Foxborough, Mass. - It's never a bad idea to take something that's already good and make it even better. For the Buffalo Bills, that scenario was realized when safety Lawyer Milloy returned from an injury to rejoin an already formidable defense.
The Bills defense is among the best in the AFC this season, ranking in the top three in 11 defensive categories, including total yards per game (268.1), rushing yards per game (95.9) and scoring defense (17.1). Buffalo has done much of that without Millow, the four-time Pro Bowler who will be making his fourth start of the season Sunday when the Bills and Patriots meet at Gillette Stadium.
"I think he makes it a lot better," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "The guy is a terrific football player that they haven't had that now they've added on to an already good defense. Lawyer is a good tackler, a strong blister, a very experienced player who makes a lot of good decisions."
]()Milloy missed the Bills' 31-17 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 3 with a broken right forearm he suffered during the preseason, but his return has made a decided difference in the Buffalo secondary. He recorded 12 tackles in his first game of the season against Baltimore, following that up with a career-high 18 tackles in the Bills' 38-14 win over Arizona. Last week, he added four tackles and his first interception of the season in a 22-17 win over the New York Jets.
"I know he is probably the happiest to be back," Buffalo head coach Mike Mularky said. "He never missed a game until this. I think he is such a positive [influence], not just Sunday afternoons, but when he is on the practice field there is a whole different atmosphere within the practice. He is that kind of guy."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who remains close friends with Milloy and spoke with him recently, knows the former Patriot will be a factor. Milloy had 14 total tackles, a sack and a tipped pass that led to an interception in two games against the Patriots last season.
"You definitely have to be aware of him," Brady said. "He knows our personnel and he knows our play-calling better than just about anybody. He is going to have his input in what they are going to try to do. He had a great game against us last year when we played them there. He seems to always find his way into the mix."
Watson On His Way
Rookie tight end Benjamin Watson made an appearance in the Patriots locker room during the media access period Thursday and is making progress from a knee injury that sent him to the injured reserve Sept. 29 and ended his season. Watson led the Patriots with 19 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown during the preseason and had two receptions for 16 yards in the season-opener. The 32nd overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Watson has stayed in the area and is working with Patriots head trainer Jim Whalen.
"Rehab is going well," Watson said. "It's a long process, and it's hard work, but I'm getting better and I see improvement every day. As long as I see improvement every few days I'm doing well."
The Patriots have had well-publicized success with players like Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel and Dan Klecko playing on both sides of the ball this season. Buffalo - Sunday's opponent - has also used defensive lineman Sam Adams and Justin Bannan in spot duty on offense. Don't expect it to become a league-wide trend though. Belichick said there aren't "an infinite amount of options" when looking at which players on a 53-man roster may be candidates to play both sides of the ball.
"There are some players you can't move," Belichick said. "They don't want to move and you can't move them. You just ask the guy to move one spot or play the exact same position on the other side of the [ball] with the exact same responsibilities, and it's like two different guys. Whatever the reasons are, it's just not effective. It just doesn't work and there's no chance to do it."
]()Injury Update** The Patriots reported no changes to the injury report Thursday. CornerbacksTy Law(foot) andTyrone Poole(knee) are listed as "out," while linebackerMatt Chatham(hamstring) and wide receiverDeion Branch are "questionable." All of the above players missed portions of team practice for the second consecutive day.
Belichick was asked about the status of Branch, who hasn't played since Sept. 19 but was upgraded from doubtful this week. "He's getting better," Belichick said. "He's making good progress. He's coming along."
Cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder), linebacker Larry Izzo (knee), and quarterbacks Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are again listed as probable.
Quick HitsBrady doesn't anticipate being one of the Patriots called on to play both ways this season. "We are all in trouble if I'm playing defense. We are in big trouble. I couldn't guard anyone out there." ... Miami Dolphins interim head coach Jim Bates was a member of Belichick's coaching staffs with the Cleveland Browns from 1991-93 and again in 1995. "Jim has a lot experience in coaching, more than I have. He's an impressive guy to talk to, and he's an impressive guy to work with. I think his record speaks for itself. He's a good coach." ... Belichick said Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who ranks fifth on the team with 40 total tackles and tied for second with three sacks, is playing well despite what the statistics may suggest. "I think Richard has had a consistent year, lets put it that way. As we have said about many defensive lineman many times, it's not all about the stats. A guy can show up on a couple of plays and it looks like he's having a big game, when in fact he may actually be performing better in other games. He's having a good, solid year."