They don't garner much attention, but the bookends on the New England defensive line have been very consistent performers this season.
Bobby Hamilton and Anthony Pleasant, both guys who played for Head Coach Bill Belichick in New York, have provided the Patriots with exactly what the coaching staff could have hoped for. Hamilton came on board just prior to the 2000 season, started all 16 games last season and had 79 tackles.
"It's easy to talk about them," Belichick said. "Bobby came in and gave us a great year last year, leading the NFL in tackles for a defensive lineman. He's a good leader on the team and is a real consistent player."
This season Pleasant has pretty much provided a clone of Hamilton's 2000 showing. He has started every game and has 37 tackles, including four sacks. Hamilton on the other side has posted a career-high six sacks this season.
"Anthony has pretty much come in and done the same thing on the other side this year," Belichick said. "He has given real good production and has played strong. Those two guys have played real consistently for us, and they are like that as people too. Every day, whether it is March, April, July or November, you know what you are going to get out of those guys."
Williams absence should help
In the Week Nine meeting with Buffalo, the Patriots had its problems moving the ball. Before Antowain Smith broke off a 42-yard touchdown run to put the game away, the running game was struggling.
The passing game had its problems as well, with the Bills getting to Tom Brady for seven sacks. A major concern in that game was defensive tackle Pat Williams, who takes up a lot of space at 6-3 and 310 pounds. However, both Williams, who had eight tackles in the first game, and fellow starting defensive tackle Shawn Price will miss the game with injury.
Replacing them will be rookie Ron Edwards and second-year man Lief Larsen neither of whom played in the first meeting.
"He's a real good player," Belichick said of Williams. "Ron Edwards finished the game for them last week at Carolina, and Edwards is a guy who is an athletic player. He's a strong and physical player."
Williams being out should help the Patriots ground attack this weekend, but if this rookie performs the way the other rookies on the Bills did in the first game, New England could be in trouble. In that first meeting, Kendrick Office, Aaron Schobel and Tyrone Robertson combined for 16 tackles and six sacks. Each of the trio had two sacks, and Office added two forced fumbles.
"Those rookies got in there last time against us, K.O.[Office], Robertson and Schobel," Belichick said. "We had a lot of trouble with those guys. Larson is playing the other side, so they've had a lot of young players on the line come in there and give them some energy."
Why the group played like world-beaters in the first game is uncertain. In Buffalo's 11 other games this season, Office, Schobel and Robertson have combined for 60 tackles and 2.5 sacks. With Williams and Price out this weekend, there is added pressure on the first-year guys to step up.
At his current completing percentage of 65.8 percent, Tom Brady would shatter the Patriots single-season record of 61.6 percent set by Tony Eason in 1986… Buffalo rookie Travis Henry has rushed for 675 yards and needs 166 yards to pass current Patriots back Antowain Smith for the fifth-highest rushing total by a rookie in Bills history… Former Buffalo and New England nose tackle Fred Smerlas will be placed on the Bills Wall of Fame prior to this weekend's game. A five-time Pro Bowl player in Buffalo, Smerlas played two seasons with the Patriots.