NFL Wire News

Patriots facing old foe in Ryan

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Storylines are obvious sometimes. They write themselves.

This week the Patriots (1-0) head to Buffalo to take on the Bills (1-0) with the early season spot atop the AFC East on the line.

Tom Brady’s offense will have another chance to face off against Rex Ryan’s defense, the new Bills’ boss having moved on from his days running a Jets’ team that saw its last four battles with New England decided by three points or less in the final two years of the coach’s tenure in New York.

Ryan is feeling good after his team’s impressive opening-day upset of the Colts, fueling his ever-present confidence and outspoken bravado.

Brady and Company had their own impressive opener, with the quarterback throwing four touchdown passes in a win over Pittsburgh, including three to tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Ryan and the Bills know what he’s going to get from New England – a Brady-led aerial assault.

Brady and the Patriots know what they are going to get from Ryan’s defense – an aggressive, attacking scheme that will play to the strengths of his personnel.

“Rex’s defenses are always great in terms of the way they play, how sound they are, how disciplined they are, the challenges they present to you,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He is obviously a great coach. They have a great staff there and they’re working with a lot of really good players as well. Aggressive, keeps you on your toes in terms of what they do and don’t give up a lot of big plays, make it difficult for you to run the ball with consistent success, try to come after the quarterback, create turnovers and negative plays – all the things that a great defense has to do I would say that this group definitely does. And again, tremendous amount of respect for Rex in terms of how he’s always played and called his defenses. I don’t see this one being any different. It’s going to be another great defense. They got off to a great start, obviously. It’ll be a huge challenge for us up there on Sunday.”

One thing to keep an eye on from a Patriots perspective is the way New England’s young offensive line – the team had three rookies playing guard and center against the Steelers – that’s very much a work in progress deals with the talent and scheme that the Bills’ front represents. Aggressive game plans are one thing, but executing them with talents like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes is another beast all together.

That’s a challenge the Patriots have spent their long week since the Thursday night opener working towards.

“The key for us is just to identify it,” Bill Belichick said of Buffalo’s blitzes. “They give you a lot of different looks and they bring a lot of different people. It’s not just a linebacker or a particular safety or whatever it is. They have different packages. Sometimes that changes by formation, so it depends on what you’re in what you’re going to get. I think the key is just that we have to have a good week of preparation, make sure we can understand what we’re doing on each play and follow our rules. Our rules will take care of whatever any defense does. We have a certain thing we do depending on what happens, and hopefully we’ll be able to execute those if and when they come up on Sunday.”

Really, though, that preparation for the Bills front and others has been ongoing for months.

“It’s challenging, and we’ve been preparing. We’ve done blitz pickup probably more than any other team in football since the spring started,” Brady said. “Especially with some young players in there up front, so just to have a lot of work that we’ve kind of put in the bank and know that you’ve got to trust the guys next to you that when you make a call, you know, we’re going against probably the best D-line in football. These guys are phenomenal all the way across the board, so it puts a lot of pressure on the offense to communicate well, trust each other, and then when that breaks down I throw it as quick as I can. I don’t want to be the one holding the ball all day and see if they can get home because you know they can.”

Brady’s offense knows the challenge at hand. Ryan’s defense does, too. This could be a battle between two of the more elite units on their respective sides of the ball this fall.

It’s the age-old question of which is better – an elite offense or an elite defense?

“It always comes down to execution,” Brady concluded.

That will certainly be the storyline being told Sunday afternoon around 4 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

SERIES HISTORY: 110th regular season meeting. Patriots lead series, 66-42-1. These two longtime foes meet annually in AFC East battles, although with Tom Brady holding a 23-3 career mark in games against Buffalo it’s hard to describe the recent series as a battle. The Patriots defeated the Bills 15 straight times from 2003 to 2010.

PLAYER NOTES

–WR Chris Harper, an undrafted rookie out of Cal, was released Sept. 15. Harper led New England in receptions during the preseason and saw limited action but did not record a catch in the opening night win over the Steelers.

–RB LeGarrette Blount returned to practice this week after missing the first week of work and the season opener due to a one-game league suspension dating back to a marijuana charge from his team playing in Pittsburgh a year ago.

–DL Dominique Easley was the only player absent from the practice field during the media viewing window in New England on Wednesday. Easley suffered a left hip injury early in the opener against Pittsburgh and did not return. He’s reportedly dealing with a hip pointer. He was officially listed as not practicing on the injury report.

–LB Dekoda Watson was re-signed Sept. 16. The veteran had been in training camp with New England but was cut Aug. 31 in the first round of moves toward the regular season roster.

–LB Eric Martin was added to the Patriots practice squad Sept. 16. The veteran made the roster out of training camp and saw reserve action in the regular season opener before being cut on Sept. 12.

–LB Alex Singleton was released from the New England practice squad Sept. 16.

–DL Jimmy Staten was released from the New England practice squad Sept. 16.

–OL Ryan Wendell was limited in practice on Wednesday due to an unspecified illness. The veteran captain sat out the opener despite not showing up on last week’s injury report after he missed the bulk of the summer and all of preseason on PUP while coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.

–RB Travaris Cadet was a full participant in practice despite a hamstring injury that’s been hampering him since early in training camp. Cadet was inactive for the season opener last Thursday.

–DL Trey Flowers was once again a full participant in practice despite a knee injury suffered in preseason game action.

–S Tavon Wilson was again a full participant in practice despite a quad injury.

–WR Keshawn Martin was acquired in a trade with the Texans on Sept. 16, although terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Martin is a fourth-year, former fourth-round pick who played in all 16 games in each of his first three seasons in Houston as a returner and a return man. The Michigan State alum had a career-high 22 catches for 253 yards and two scores in 2013. The 5-11, 194-pounder has a career average of 8.2 on punt returns (with one touchdown) and 25.1 on kickoffs. He joins a wide receiver depth chart that lacks depth behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola with Brandon LaFell opening the season on PUP.


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