Bills try to solve Brady, Patriots with first place on the line

(SportsNetwork.com) – Tom Brady may not have a lot in common with Samuel
Clemens but the man who makes his living as the quarterback of the New England
Patriots can certainly relate to the famous writer, who was far better known
under his pen name of Mark Twain.

Clemens once wrote “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Brady may tweak that to say “Reports of my career being finished have been
greatly exaggerated.”

The future Hall of Famer will get another opportunity to prove that on Sunday
in Buffalo when the Patriots clash with the Bills with first place in the AFC
East on the line.

Brady has traditionally dominated the Bills in his career, compiling a mind-
blowing 22-2 record against Buffalo as a starting quarterback, throwing for
5,817 yards and 54 touchdowns versus just 19 interceptions for a 100.1 passer
rating in those contests.

The narrative leading up to last Sunday night’s game between the Patriots and
Cincinnati was that the Bengals were now the team to beat in the AFC and New
England had fallen off thanks in large part to the decline in play from Brady.

The message should have been, that’s silly because the nine-time Pro Bowl
selection threw two touchdown passes as the Pats routed the previously-
unbeaten Bengals, 43-17, at Gillette Stadium.

It was a statement game for New England, which was coming off an underwhelming
triumph over the winless Raiders and a crushing defeat in Kansas City over the
previous two weeks.

Brady completed 23-of-35 for 292 yards and New England racked up 220 yards on
the ground, with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen running for 113 and 90,
respectively.

“Satisfying night,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after the win.
“Certainly a lot of things we need to do better, but we played hard. We made a
lot of plays against a good football team.”

The Bills, meanwhile, are also coming off a satisfying effort that turned into
a victory in Detroit after Dan Carpenter boomed a 58-yard field goal with just
four seconds to play as Buffalo pulled off a dramatic 17-14 win over the
Lions.

Kyle Orton, making his first start for the Bills in place of a benched EJ
Manuel, threw for 308 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-43 passing with an
interception for Buffalo, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

After the Lions’ Alex Henery missed his third field goal attempt of the game,
a 50-yarder that wasn’t even close, the Bills had the ball at their own 40
with 21 seconds to play.

The first snap saw rookie receiver Sammy Watkins bobble a pass before hauling
it in for a 20-yard gain. The Bills then called their last timeout and
following an incompletion, Carpenter lined up for a 58-yarder and banged it
through.

“We knew where we wanted to get the ball, but we thought Dan could do it from
there,” said Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone. “He was all fired up for it and
ready to go.”

Detroit’s final play saw the team try using the lateral after a reception by
Corey Fuller, but it went nowhere as the Bills recovered the loose ball to
seal the win.

Carpenter’s 13 made field goals this season are tied with the Patriots’
Stephen Gostkowski for the most in the NFL.

“You know we’re fighting through adversity,” Carpenter said. “It’s really hard
to win in this league. It’s really hard to win anywhere, but it’s that much
harder to win on the road. You have a lot of games that come to three points,
seven points or less and I just think we’re finding ways to win and fighting
through that adversity.”

New England is 65-41-1 all-time against Buffalo with nearly all of that
cushion coming in the Brady era as the Pats have won 20 of the past 21 in the
rivalry.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It’s a new era for the Bills as Terry Pegula and his wife Kim were unanimously
approved as the franchise’s new owners on Wednesday and Buffalo would like to
kick off the new regime by beating the team that has dominated them over the
past decade while at the same time gaining sole possession of first place in
the division.

The move from a struggling second-year quarterback in Manuel to the veteran
Orton is a development you can trace back to Pegula’s agreement to purchase
the team from the Wilson family trust. The conventional thinking in these
types of situations is that new ownership likes to bring in its own people for
high-level managerial positions and that’s not lost on both Marrone and
general manager Doug Whaley, who both understand the only sure-fire way to
keep their employment in western New York is to win and do it now.

That win-now mentality is only amplified by the fact that New England has
seemingly come back to the pack in the AFC East. Buffalo was just 27th in
total offense with Manuel running the show despite some very solid skill-
position players like Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at running back, along
with Watkins, Mike Williams and Robert Woods at receiver.

Watkins had eight catches for 87 yards against Detroit and leads all AFC
rookies with 24 receptions for 284 yards.

So far, so good for Orton, who changes things dramatically for the Bills in
that he is a completely different signal caller than Manuel, giving up some
athleticism in favor of a prototypical pocket-style passer who can make quick
decisions and get the ball out quickly.

“He made some throws (against the Lions),” Marrone said. “I think it started
off a little bit tough for someone just getting back in there again, but I
thought he played well.”

Orton will be facing a Pats defense which is tied for first in the AFC with
six interceptions and features lockdown corner Darrelle Revis, who was
exceptional against the Bengals’ A.J. Green in Week 5. In 10 career outings
against Buffalo, Revis has five picks, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

When the Patriots traded veteran Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay for
receiving tight end Tim Wright, the thought was they were trying to duplicate
the success they had with Rob Gronkowski and the now-jailed Aaron Hernandez.

Going back to a tight end-centric offense made sense because New England
doesn’t have a lot op options outside the numbers and opposing defenses were
now jumping the underneath routes to Julian Edelman and Gronk, who has nine
TDs in six career meetings with Buffalo, with no fear of getting beat over the
top.

For whatever reason that plan didn’t kick in until last weekend against
Cincinnati when Gronkowski caught six passes for 100 yards and a TD, and
Wright added five catches for 85 yards and another score.

The Bills, who have the eighth-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 322.8 yards
per game, will try to push the pocket with a strong front four and get Brady
off his spots. The key to that is defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who
notched a career-high three sacks with a forced fumble and five tackles
against Detroit last week.

“It’s a great environment up there,” Brady said. “It’s always a tough place to
play. (The Bills are) playing great, there will be a lot of energy. They’ll be
pretty fired up (with the new ownership).”

OVERALL ANALYSIS

From one through 53, the Bills look like the better team these days but what’s
past is prologue in this series and Brady has won eight of his past nine
starts in Buffalo. Until you see otherwise, you almost have to pick the
Patriots over the Bills.

“It’s a huge game for both teams and there’s a lot at stake,” Spiller said.
“We’ve got to be really focused in on the little things and the details to
give ourselves a chance to win at home.”

Sports Network predicted outcome: Patriots 17, Bills 16