The Patriots defense is another defense that is very multiple. They like the Jets have an array of players that can play multiple positions. The Pats defense statistically is quite average, overall they rank 15th, allowing 343.8 yds a game (ESPN). But they only allow 18.8 pts/game, which shows that they are a bend but don’t break team. Their weakness is their pass defense ranking 22nd overall, giving up 255.6 yds/game and they are 2nd in the league versus the run allowing only 88.2 yds/game (ESPN). The Pats have allowed only three teams this year to rush over 100 yards against them. So it is plain as day that the Bills must have success in the pass game regardless of how many passes they attempt. The Pats have given up the 4th most amount of first downs through the air but have given up the least amount of first downs on the ground. They are the 8th worst at third down conversion percentage giving up 41.8% of those attempts. The defense is disciplined and they have made a lot of offenses one dimensional.
The Pats defense is led by Dont’a Hightower. He has 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks, and he lines up at several positions. He has lined up at ILB, OLB I have even seen him line up over the tackle and rush from the “DT” position. Their best and most gifted defensive player is Jamie Collins. He has 29 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and he has forced 3 fumbles. He is 6’3″ 250 pounds, ran a 4.64 40 yard dash at the combine so it’s easy to say he is a freak athlete, if he is on the field will give the offense fits. Cordy Glenn is familiar with the Pats best pass rusher, Chandler Jones. Jones currently has 11 sacks according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and he had three of those versus the Bills in their first meeting. Jones currently leads the league in sacks from the 4-3 defensive end position and is 3rd in total pressures which is the total number of sacks, QB hits and QB hurries with 45 (PFF). The Pats play a lot of unique DB combinations and they have 3 safeties that have taken over 50% of their snaps and all three; Mccourty (99%), Chung (80%) and Harmon (48%) all grade out in the 10 top at the safety position, which is incredible. The best cover corner who usually follows the opponents best WR is Malcolm Butler. He is rated an 84.8 according to PFF which is 13th at his position. The Bills will have to be selective on their plan of attack because this defense is solid and is coached better than any other team in the league.
In the first meeting, the Bills Tyrod Taylor passed 23/30 times for 242 yds, with 3 TDs but 3 INTs and was sacked a whopping 8 times. The leading rusher was Lesean Mccoy with 15 carries for 89 yds and Tyrod pitched in 5 carries for 43 yds and 1 TD. The Bills rushed the ball 27 times for 160 yds which is the most the Pats defense has given up all year, so that bodes well this week. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods each had 60 yds receiving and a TD, but most of those came on plays extended by Taylor. The most notable stat was how many penalties the Bills had in that week 2 meeting. The Bills were penalized 14 times for 140 yds. The Bills will need to eliminate penalties if they plan on winning Monday night.
Bills Run Game
As mentioned earlier the Pats are ranked 2nd in the league versus the run. This statistic may be a bit misleading. How much is this ranking a product of how good the Pats offense is? In seven out of nine games this year the Pats have led going into the fourth quarter. Teams know that they can have success in the pass game so they have attacked the defense from that angle. The Bills know that to have any chance in this game they must keep Brady off the field and in order to do that they must be able to run the ball and lead in time of possession. The other two teams to gain over 100 yds on the ground besides the Bills were the Steelers and the Colts. The Steelers and Colts both led in time of possession in their games, they held the ball for over 32 minutes. That helps keep the Pats efficient offense off the field. We know that the Bills run game has been the sole reason that we have won back to back games. What do you think Belichick will try and take away? The run game of course!
Lets start off with personnel grouping that DID NOT work in the run game versus the Pats in the first meeting. I am not saying totally stay away from them but they did not lead to considerable gains in the last match-up. Take a look:
22 Personnel (2 RBs 2 TEs)-Click Pictures to Play Video
With the personnel grouping that didn’t have much success out of the way, lets look at some cut-ups of the Bills and other teams that have had success running versus the 2nd ranked rush defense. Teams have had the most success running out of 11 personnel. Why is that? The Pats like most teams employ their nickel package versus 11 personnel.
In the first match-up the Bills had most of their success running out the 11 personnel grouping. This game will be no different, the Bills MUST be able to run out of 11 personnel. Specifically running the zone read or at least the threat of the zone read. When the Bills were in 11 personnel the Pats employed nickel defense. When you look at the tackle box it looks like the Pats may have this defended pretty well right? Definitely, you have 6 defenders in the box, and you have 6 lineman to block them. But who is not accounted for as a “blocker” is the QB Tyrod Taylor. If you aren’t too familiar with the zone read I will give you a quick run down on why the Bills have been successful running this play.
So the Bills have had favorable match-ups with this look because of several factors. 1-Taylor is an actual threat to throw the ball efficiently. So the defense can not just load the box to stop this play. 2- Taylor is also a threat to run the ball and gain chunks of yards. 3- Our RBs are also dangerous enough to gain considerable yardage in this set. Finally, Greg Roman has such a complex run game they are able to run EVERY type of run in football out of this look. Take a look at what I mean:
The Pats may try to align the box differently. The Jets tried using a hybrid look 3-3-5 versus the Bills 11 personnel. They brought 7 into the box with a safety to the TE side (being blocked by Clay) and aligned the Will LB Pace here.
