the more McGahee touches the ball, the better the Bills chances are of winning football games.
For the season, the third-year back out of Miami has rushed for 654 yards and four touchdowns. Bill Belichick knows the Patriots have another challenge this week facing one of the NFL's premier backs.
"He's a really good back," Belichick said. "He runs hard, has good power, good speed. He has a bunch of long runs already this year. Once he gets past the line of scrimmage, he eats up a lot of ground."
The Patriots have yet to get a full dose of McGahee. In their first meeting last season, McGahee was active but didn't touch the ball. The second time the two teams played, the Patriots jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and the Bills were forced to abandon the running game early. McGahee had only 14 carries for 37 yards in a 29-6 Patriots win. The team is expecting to see a lot more of the Bills running back this time around.
"Stopping him is definitely going to be a focal point for us," Patriots linebacker Monty Beisel said. "He's a very elusive runner, especially in the open field. He is actually very similar to some backs we have already played like [LaDainian] Tomlinson."
The Patriots are hoping to defend McGahee better than they did Tomlinson, who gashed them for 134 yards on 25 carries. McGahee's best performance this season was against the New York Jets where he ran the ball 29 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. If he gets rolling like that again this week, the Patriots know they could be in for a long night.
"Hopefully we can do a good job at containing him," Belichick said. "That's what we're faced with this week. He is a very good all-around back."
The Patriots had an extra week to try and sure up a defense that has struggled stopping the run. Belichick said on Wednesday he thought the team was making progress in practice fixing some of the problems that plagued them through the first six weeks.
"We know what we need to do," middle linebacker Chad Brown said. "We have to stop the run, limit big plays and force more turnovers. I think that's obvious. Now we have to go out there and get it done on the field."
New England has yet to see the Bills feed McGahee for a full four quarters but that should change this time around. As the numbers prove, the more the Bills get McGahee involved in the game, the better chance they have of being victorious.
The Patriots defense is well aware of this so now they just need to go out and stop the Bills best offensive weapon. Whether they are successful or not will go a long way in determining who leaves Gillette Stadium with the AFC East lead on Sunday night.
Belichick remembers Wellington Mara
Giants owner Wellington Mara passed away Tuesday at the age of 89. Mara owned the Giants for more than 70 years and was considered one of the most influential and innovative owners in NFL history. Bill Belichick was a part of the Giants organization for 12 years and he spoke Wednesday about Mara's passing.
"It was a great opportunity the Giants gave me in my career," a choked up Belichick said. "Personally, he did a lot of things to help me out like helping me in relocating to New York.
"He was at practice everyday. He didn't say a lot but he was always out there being supportive. In my 12 years there, I think he spoke to the team twice so it was a rare occasion.
"He always knew the right thing to say. He was very intuitive. Not just with the team but also with the individual players…He always said the right thing at the right time.
"That is a big loss for the league right there. You don't go back any further than that. He was there from the beginning. Not too many people in this league can say that."
Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, the Patriots have a record of 25-4. New England's .862 winning percentage is the highest of any NFL team over that span…This week's game between the Patriots and Bills will be the 91st time the two teams have met since 1960. The Patriots lead the all-time series 49-40 with one tie…The Patriots are 20-6 against the AFC East since 2001…Belichick said on Wednesday that Tedy Bruschi hasn't suffered any setbacks in practice and is moving along in his attempt to play this week against Buffalo.