Inside The Bills

Gronk doubtful, Amendola probable

Posted by Chris Brown on September 6, 2013 – 5:48 pm

As expected it’s not looking good for Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to be suited up to play against his hometown team on Sunday. Receiver Danny Amendola however, looks ready to go.

Gronkowski, who just returned to practice coming off of offseason back surgery was limited all week and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Bills.

Meanwhile, Amendola, widely viewed as the replacement for the departed Wes Welker, is probably coming off a groin injury. He participated fully in practice Friday.

RB Brandon Bolden (knee), WR Aaron Dobson (hamstring), DB Nate Ebner (ankle) and DB Duron Harmon (hamstring) are all questionable for Sunday’s game.

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Leonhard could have role on Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on September 6, 2013 – 12:51 pm

On Wednesday head coach Doug Marrone said it was a ‘wait and see’ situation with newly signed S Jim Leonhard in terms of whether he would have a role on defense in the season opener. On Friday the situation had not changed much, but Marrone sounded comfortable with the idea of putting Leonhard on the field against the Patriots.

“I think we’ll just wait and see,” said Marrone. “I think Jimmy has been a veteran in this system for quite a long time so for us to plug him in there would not be a problem.”

Leonhard, who is immediately the most experienced NFL player in Buffalo’s secondary as well as the most experienced defensive back in Mike Pettine’s system it stands to reason that Leonhard will see some time against the Patriots Sunday, presumably in a subpackage role.

Rookies Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams are the only other safeties on the roster besides the two starters and Leonhard, who are healthy. Jairus Byrd is doubtful with a foot ailment.

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Brady adjusting to new WR corps

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2013 – 2:55 pm

Adjusting to new receivers is nothing new for Patriots QB Tom Brady, but typically it’s a receiver here or there from one year to the next. The wholesale changes that the New England receiving corps experienced this offseason combined with the youth and inexperience has Brady trying to be as patient as possible heading into the season.

“I’m not the most patient guy to begin with, so that’s something that I’m working on,” said Brady. “But you understand that there’s a learning curve, and there’s things that are going to come up that, you know, look, some guys haven’t experienced the things that I’ve experienced, so you try to talk about, ‘OK, this is possibly going to happen, if it happens then I want you to make this adjustment.’ Well it happens and then the adjustment’s not made and I say ‘Well I told you…” But sometimes that’s what I do with my three-year-old too and he doesn’t listen either.

“You try to just hang in there, and when you communicate you determine how good of a communicator you are by the feedback that you get, and if you’re not getting the right feedback, then you communicate more and you’re obviously not doing a great job of it so I’ve got to do a better job. And that’s I think part of what I tried to do this offseason.”

Where the most change has happened is obviously receiver and tight end. That’s where Brady has tried to focus all of his attention.

“It’s the tight end, the receiver position; the running back position is pretty much the same with the exception of LeGarrette [Blount],” said Brady. “A lot of the extra time and energy has been with the tight end position, the receiver position, making sure that we’re doing the right thing, that we’re on the same page, because you really don’t want to go into a situation like this, at Buffalo, on the road, division opponent, loud stadium and really not be able to communicate and know what to do.”

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Stevie: Rival not the hook, it’s Wk 1

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2013 – 2:49 pm

The Bills have a big opening game against their most bitter division rival in New England, but according to Stevie Johnson the excitement for the players leading up to this matchup is less about who they’re playing.

“It really has nothing to do with divisional rivals,” said Johnson. “If it was anybody, the Bengals, the 49ers, I think we’d all still be excited because it’s Week One. This is what everybody wants to see. Everybody’s been waiting for this season. It’s just excitement period. It’s just excitement. Ready to go out there and play and start a new era. Hopefully this season will be
something special.”

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Mario provides defensive priorities

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2013 – 2:34 pm

Mario Williams is good to go this Sunday as his nagging foot problem appears to be behind him. Heading into the season opener here are his defensive keys for the Bills to have a chance at victory against the Patriots.

