For the first time in seven starts, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn't always look certain in the pocket last week. With the Buffalo Bills playing sound coverage and looking to eliminate certain options, Brady was forced to hold the ball too long and took seven sacks as a result.
To his credit, he didn't force the ball into tough coverages and turn it over. A sack is certainly better than an interception, but an incompletion is better than a sack and there were times when Brady needed to throw the ball away.
It would stand to reason, then, that other teams might copy Buffalo's defensive plan and hope Brady again suffers from indecisiveness. The Bills were able to take away his early options like no other team in his first six starts was able to do other than, perhaps, Miami.
Bill Belichick doesn't seem concerned about the Rams playing copycat Sunday night.
"It's a totally different game," he said. "I don't think that St. Louis plays one coverage that Buffalo plays and I don't think Buffalo plays one coverage that St. Louis plays. The schemes are night and day. They are both good schemes, but they come from different directions. I can't imagine St. Louis defending us like Buffalo did."
So what did Buffalo do?
"They played well," Belichick continued. "They mixed things up and caught us in some things that didn't match up very well, and their players played well. They tackled well, they rushed the passer well and they did enough in coverage to make us hold the ball and pull it down, and the pass rush got to us a few times."
Belichick then went on to explain the differences between the Bills and Rams.
"I would say that probably St. Louis's lead coverage would be cover-two. Buffalo doesn't play cover-two. They haven't played it all year. I don't think they'll start playing it this week and I don't think St. Louis is going to stop playing it. That's one big difference right there."
The Patriots will certainly need all hands on deck and the fact that Terry Glenn was downgraded to doubtful on Friday doesn't help matters, although the team hardly counts on him at this point anyway. But if St. Louis is able to clamp down on wide receivers David Patten and Troy Brown, Brady will have to turn to other places to find playmakers and he may be hard-pressed in finding them.
Through his seven starts, he's done a nice job spreading the ball around, but if a team has success taking away Brown and Patten as Buffalo essentially did, that team can take its chances that the likes of Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, Marc Edwards, Jermaine Wiggins and Charles Johnson aren't going to beat them.
All of those other players have played significant roles in the team's resurgent offense, but mostly when Brown and Patten were making plays.
The Patriots offensive challenge this week will be to make sure St. Louis can't focus on the two playmaking wideouts and take them out of the game. For that to happen, some of the other players must elevate their game and prove capable of making critical plays, especially in the passing game.
One week after Buffalo did a tremendous job in coverage against the Patriots receivers, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will face a stiff test in trying to make sure the Rams don't repeat that feat.