Another run scheme that has worked versus the Pats defense is the inside trap. The Colts and Frank Gore were quite successful running this play. The Bills love using this play from the 11 and 12 personnel groupings take a look at this beautiful concept.
The other personnel grouping that the Bills MUST be able to run out of is 12 personnel.
So here is how the Pats aligned in the 4-3 under when the Bills were in this 12 personnel double TE alignment with a TE to each side:
So here is how the Pats aligned in the 4-3 under when the Bills were in this 12 personnel, double TE alignment with a TE to each side:
Greg Roman has led a successful rushing attack the last two weeks versus some really good defenses. Especially last week versus the Jets, the Jets knew the run was coming and they could not stop the Bills. That lends credence to great execution. The Pats aren’t as stout on paper and on the field versus the run as the Jets but they are a technically sound team. The Bills must be able to run the ball again this week in order to win. One formation to avoid is the 22 personnel grouping. The Pats handled this grouping in the first match-up when the Bills tried running there was frequently 8 and 9 men in the box. The personnel groupings that they had success running the ball in the first meeting was 11 and 12 personnel. Specifically from the shotgun, it has been our bread and butter personnel grouping this year. The Bills ran the zone read and trap play pretty well the last couple weeks and the Pats can be susceptible to those runs especially if they choose to go lighter on the defensive line to have more talent out there to contain Tyrod. When the Bills are in 12 personnel, misdirection plays will need to be firing on all cylinders because the Pats have shown weaknesses verses the cutback and misdirection plays out the back door. If the Bills can have success running the ball, it will help keep Brady off the field, help control the game and in turn help our pass game which struggled versus the Pats in week 2.
Bills Passing Game
In the week 2 meeting the Bills struggled in the pass game. Taylor had 242 yds, 3 TDs and 3 INTs but most importantly he was sacked 8 times!! According the PFF 3 of those sacks were credited to him, because the held the ball too long. When you look at his advanced stats from that game you can see how Belichick attacked Taylor. Taylor dropped back to pass 42 times, 4 of those Taylor decided to tuck the ball and run. As mentioned earlier there were 8 sacks so Taylor attempted 30 passes in that game. He was only blitzed 8 times and was sacked 2 times on those occasions. He graded out the worst in that game when he wasn’t blitzed. When not blitzed, he threw 3 INTs and was sacked 6 times. It could have been worse, 3/4 of those tuck and run situations were when he wasn’t blitzed. So it is safe to say Belichick made Taylor beat him, he played coverage and let 4 rushers wreak havoc on Taylor and it succeeded. I don’t see the Pats getting too far away from that game-plan because lets be honest, Taylor hasn’t progressed too much in the reading of coverage department. So the Bills will have to help their inexperienced QB this week with some good play-calling.
What gave Taylor such a hard time in the pass game besides the Pats not really blitzing was the fact that they played a lot of zone coverage. Teams play very little man coverage when the opponent has a mobile QB. Reason being is that if all of the defenders are chasing routes down the field the QB can tuck it and run. When man coverage is executed there is usually a spy and that man on the Pats is LB Jamie Collins. The Pats forced Tyrod to read the coverage in week 2 and take what was there. He still has trouble doing that so at times he held on to the ball and took sacks. One of his favorite targets Charles Clay was held in check by a team effort between the LBs and Safeties.
First and foremost Tyrod has to be able to recognize the zone defense and deliver in the passing game, ON-TIME. That means once he hits that back foot get rid of the ball, just take what you can get. Take a look at what I mean:
Expose with 5 wide
The Giants did expose a personnel grouping that caused the Pats some major problems. Which is interesting because in the Bills vs. Jets game, Greg Roman ran plays out of a similar set. That set is the empty backfield, 5 wide receiver look. As you may have learned, half of the battle on play calling is personnel groupings and match-ups. In last weeks Giants vs. Pats game the Giants showed this 11 personnel 5 wide look. In this set the Gmen tried getting the ball to the former Patriot RB Shane Vereen. Take a look:
Here is how they utilized this set:
Here is the Bills version of it last week:
Here are a couple other plays that may work versus the Pats again. Just simple ways to get the ball to the play-makers.
Based on the film so far this year, I think that Greg Roman can create a successful passing attack. The Bills should expect the Pats to play a lot of zone coverage and to blitz very little. The Pats want to make Tyrod beat them from the pocket. They want to confuse him and not allow him to get the ball deep to his play-makers. Tyrod will have to make on time throws to his receivers especially when the defense robs the middle of the field. The Bills may have a possible personnel group that could exploit the defense. The 5 wide, empty backfield set with 11 personnel in the game could cause stress to the coverage on the Pats defense. Regardless of what coverage; man or zone, the 5 wide look could be successful. But in the end the Bills must scheme to get the ball in the hands of their play-makers if they plan on putting enough points on the board to possibly steal a win in Foxboro.