“First stopping the run because they can run the ball and they’ve shown that in preseason,” said Williams of the Patriots. “They can still make it happen even though everyone says Tom Brady thinks fast. They’ve shown in the preseason they can still run the ball. Then the next thing is getting after Tom and winning the turnover battle.”

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Week 1 unknowns a concern for Brady

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2013 – 11:15 am

As much as Tom Brady has some measure of unknowns in terms of how his rookie receivers will perform in their first NFL regular season games on Sunday in Buffalo, he also has some unknowns concerning how the Bills personnel will be utilized in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme.

“You play a team like Buffalo with the new coordinator and you’re really not sure what they’re going to do,” said Brady. “In a way, you have to prepare for everything, and a lot of the focus from the last four days has been just that, trying to really put together a game plan, go out, and we’ve had three good days of practice and now we’ve got to follow it up with two more.

“It’s a very good defense. It’s a challenging scheme because they use their players very well. I think they have very multi-dimensional-type players. Similar to what we do on offense: we use everybody, they use everybody. Everybody has a role in their defense. Whatever they feel like is working, they stick with.

“But from game to game it’s always been different, so we’ve got a lot of information on the team based on what they’ve done in the past, so you really aren’t quite sure what they’re going to do. You can just kind of prepare for what you think they’re going to do, certainly what their strengths have been, and try to go from there.”

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EJ’s absence in preseason an advantage?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2013 – 10:31 am

There’s little doubt that Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would’ve preferred to see EJ Manuel get as much work as possible in the preseason. His knee injury did not allow for that to happen as he missed each of the final two preseason games. But there could be a hidden advantage that Manuel’s lack of field time provides the Bills heading into their season opener against New England.

While there’s little doubt the Patriots have done their homework on Nathaniel Hackett’s offense and play calling tendencies, there is limited preseason game tape of Manuel running it. Essentially he played a total 61 snaps in the preseason. That’s why New England head coach Bill Belichick admitted there will be a bit of a feeling out process for him and his defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Sunday.

“To be honest with you, there isn’t a ton of Buffalo film on either one of them,” said Belichick of Manuel and backup Jeff Tuel. “We saw them play in college and scouted them both coming out there, but that doesn’t really mean as much as what they do in this offense and how they do it. There’s not a whole lot of film on either guy.

“We’ll just have to go on what we’ve got and again, be ready once we really see, which is true of a lot of rookie players. Even though you watch them on film, once you actually see them in person and get on the field with them, sometimes they look a little different than what they look like on film. There’s always that whole element of it. I think in this case, we’ll go on what we have but that’s not a whole lot.”


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EJ Manuel return timeline

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2013 – 10:13 am

With EJ Manuel named the starter for Sunday’s season opener against the Patriots just 16 days after surgery, here’s a look back at his injury timeline and how he made his way back to the field.

Aug. 16th – Manuel injures left knee in preseason game vs. Vikings
Aug. 17th – Manuel reports swollen knee. Examination identifies injury and surgery is recommended
Aug. 19th – Manuel undergoes surgery in Buffalo
Aug. 20th – Manuel rejoins teams in meetings
Aug. 21st – Manuel begins rehabilitation from surgery
Aug. 22nd – Manuel begins throwing
Aug. 23rd – Manuel begins light movement work
Aug. 29th – Manuel throws during pre-game vs. Detroit, takes a few pass drops
Sept. 1st – Manuel practices with the team on a limited basis
Sept. 2nd – Manuel practices fully splitting first team reps
Sept. 3rd – Manuel put through a battery of final testing on his mobility
Sept. 4th – Manuel named the starter for season opener

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Belichick expecting blitz

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2013 – 10:04 am

He hasn’t faced the Bills defense under Mike Pettine yet, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has seen the Pettine scheme in action before with the Jets. That’s why he’s expecting blitz and a good deal of it Sunday.

