Foxborough, Mass. - In the days leading up to Sunday's game between the Patriots and Bills, much was made about the match up between the Patriots offense and the formidable defense of Buffalo. The nationally televised game would pit the Patriots - scoring 26.0 points per contest - against the Bills, who ranked in the top four in the league in total defense (268.1 yards per game), rushing defense (95.9) and points allowed per game (17.1).
The much-anticipated match up never materialized though, as the Patriots balanced offense took center stage with 428 total yards in the lopsided 29-6 win. The Patriots rushed for a season-high 208 yards on 45 carries, with 25 first downs (11 rushing, 12 passing) and just one turnover. Corey Dillon wore down the Buffalo defense with 151 yards on 26 carries - with Kevin Faulk adding 61 yards on 13 carries - while quarterback Tom Brady completed 19 passes to 10 different receivers for 223 yards.
New England head coach Bill Belichick pointed towards the execution of the offensive line as one of the main reasons the Patriots moved the ball so successfully against a Bills defense that had yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
"I think it was execution," Belichick said. "We executed some of the things that we wanted to do well. I think the backs ran hard. Buffalo, they are good against the run. They are tough to block. They have a lot of good players up there. At times we were able to get enough of them [blocks] to get the back through the hole and the backs ran well and they made some yards on their own.
"No, I don't think anybody got over powered. I don't think anybody got dominated or anything like that. I wouldn't even come close to saying that. But, I think execution wise, there were a couple of times where we got through some tight cracks and made some solid yardage and, again, that is a credit to the people involved in those plays. To get a little crack in that defense is tough. If you get it, then to get through it and make some yards on it, that is good running."
The numbers continue to tell the story. Behind Dillon, Faulk and the play of the offensive line, the Patriots held the ball for more than 41 minutes of the game, compared to 19 for Buffalo. The Patriots had 12 offensive drives - five of which ended in field goals and two others in touchdowns - which included scoring drives of 81, 99, and 75 yards.
The balance of the Patriots offense Sunday night - 45 rushes and 37 passes - was only magnified by the solid play of the offensive line.
"I think it is a fairly balanced group," Belichick said. "I think you have to be able to run block. You have to be able to pass block. There are times in the game when the rubber meets the road and you have to run it and they know you have to run it, or you have to throw it and they know you have to throw it. That is really when you get tested. It is a lot easier to play on your terms and do it when you want to do it. But, when you are trying to run out the clock at the end of the game, when everybody knows you have to run the ball, or you are behind and you have to throw it and everybody knows you have to throw it, then that is really where you get put to the test. We have been in those situations. Some have been better than others. We have been competitive in both of those cases."
Many wondered how the Patriots would respond following their first loss of the season, a 20-34 drubbing on Oct. 31 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the loss interrupted their 21-game winning streak and put an end to the perfect 6-0 start to the season, the Patriots have responded with impressive wins in consecutive weeks, handling the St. Louis Rams 40-22 on the road and defeating Buffalo 29-6. Belichick, though, debunks the theory that the loss to Pittsburgh served as any type of motivating factor for the Patriots.
"I think every game is independent," Belichick said. "I really do. I think the preparation and the game plan and the execution of the game is all pretty much self-contained. I don't think the Pittsburgh game was a reflection of the Jets game. I don't think the Rams game was a reflection of the Pittsburgh game. I think it was a reflection of those weeks of work and then ultimately the execution and the opportunity that we had to perform. Sometimes, it was better than others. I think it was contained basically in those weeks. I am not saying you can't get anything out of previous games. You correct mistakes and you put emphasis on things that you need to do better. I think there is some degree of that. I am not totally oblivious to it, [but] 99 percent of it I think is self-contained."
More Brown Banter
Wide receiver Troy Brown continued his two-way play in Sunday's win, finishing with two receptions for 23 yards while recording his first career interception as a defensive back in the early in the fourth quarter. Brown, who served as the team's nickel back against Buffalo, has been pressed into service as the Patriots deal with injuries to Ty Law, Tyrone Poole and Asante Samuel. Belichick was asked Monday if he considers it special what Brown is accomplishing this season.
"It takes a special guy to do what he is doing," Belichick said. "There is no question about that. But, he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Whatever the coverage is, he is trying to play it, and should be trying to play it the way it is supposed to played. That is what his job is when he is out there on defense or on offense, for that matter. Any time we put a player out there on the field we expect him to do it the way it is basically designed to be played. Troy does a good job of that. He is a very consistent player. He is a dependable player. That is one thing he is. He is instinctive, too. There are some things you can't teach."