Fired-up defense pulled out all the stops

By Jennifer Toland
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / November 10, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots "D" brought its "A" game yesterday and that spelled big trouble for the Bills.

New England shut down Buffalo's passing and running attacks, holding the Bills to a mere 168 total yards in an important 20-10 AFC East win at Gillette Stadium.

"We played the game the way we wanted to on defense," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "[The performance] speaks volumes. When we execute our game plan and do what we want to do on the field, we can go out there and play against teams pretty well."

The victory sets up a first-place AFC East showdown between the Patriots and Jets - both 6-3 - here Thursday night. New York pounded the Rams, 47-3, yesterday.

The Patriots have won 10 straight against the Bills.

Buffalo started 4-0, but has lost four of five. Yesterday's loss was the Bills' third straight against a division opponent.

New England held the Bills to 3 points through the first 58:18. An 85-yard kickoff return by Leodis McKelvin set up a Trent Edwards-to-James Hardy touchdown with 1:42 to play.

"It's a little unfortunate to finish the game out like that," linebacker Mike Vrabel said.

But it was an otherwise dominant second half for the Patriots, who allowed the Bills just 58 yards over the final 30 minutes.

The Patriots defense set the tone early by getting after Edwards.

On Buffalo's first possession, rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo pressured Edwards into an incomplete pass on second down, and on third down, defensive end Richard Seymour dropped the young quarterback for a 6-yard loss.

It was a rough afternoon for Edwards, who has shown signs of being a real up-and-comer this season.

He entered the game having completed 68 percent of his passes, but he was just 13 for 23 for 120 yards and a 49.2 passer rating.

"They play hard, they play fast, and they show a lot of different looks," Edwards said of the Patriots defense. "For me, on a few plays here and there, it's confusing to know what their coverages are, what their fronts are, and they do a great job of disguising that."

Hobbs and Deltha O'Neal each intercepted Edwards - he's turned the ball over five times in the last two games - and the Patriots took Lee Evans, the Bills' top receiver, out of the game.

Edwards didn't even throw Evans's way until the third quarter. He finished with two catches for 22 yards.

"We went out there and played physical with them," Patriots safety James Sanders said. "We were real physical with their receivers. We threw off their timing and the guys up front were able to get pressure on Edwards and that was the key to stopping their passing game."

Ty Warren sacked Edwards in the fourth quarter.

The Bills didn't have much luck getting their running game going either. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson combined for just 60 yards.

"Both of those guys can run the football and they got a lot of our attention this week," said Vrabel, who combined with Seymour to tackle Lynch for a 3-yard loss on third and goal from the 4-yard line in the second quarter. "There's no quicker way to kill you than Lynch or Jackson. We were focused on them and I think it showed."

The Bills' total yards were the fewest allowed by the Patriots defense this season.

Since that big play-filled 30-10 loss in San Diego last month, the Patriots have allowed 12.8 points in their last four games.

"Points allowed is one of the best things you can have defensively," Seymour said. "That's really what matters. You can get yards . . . but if you don't get touchdowns or field goals, it really doesn't matter much."

And speaking of big plays, the Bills entered yesterday's game fourth in the AFC with 14 plays of at least 25 yards. Edwards's longest pass yesterday was for 15 yards to Evans during a third-quarter drive that ended with O'Neal's third interception of the year.

"When you don't allow big plays it definitely keeps the game in control as well as keeping momentum," Hobbs said.

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