“Quite a bit, percentage-wise,” said Belichick when asked if he’s expecting to face a lot of blitz calls. “There are some tendencies that are stronger than others, but yes, blitz pickup will be definitely something that we need to work on this week, no question about it.”

Belichick sounds as though he feels he has a handle on what Pettine likes to do even though the Bills defensive coordinator has a whole new set of personnel.

“This looks a lot like the Jets defense, just different,” Belichick said. “Different players and schematically it’s similar to what we’ve seen from the Jets. This year, Buffalo looks like the Jets, schematically.”

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Belichick cryptic on Gronk

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2013 – 4:42 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did his daily dance with the New England media and was vague and cryptic with his answers concerning TE Rob Gronkowski, who practiced in pads for the first time since his offseason surgery.

Here’s how the Q&A went between Belichick and the Boston media, as reports continue to speculate on whether Gronkowski will be able to play Week 1 at Buffalo.

Q: How fair would it be to say that Rob Gronkowski has taken a step forward?

BB: This is his first opportunity to be in pads so, yes he’s definitely moving forward.

Q: What have you seen?

BB: He’s day-to-day.

Q: Does he have a shot to play on Sunday?

BB: He’s day-to-day.

Q: What do you need to see from him before you’re willing to put him on a game field?

BB: We take it day to day. Evaluate tomorrow based on how today goes, see how it goes. See how tomorrow goes and deal with whatever that day is, Wednesday or Thursday or whatever the day is. We’ll take it day to day. It’s the same way we do with everybody.

Q: Do you feel the last two days were a significant step for him?

BB: No, just the next step.

Q: What have you seen so far from Rob Gronkowski in practice?

BB: We evaluate any player coming back day to day. That’s what we do with every player.

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Report: Gronk to undergo 4th surgery

Posted by Chris Brown on May 8, 2013 – 12:33 pm

New England Patriots tight end and WNY native Rob Gronkowski is going to undergo a fourth surgery on his injured forearm from last season.

According to the Boston Herald, the procedure is going to remove the metal plate that’s securing the broken bone in the forearm. The main problem right now is there is currently an infection in his arm, which is delaying the surgery as he is completing a six-week antibiotic regimen to eradicate the infection.

The metal plate in Gronkowski’s arm needs to be replaced and the recovery time is 11 weeks. Were he to have surgery today that rehab regimen would take him to the start of training camp, so it’s clear that Patriots doctors believe they have a bit of time to work with.

However, knowing the Bills open the season against the Patriots, monitoring Gronkowski’s health is something Buffalo’s coaching staff will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on through the summer.


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Beating Brady blueprint started by Pettine

Posted by Chris Brown on May 8, 2013 – 12:22 pm

Pittsburgh Steelers S Ryan Clark appeared on ESPN NFL Live in the ESPN studios in Bristol recently and talked about how defenses can successfully throw Patriots QB Tom Brady off his game.

Clark told ESPN NFL Live the following.

“In 2010, we saw it start with the Jets in the playoffs,” he said. “When Tom Brady gets pressure and when you’re man-to-man and bumping those guys and making it hard for him to throw, he sees ghosts.

“Even when guys aren’t around him, even when he’s not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we’ll see him duck, we’ll see him flinch. When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots mystique goes away.”

Everyone knows that the Patriots offense is based largely on timing. That’s why it’s little surprise, as ESPN AFC East blogger James Walker points out, Brady’s completion percentage drops from 68.2 percent to 42.3 percent when he holds onto the ball three seconds or longer.

What’s most encouraging is Clark references the Jets approach in the 2010 playoffs. That approach was largely drawn up by Bills current defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Add in the fact that Wes Welker is gone and Rob Gronkowski coming off the arm injury and the season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sept. 8th could be a very interesting matchup.

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Bills offense super productive vs. Pats

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 10:31 pm

The Bills outperformed the Patriots in just about every offensive category Sunday, but it wasn’t enough in a crushing six-point loss. Here’s the rundown.

