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Patriots on edge about Buffalo's many weapons

New England’s defense faces a unique athletic challenge with Bills explosive athletes.


Much of the focus this week in the lead up to the battle between the Patriots (1-0) and the Bills (1-0) will be on the game within the game pitting Tom Brady's potentially high-powered New England offense against Rex Ryan's presumably dominant defense.

It's a matchup that's certainly worth watching and, on some level, will indeed decide the winner Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But there's another aspect of the Bills that may be just as worthy of some attention, and that's a pretty impressive combination of athletic playmakers on the Buffalo attack.

From athletic first-year starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to former All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy and on through playmaking wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin, Ryan's offensive unit has some of the makings to be just as volatile as its more heralded, proven defensive counterpart.

Any guy that has the ball in his hands is capable of going a long way.

Mix in a deep stable of running backs and versatile tight end Charles Clay, a thorn in the Patriots defensive side during his days with Miami, and New England's young, new-look defense has its own major set of challenges to deal with in Week 2 with first place in the AFC East on the line.

"Lot of explosive players. They are very explosive," Bill Belichick emphasized in his Tuesday conference call. "And Taylor, we saw him take off for a 31-yard run last week. So it really doesn't matter who those guys are. Watkins. [Robert] Woods. They have a lot of speed there. Explosive players and they are all very dangerous."

Ryan's offenses in New York always had a ground-and-pound reputation, but in Buffalo it might be more like ground-and-go-deep unit. And the group hasn't even hit its stride yet, with McCoy notching just 41 yards on 17 attempts in the opener, while Watkins was held without a catch.

"They do a great job with the running game," Belichick continued of the Bills. "Then the play-action and some of their deep passes set up off of that where if you start creeping up and try to be overaggressive to stop the run they can get behind you like they did against Indianapolis with Harvin for a 50- or 60-yard touchdown, whatever it was. So that's kind of the problems that they present.

"Any guy that has the ball in his hands is capable of going a long way. They are a very explosive team, including the quarterback. So we have to do a good job there. They got a lot of 'em. It's a very dangerous group."

New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia also emphasized the "E" word when asked for his general thoughts on the group his unit will try to stop 10 days after it allowed Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown to lead the Steelers to 464 yards in their own right on opening night.

"Obviously they have a very explosive offense," Patricia said of a Bills team that upset the Colts 27-14 on opening day. "They have a tremendous set of skill players all the way across the board from the wide receivers to the tight ends to the running backs and then added the element of the quarterback from a dual threat, both in his ability to throw and run and also move around and escape within the pocket from the pass rush and extend plays. So I think they really have a good combination, obviously you could see that last weekend, of all cylinders.

"All those guys are really explosive players."

Patricia also raved about Buffalo's receivers' dedication and ability as blockers, helping create big plays on the edge. In fact, the New England defensive boss boiled down his team's challenge, on some level, to winning the war on the edges of the front.

"Obviously the edge will be critical for us against the Buffalo Bills. Their speed, their ability for them to change direction, ability for them to bounce out to the edge very quickly and turn it into a space game is really what we're talking about," Patricia said. "So if we don't get that edge set and we allow guys like McCoy or Taylor or [Karlos] Williams or any of those guys or even the skill players when they come back into the backfield and carry the ball, if we allow them to get out into space and create yardage at that point they turn it into a space game where obviously guys with great speed and athleticism and quickness have an advantage. It's something we have to make sure that we do a great job of trying to do a good job of setting the edge to the defense like every week, something we try to do and make sure we have everything contained."

The challenge is set. On Sunday the New England defense will find out if the challenge can be met, as the unit does it's best to give the Brady-led offense a chance to knock off Ryan's confident, blustery Bills in Buffalo.

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