Bills using a Patriots model to win games

Posted Oct. 10, 2011 @ 4:42 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Bills appear to have paid very close attention to how the Patriots went 14-2 last season. Buffalo is telling its opponents, "Rack up as many yards as you want, but we will turn you over and we will score."

In a 31-24 win over the Eagles, the Bills picked off Michael Vick four times and forced a fumble by WR Jason Avant. Philly outgained Buffalo 489-331, but it was the 5-to-1 win in the turnover category that was the difference, and it has been the difference for the Bills throughout this season.

"Our coaches wanted to make sure to make a game plan and tried to make them as one-dimensional as possible," SS George Wilson told reporters after the win. "It turned out to make the big plays. We had to get on top of them early."

On offense, the Bills continued to thrive behind RB Fred Jackson, who had 196 yards from scrimmage. The defense's ability to make plays, though, is a huge reason why Buffalo is in first place in the AFC East.

The PFW Spin

Last season, the Bills were dead last in the NFL with a minus-17 turnover margin. Through five weeks, they lead the league at plus-11 and also are tops in the NFL with 12 interceptions.

Raise your hand if you thought the Bills would pick Michael Vick and Tom Brady off a combined eight times? That's what I thought.

The Bills rank 29th in the league in total defense, but they don't have to look too far to see that type of defense doesn't necessarily mean more losses. The Patriots, who remain last in the league in total defense, have a 4-1 record and still are considered one of the top teams in the NFL. Last season, the Pats went 14-2, despite having the league's 25th-ranked defense (30th against the pass). What was the difference? A high-powered offense that led the league in scoring and a defense that excelled in takeaways — New England had a ridiculous plus-28 turnover margin.

On Sunday, pressures on Vick by some of the Bills' lesser-known players helped create turnovers.

Alex Carrington tipped Vick's attempt at a screen pass and the ball fell into the arms of CB Reggie Corner. Later in the first quarter, it was OLB Arthur Moats who hit Vick, leading to a wobbly pass that Wilson, who had 11 tackles, picked off. Rookie LB Kelvin Sheppard, who got his most playing time this season, got a hit on Vick when the Eagles' QB threw his third interception of the game — this was one returned for a touchdown by Nick Barnett.

Yards are certainly to be had against the Bills, but their offense has been potent enough to go blow-for-blow with explosive offenses. And while the overall numbers don't look great for Buffalo on "D," the number that matters is four — four wins in five games thanks to a defense that is finally making plays, something Bill Belichick often pointed out to the media last season (and this season) when questioned about his porous defense.

The Bills have another test in Week Six against the Giants, who will certainly put pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Buffalo's offense. The G-Men feature a quarterback in Eli Manning who has been very productive this season, but he is always prone to an interception or two (he had three in an upset loss to the Seahawks Sunday), and this year's Bills defense is making the most of errant throws.

In a pessimistic view, the luck, if you want to call it that, could run out at some point for Buffalo. The Bills might have games in which they can't force turnovers and can't stop opposing offenses, which would lead to losses. But if they learned anything from the Patriots, as long as you can score points and win the takeaway battle, you can win football games, regardless of how many yards you give up.  

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