BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots will get Christmas Day off to spend time with their families, but that meant a bit of a cram session on Tuesday — their usual day off.
Some may think the Patriots’ Week 17 matchup with the Buffalo Bills won’t require much preparation, given the Bills’ 6-9 record and the fact these two teams tussle twice every year, but that is never the case when Bill Belichick is in charge.
Quarterback Tom Brady talked about the Bills on Tuesday (after asking the media what they were doing at Gillette, being Christmas Eve and all), and said the Bills defense certainly poses many challenges for him and the Patriots’ offense.
“It’s one of those defenses that does a lot of different things. Similar to how when we played the Jets; they’ve got a lot of calls and a lot of looks, and they try to confuse you,” said Brady. “They’ve got a lot of coverage looks, a lot of front looks, a lot of blitzes, so they put pressure on you in a lot of areas. I think it’s just – you’ve got to study what they do, kind of like we do every week.”
“It’s going to be a huge game for us, so I think we’ll need our best effort,” said Brady. “I think we showed last week what we’re capable of if we can play four quarters of football, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this week, that’s what it’s going to take. We’re playing one of the best defenses in the league, a team that’s sacked the quarterback more than anybody in the whole league. They’ve got, I think, [the] second-most interceptions, so they put a lot of pressure on you offensively, and we’re going to have to find ways to answer, because they do a really great job.”
The Patriots kicked off their 2013 season with a 23-21 win over the Bills in Buffalo, a game they turned the ball over three times. Two of those turnovers turned into Buffalo touchdowns, including Brady’s first quarter fumble that was returned 74-yards for a score. Their third turnover didn’t lead to any points for the Bills, but came at the Buffalo one-yard line, keeping New England off the board after a 79-yard drive down the field.
Brady was sacked three times that game, and Buffalo does indeed lead the league this season with 56. Leading the charge are a pair of Williams’ — defensive linemen Mario Williams (13 sacks) and Kyle Williams (10.5 sacks) — with Jerry Hughes contributing 10 of his own.
Buffalo’s pass defense is also very solid, holding opponents to an average of just 210 yards per game — fifth in the NFL. Mix in the mad dash of the holiday season, and it’s going to be a tough week for the Patriots to prepare. But with Wednesday off, Tuesday was a day to get in some quality work on and off the field.
“It’s just a lot of mental preparation, and it’s the holiday season, but at the same time, it’s the most important game of the year,” said Brady, who finished the Week 1 tilt with 288 passing yards, a pair of touchdowns and two turnovers. “So I think when we’re here, we’ve really got to focus on what we need to do, which is play our best game and be on top of things right from the kickoff all the way through the fourth quarter.”
The Patriots wrapped up the AFC East thanks to a Miami loss on Sunday, and their 41-7 win over the Ravens puts them in a great position to grab one of the top two seeds in the AFC. While a win would seal at least the two-spot (and paired with a Denver loss would propel the Pats to the top seed), a loss could be extremely costly. A Patriots loss mixed with wins by the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts would drop New England to the four-seed, and that first-round bye would go out the window.
So nothing less than a full 60 minutes of football on Sunday would be a post-Christmas lump of coal for Brady and the Patriots.
“You can’t expect to play 20 minutes of football and win games, not at important times here, not against the best teams and the best defenses,” said Brady. “This is a team that really challenges us in a lot of ways, and it’s going to have to be the same type of effort. It can’t be anything less than that.”
Tune in to Patriots-Bills on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins on WBZ-TV at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, and at 1:30 p.m. on The Sports Hub. Full postgame shows will follow the game, with Patriots 5th Quarter airing on myTV38.