BY DAN BEGNOCHE
The Buffalo Bills have lost 16 of their last 17 meetings with the New England Patriots, but the game plan remains the same when the two face off Sunday: Get to Tom Brady.
That was the consensus among the Bills' defensive players Wednesday, with defensive end Mario Williams wording it best while talking with reporters.
“It’s a huge task to go against the Patriots. The only way to beat them is to rattle No. 12," Williams said, according to the team's website. "It is a collective effort up front. All four of us are going to have to get after it and make it happen.”
With a somewhat unfamiliar offensive line in front of him, Brady has taken a total of six sacks in the Pats' last two games, both losses. He's been getting hit 19 percent of the time he drops back to pass, up from last season, so far.
But perhaps the biggest indication is that Brady's numbers throwing downfield have dropped, as well. While he led the league last year in completions of 20 yards or more, he currently ranks 12th in that department, and he's only completed one pass of 40 yards or more.
“The thing about it is we all know he can and we all know he has done it before," Bills coach Chan Gailey cautioned when speaking to the media Wednesday. "That is why you have to always be on your guard. You cannot just say everybody squat at 10 yards. They will never throw it down there because they will, so you have to guard against it.
"It is always in the back of your mind, but you understand what they are trying to do with the football — that is get it underneath. Hopefully we can take care of both scenarios — not let them get it deep and have some pressure and tight coverage underneath.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters Wednesday via conference call that it's not as much an inability to throw the ball downfield as much as taking what the defense is showing.
“You have to sometimes take what the defense gives you or take the plays where the yardage is there rather than trying to force it into tight spots and turn the ball over and all that, which is something we haven’t done a lot, unfortunately," he said.
Either way, Brady has proven you don't need to throw the ball downfield all the time to put up big numbers. In those aforementioned losses, Brady put up more than 300 yards passing in each game, and he's averaging more than 65 percent in pass completions thus far. So as far as Williams is concerned, knocking Brady off his game Sunday is priority No. 1.
"All of the games that he has played in that you see them not come out on top, it is because he has been disrupted and is not comfortable," Williams said. "It is up to us to get after him and keep him moving.”
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily