Monday, September 14, 2009; 7 PM ET, Gillette Stadium
The off-season is mercifully coming to a close and real football is finally back in our lives. This is the game we've been looking forward to since early January (or I suppose late November) and I couldn't be more excited. Unfortunately, we have maybe our worst possible matchup in Week 1. The Buffalo Bills roll in to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots and Tom Brady's new bionic knee on Monday Night Football. It's going to be a tough game for the Bills, but it's a new season, so there is new hope that this could be the year we finally top the Patriots. Here's how the Bills can surprise the league and knock off the Patriots this week... after the jump.
Play with confidence, toughness: I've been hoping the Bills would finally show some toughness against the Pats for some time now. They always seem to play tentatively and hardly look like an NFL team against New England, and that needs to end if they want to pull off the upset. There is no reason to be intimidated and not come ready to play this week. It's the season opener and on Monday night for crying out loud! Let's smash New England in the mouth for once! If we don't, this will be a long game.
Push the tempo: After a pre-season of poor offensive play, it's time the tempo is stepped up in the no-huddle. Dick Jauron fired Turk Schonert in part due to the offense's lack of rhythm and inability to push the envelope. He wants the offense to be "more attacking," which means they need to keep the Pats' D on their toes and try to hit more big plays. This offense has been too reactive, instead of proactive, for too long. If we're going to change that at all this year, we need to dictate the tempo of the no-huddle and really push, push push! The time to talk about it is done, now it's time we see it on the field.
Score, score, score: If the Bills are going to beat the Patriots this week, we're going to have to put a lot of points on the board, or hope the Pats somehow self-destruct. The first two keys will be a big part of this; let's hope it comes to fruition.
Get it to T.O. - The Bills brought in Terrell Owens to improve on their lack of big plays and to put more points on the board. He's only going to do that if they get him the ball. There were signs that good things were to come when the opening drive against Tennessee in the Hall of Fame Game was very T.O-centric. We need to see a continuation of that tonight. I really expect Trent Edwards to be looking his way early and often, and it's the right move. We need to get the ball to our best offensive playmaker. Owens has excelled at the slant route and deeper crosses throughout his career. We need the big plays this week, and we need them badly. Trent-to-T.O. should be the perfect recipe for that.
Pressure Brady early, and pressure him often: How many times have we watched Brady simply sit back in the pocket and have all day to carve up our secondary? We can't just rush our front four and expect to have success. Perry Fewell needs to get creative with his stunts and blitz packages. Last year, it seemed far too often his blitzes were too simplistic and lacked creativity. To get to Brady, we have to free up rushers, whether that's through defensive line stunts or creative blitzes. It's possible that Brady is still a little tentative with his re-built knee, and the more we hit him, the more chances we have to force him into mistakes. The Giants had the blueprint in Super Bowl XLII; we need to do what we can to come close to replicating that. The pressure is on. Hopefully there will be some on Brady.
Limit Randy Moss: Randy Moss and Tom Brady is a combination that destroyed the Bills in 2007 to the tune of a pair of 100-yard receiving days and 6 touchdowns. Last year, the Bills did a pretty good job of shutting Moss down. We need a repeat of the latter, and badly. If Wes Welker doesn't play, it will be imperative to really key on Moss. I'd have much more confidence in a Bills victory if Brady is trying to beat us by throwing to Joey Galloway, Sam Aiken (!) and his tight ends. It's definitely easier said that done, but the Bills simply cannot let Moss beat them like he did in 2007.
Win the Special Teams battle: As they will in most games, the Bills will have the advantage when it comes to Special Teams. They need to take advantage of that. A big Leodis McKelvin or Roscoe Parrish return would be big for a struggling offense and could be the jolt this team needs to win this game.
Don't shoot yourselves in the foot: In the six games Dick Jauron's Bills have faced off against New England, they've allowed 12 sacks and turned the ball over 14 times. That simply cannot continue if the Bills are going to have a successful evening on Monday. They've also commited 32 penalties for 226 yards in those six games. The pre-season saw a bunch of turnovers and penalties out of our offensive unit. They need to have that cleaned up by 7PM.
Ride the Fred-Express: Lame, I know. But it's the truth. With Marshawn Lynch playing video games for three games, Fred Jackson will have to shoulder the load in his absence. He had good success in last year's finale against the Patriots, and we'll need him to produce again on Monday. Controlling the clock and keeping Brady on the sidelines may be the best way to earn a victory. Of course, we need to punch it in the end zone (which didn't happen in last season's finale), but we need to be able to run the ball. The re-shuffled and young offensive line needs to gel quickly and open the holes for Jackson. It'd be nice to have an offense that can effectively utilize play action as a result, too.
Don't embarrass yourselves: Honestly, this game has all the makings of an embarrassing night in front of a national television audience. With all the turmoil of the past week, the poor pre-season performance, the return of Brady, the hostile environment and the large Monday night audience, it wouldn't shock anyone if the Bills roll over and get steamrolled. In fact, I bet many outside of Buffalo are expecting exactly that to happen. The team needs to play with an "us against the world" mentality and prove to everyone that they will not be pushed around by New England once again. It would be a wonderful story if the Bills could pull off the stunner!