Total net yards – BUF – 481 – NE 347
Average gain per play – BUF – 6.8 – NE 5.1
Third down efficiency – BUF – (7-11, 64%) – NE – (7-12, 58%)
Rushing yards – BUF – 162 – NE 117
Passing yards – BUF – 319 – NE 230
Goal to go efficiency – BUF – (3-3, 100%) – NE (2-3, 66%)
Time of possession – BUF – 33:50 – NE 26:10

“Offensively, that’s the kind of team and the kind of game plan and the stuff that we want to do. We got our guys the touches,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had his fourth straight 300-yard passing game against New England. “We got some play action throws with the way they were playing downfield a little bit. Got Scott involved, Stevie involved, Donald did some good stuff. We’ve just got to find a way to pull it out at the end.”

“The stats only mean something when you win,” said Stevie Johnson. “Right now, we’re at the point where it doesn’t matter if you put up a thousand yards,  if you get a loss, it doesn’t really matter. We’d  rather get the wins instead of statistical victories.”

Posted in Inside the Bills

Frustration vs. Pats reaches boiling point

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 7:34 pm

The Bills were supremely disappointed they were unable to pull Sunday’s game out at New England. Having come so close only to come up short with less than 30 seconds to play led to frustration that’s begun to boil over concerning the rivalry that’s turned bitter.

“Definitely frustrating losing to a team we feel like we can beat,” said Nick Barnett. “They’re a good team give them all the credit they make the plays and Brady is a heck of a quarterback, but we know we can beat them and we feel like we can. We’ve done it before and came very close today and should’ve had it. It’s definitely frustrating.”

“This is definitely tough to take, we work hard and it is the same old stuff each week, but we came back in this game. We had a chance to win it and we fell short again,” said Stevie Johnson. “We can’t do anything about it but put it behind us and look forward to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.”

“It really gets old. It gets old and we just have to finish,” said Jairus Byrd. “It means we didn’t do our job. We came out in the first half and the penalties hurt us, and then when they get in to the red zone it is a short field for them. We should have held them to field goals but they were putting points on the board, touchdowns. This is getting old at some point this has to change.”

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Turnovers again tell the tale

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 7:33 pm

As well as Buffalo played for most of their game against the Patriots Sunday, the most critical stat line proved to be the turnovers. Buffalo had three and the Patriots had none.

“You turn it over at the one and you turn it over on our half of the field, they get a short touchdown out of it. We can’t turn it over,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “We are not good enough yet to not play extremely well and win. We’ve got to play extremely well to win. We’re not there yet. There are some other teams that can do that. We’re not. We’re not one of those teams. We are capable of getting there, but we have not gotten there and it’s my job to get us there. We can’t turn it over three times and win ball games most of the time.”

While the first turnover led directly to a Patriots touchdown the other took unquestionably took points off the board for Buffalo. Fred Jackson’s fumble at the one-yard line likely removes seven points and the interception at the end likely takes away seven as well, in what winds up being a six-point game.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Penalties a killer

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 7:31 pm

The Bills got off to an unfortunate start in the game and part of it was due to penalties. Buffalo finished with 14 for a stunning 148 yards, with is the second-most penalty yardage assessed against the Bills in a game in team history. It was the most penalties since the Bills were flagged 15 times on Oct. 1, 2006 against Minnesota.

“They killed us,” said C.J. Spiller. “3rd-and-20, 3rd-and-15, I mean the chances of completing that are very slim, to none. We inflicted ourselves with that stuff and it’s just something we’ve got to straighten up.  Somethings got to be done, because you’re not going to win too many third downs when you’re behind the chains like that. That was pretty much one of our biggest goals, to get better on third downs this week.”

But Buffalo was very good on third downs going 7-11 (64%). The main issue is how lopsided the calls were in the first half when the count was 10 for 119 yards for Buffalo and twpp for just 30 yards for the Patriots.

