If the Bills have any chance of beating the Patriots at New Era Field on Sunday it will require mistake-free football and an offense that can keep Brady off the field. Who will lead the way? Who will step up with a breakthrough performance to help get the monkey off their back? It will require everyone playing at their best to make it happen, and for some luck to go the Bills’ way.
One piece of good luck already happened. Ed Hochuli will not be officiating the game.
Here’s some players who could be difference makers for the Bills on Sunday if they can perform at a high level.
LeSean McCoy/Travaris Cadet
Of course McCoy is the obvious choice. The good news is the Patriots do have some difficulty in defending the run. If McCoy can get in a groove and break off some chunks of yardage on the ground or through the air, it will be the biggest difference maker for the outcome of this game.
Keeping Brady off the field is one way McCoy could be a major contributor, but staying on the field isn’t going to be good enough to win. McCoy will need to get into the end zone, early and often for the Bills to have a chance to win the game.
Belichick knows Tyrod Taylor’s limitations at quarterback. The book on the Bills all season has been to stop McCoy and force Taylor to “be a quarterback”. That means the running game must be functional for the Bills to be competitive. Don’t underestimate how important Travaris Cadet’s role may be in the game plan as well.
We all saw how difficult it was for Mike Tolbert to sub in and run plays designed for Shady. If Cadet can step in and keep the flow in the running game going, it will go a long way in helping the Bills keep Brady off the field.
It’s become glaringly obvious the Bills defense as a whole suffers when Gaines is not on the field. Gaines is a tackling machine and the Bills will need a gritty performance by all defensive backs if they hope to slow down the Patriots passing game.
Gaines was virtually unknown by most Bills fans before he arrived in Buffalo. It didn’t help that he was the guy who the Bills traded Sammy Watkins for either. But the anger by the fan base quickly faded when Gaines proved his worth with his consistently solid performances.
It may seem blasphemous to some, but I think Gaines will prove to be more productive for the Bills this season than Watkins would have been had he stayed in Buffalo. And, the Bills got a second round pick to boot!
Jones is ready to shine and he needs to do so, now more than ever. Without Kelvin Benjamin playing because of a torn meniscus, Jordan Matthews (if he plays) and Jones will have to keep the Patriots defense honest. If they can’t provide a vertical threat, the Patriots will load the box, crush the running game and it’s game over.
You can see the game is slowing down for Jones and he’s getting a feel for the speed of the game at the NFL level. If ever there was a game for Jones to break out, this would be the one.
Defensive tackle rotation
If we learned one thing about Tom Brady over the years, it’s that he doesn’t like to be pressured up the middle. The best way to rattle him is to get in his face over and over and over again. Hitting him is the only way to get in his head.
EDGE rushers don’t seem to faze him as much as defensive tackles breaking through the middle of the offensive line and getting directly in his face. Knocking him on the ground repeatedly is necessary and the only way to get in Brady’s head. There’s virtually nothing he hasn’t seen already, so brute force is the only way to effectively stop him.
As unlikely as it seems, the Bills can win this game if they score touchdowns early and McCoy/Cadet can get into a rhythm. Turnovers will be key, so Tre’Davious White better be ready to roll like he was last Sunday and show the world why the Bills are better off without Stephon Gilmore.
Editor’s babble: Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.