W2W4: New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills

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When the Bills Pass the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

When the Buffalo Bills signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the offseason it was widely believed that they were bringing in competition for former first round draft pick E.J. Manuel as the backup to Matt Cassel. Cassel had been acquired earlier in the offseason via trade and was the de facto starter heading into training camp. Taylor had backed up Joe Flacco for four seasons in Baltimore and actually turned down an offer of more money from the Denver Broncos to sign in Buffalo for $7 million over three years if he started.


Taylor has not only won the starting job, but he has become the best bargain in the NFL. By whatever metric anyone wants to throw out, the former Virginia Tech star has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He has a strong arm, he is mobile and can run the ball, and he has taken advantage of his opportunity and put himself in the discussion regarding the better quarterbacks.


ProFootballFocus.com rates him as a top-ten quarterback with their prorietary quarterback 2015 season grade (remember, Taylor missed two games due to injury and Buffalo lost both) just behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Philip Rivers. Taylor makes big throws and big runs seemingly every game.


If there was a weakness with Taylor, it is when he is forced to sit in the pocket and make the timing passes to his wide receivers. Too often Taylor moves out of the pocket without any pressure. At times, it is advantageous as it gives the wide receivers and tight end Charles Clay the opportunity to make another move and break free. Other times, it has the offense out of rhythm and can create problems for his line blocking for him (particularly on the right side).


The Bills top wide receiver is tight end Charles Clay with 40 receptions for 408 yards. Clay was signed to a monster contract to pry him from Miami this past offseason and he is getting 5 years worth $38 million with $24.5 million guaranteed and $10 million up front as a signing bonus. However, Clay was held to just one catch in two games so far this season.


Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Clay had a touchdown catch against the Patriots in week two but otherwise was handled by safety Patrick Chung and Jamie Collins in coverage. Collins is out this week, but expect Clay to see a lot of Chung in man coverage. Chung has been excellent in pass coverage of tight ends this season and has allowed just 16 completions on 32 targets for 136 yards and Clay in week two the only touchdown (per NESN.com).


The Bills’ top target is supposed to be wide receiver Sammy Watkins. While Odell Beckham Jr has blossomed into one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL, the Bills–and all of Buffalo–are waiting for the Clemson product to show why the Bills traded up in 2014 to draft him.  He has played just six game but has only 22 receptions for 329 yards. Watkins will have another matchup with Malcolm Butler on Monday night.


Watkins has six catches for 60 yards in week two but Malcolm Butler allowed just one reception, a touchdown which he nearly picked off in the end zone in garbage time. Remember in week two the Patriots had Bradley Fletcher in coverage much of the game and Tarell Brown was a key defender who left due to injury during the game. Logan Ryan came in during the first matchup and had an interception and since has been doing an amazing job considering his struggles last year.


New England has only allowed an opposing quarterback throw for more than 300 net yards twice so far in 2015. In week one it was Ben Roethlisberger and last week it was Eli Manning. In week two, Taylor passed for 242 yards but was sacked eight times and intercepted three times. The Bills have also have to go without Percy Harvin as the multi-purpose threat is shelved for the season.

The Patriots used to have trouble with mobile quarterbacks but they have improved over the past few seasons as they have faced more of them. If Buffalo is going to exploit the Patriots’ secondary, it will have to be their fourth option. With Butler on Watkins, Ryan on Robert Woods, and Chung on Clay, the Patriots have the top threats covered. It will be Chris Hogan against Rashaan Melvin and the running backs against Jerod Mayo or Jonathan Freeny where the Bills find an advantage.


If the Patriots can get a lead early, they should be able to get pressure on Tyrod Taylor again as Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, a healthy Jabaal Sheard, and Dominique Easley can get into the backfield and contain Taylor. Forcing Taylor into mistakes is something the Patriots should be able to do again and the improved secondary should play a key role in doing so.


Next: When the Patriots Run the Ball