“The penalties were terrible,” said Eric Wood. “And we started off the game rough  up front. I think we got our feet set and we came back. Sometimes that’s just the way the game goes. I got a holding call that, I’ve probably had that block fifty times this year, where you accelerate your feet at the end with your hands inside.  That’s a not a hold in this league. Without watching it, I’m sure I tugged him a little bit, and Vince (Wilfork) probably flailed his arms, but early on, that just felt like that was how the game was going.”

“That’s just something you got to play through. It’s not really in our hands.  The refs make certain calls, and there’s nothing really you can do about it. We can’t complain. We’ve just got to play through it. For the most part we did a good job doing that, but we just didn’t come away with the victory.”    

The Patriots finished with seven penalties for 73 yards, still half of Buffalo’s final total.

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Spence to fill dual role?

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 9:20 am

One of Spencer Johnson’s greatest attributes is his versatility as he’s able to play both defensive tackle and defensive end in Buffalo’s 4-3. With Chris Kelsay questionable and Shawne Merriman not 100 percent healthy, Johnson could be called upon to spend more time at defensive end against the Patriots today.

“The ace in the hole for us is Spencer Johnson,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “He’s been able to play defensive end. He played it last year. He can go out there and play there if we need him to. That’s kind of our ace in the hole for the defensive line and defensive end position specifically.”

If Kelsay can’t play, Buffalo would only have three defensive ends in Kyle Moore, Shawne Merriman and Mario Williams. Johnson would give them a fourth option to rotate.

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Pats run more plays than anyone else

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 8:36 am

The Patriots offense is usually near or at the top of several offensive statistical categories each year and this year is no different. But one place that’s often overlooked is number of offensive plays. This season with their hurry up offense, New England is far and away the leader in number of plays run at the midway point of the season.

Through eight games New England has run 613 plays for an average of 76.6 per game. Only three other NFL teams average 70 or more (Phil. 70.5, Ind. 70.8, Det. 72). All those plays mean more time on the field for opposing defenses, and that has an impact on what players coaches choose to dress for a Sunday game against New England, knowing they might need a few more defensive players to rotate in.

“It affects those decisions a great deal,” said Bills head coach Chan Gailey. “You have to make sure you have enough so you can rotate players because they are going to run a lot of plays. The best way to counteract that though is for your offense to keep the football. If we can have a little bit of ball control in this game it’ll help us a lot.”

Buffalo managed just 98 rushing yards in the first meeting, but Fred Jackson was not 100 percent healthy in his return from an LCL knee injury. We’ll see if Jackson and C.J. Spiller can deliver a better ball control attack in an effort to limit the number of plays for New England’s offense.

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Report: Pats TE Hernandez won’t play

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2012 – 7:59 am

There are multiple reports that TE Aaron Hernandez will miss the Patriots second meeting with the Bills today.

Late Saturday ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Hernandez was unlikely to play today against the Bills. This morning NFL Network’s Albert Breer reporting from Gillette Stadium went a step further reporting on NFL AM that Hernandez “will not play today.”

Hernandez has dealt with a high ankle sprain for most of the season and re-aggravated it when he tried to return too early from the injury a few weeks ago. The athletic TE missed the first meeting with the Bills back in Week 4.

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Belichick respects Gailey’s offensive acumen

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2012 – 5:51 pm

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is regarded as one of the best coaching minds in the game, but he has great respect for the coaching acumen of Bills head coach Chan Gailey when it comes to offense.

“I think Chan does a good job offensively, he gives you a lot of things to prepare for. They’ve used different players on the Wildcat as well and their Pistol [with] the back behind the quarterback in the shotgun – he has a lot of different packages. He has a lot of personnel groups and formations,” said Belichick. “A combination of all of that wears on you defensively in terms of preparation. You have to get ready for all of it and he does a real good job of game planning that, keeping you off balance, making you defend a lot of things so that you can’t concentrate on just a few things. They go in and out of that.

“Chan does a real good job with his offensive game plan and utilization of personnel. It’s one of the toughest games that we have to prepare for. They definitely know what they’re doing and they do it well.” 


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