New England Patriots Week Two Game Preview: Battling the Buffalo Bills

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WHERE’S THE BEEF, REX RYAN? Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the New York Jets during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that stands out with the Patriots matching up with Rex Ryan is that he has been blessed to have been handed some of the best players in the NFL to direct his defense. Unlike his twin brother who struggled with a dearth of talent in Dallas and New Orleans, Rex has had future Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in Baltimore and Darrelle Revis as the star of his New York Jets teams (along with Antonio Cromartie, Sheldon Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson).

Now he lands in Buffalo which already had an elite defense and players such as Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes, Nigel Bradham, and Stephon Gilmore in place to carry out his defensive gameplans. The influx of talented players allows his defenses to thrive. Buffalo made perfect sense for him to target as he did not have to do much to the defense already in place other than introduce his schemes.

Ryan likes to brag about his success against the Patriots, but it is interesting to see how much of his success was early in his career. After inheriting a strong defense from Eric Mangini, he rode two years of strong defensive play against Tom Brady to make most media members ignore the ugly truth of the past four years.

As the spreadsheet above courtesy of indicates, there is a sharp line where Ryan’s success against Brady diminished. In 2011 the New England Patriots unleashed second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski upon the NFL and since then the Patriots offense and Tom Brady have been able to move the ball and win more consistently against Rex Ryan. That is not a coincidence. Since 2011, Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions against Ryan while winning 7 of 8 games.

Oct 20, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) is tackled by New York Jets strong safety Dawan Landry (26) and New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) after making a catch during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won the game 30-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last year against the Jets, Brady was blitzed on just 7 of 38 passing plays against Ryan in the week seven matchup (blitz stats from PFF). In week 16, Ryan and the Jets blitzed just 10 times out of 41 passing attempts. The numbers were similar in 2013 as the Jets blitzed just 10 times out of 40 passing attempts in week two and in week seven it was a blitz on 11 of 50 passing plays. In 2012 in week seven Ryan blitzed on just 7 of 43 passing plays and in week 12 it was just on 6 of 28 pass attempts.

Last week against the Colts Rex Ryan dialed up a blitz on 25 of 53 pass attempts. Andrew Luck was 9 of 23 for 118 yards and a 34.3 QB rating and both interceptions and sacks coming when blitzed. With the Bills not blitzing Luck was 17 of 26 for 125 yards and a touchdown and an 89.4 QB rating. While Luck is improving and physically gifted, mentally he is not at a Tom Brady/Peyton Manning level when it comes to identifying, diagnosing, and beating blitz packages.

If Rex Ryan blitzes Tom Brady on almost 50% of the passing plays it would likely result in a high number of big scoring plays. It just is not likely to happen. Look for Ryan to continue to disguise the pass rushers against Brady and try to get an unblocked pass rusher through deception rather than numbers.

Expect Brady to face an amoeba defensive front (everyone standing and moving to create confusion) trying to confuse the young blockers in the interior of the offensive line. The Patriots will counter with LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis trying to exploit the defensive ends rushing upfield and slow the pass rush. While giving different looks, do not expect Ryan to blitz as much as he did last week against the Indianapolis offense.

If Tom Brady can get rid of the ball in a hurry with quick decisions and use Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on short routes to add chunks of yards and move the chains, it could be a long day for Rex Ryan and the Bills defense.