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Top 6 storylines for the Bills vs. Patriots | Week 4


Bills fans know the opponent. They know the Patriots legacy of dominance in the AFC East and their long record of success against the Bills.

This week's top storylines deal with THIS game, this week—New England at Buffalo:


There are only seven teams in the NFL that have started the season 3-0 and the Bills are one of them. Yet some observers say the Bills don't "seem" like a 3-0 team, or "look" like a 3-0 team.

Head Coach Sean McDermott acknowledges that the Bills haven't played their best football yet.

"There's something to be said for that," he said Monday. "Yet, there's also the way I look at it as-- we've got a lot of work to do and I know I sound like a broken record but that's the truth."

McDermott says the first quarter of the season is foundation-building time for the NFL and his 2019 Bills are right in the middle of that process.

"That's usually the first four weeks of the season, you're trying to build up the foundation of the good strong fundamentals and technique, execution, finding out who our team is, who we're not, using players in different positions, some of those things. So, it's a time, you know to discover a little bit of who we are."

The Bills should know this after their first three games—they are resourceful. They've found different ways to win each of their first three games, and former center Eric Wood says that will pay off.

"It's so important early in this season that they've won in three different fashions," Wood said in an appearance on One Bills Live. "Later in the season, they can always revert back to those games-- 'Hey, we were down 14-0 against the Jets, on the road, and we come back and win. Week two—we built a lead on the road, and then, yes, we stalled out, but we held on and we put them away.'"

"And then against the Bengals," Wood said, "the Bills get up 14-0 and they blow the lead. And then they come back. You can always revert back to those times and then say, 'we've done it before—we can do it again.'"


Sunday's start against the Patriots will be Josh Allen's 15th start in the NFL, his second against New England. He still hasn't put together one entire season of starts.

Allen's three interceptions in three games are not ideal, but they can't obscure the fact that he's developed a knack for bringing his team from behind to win.

The Bengals win was his fourth career fourth-quarter comeback in just his 14th NFL start. He gets better as the game goes along, too. Allen is third in the NFL in fourth quarter passer rating, behind only Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan.

McDermott is looking for Allen to "take care of the football." But he likes the way his 23-year old quarterback played his best in crunch time against the Bengals.

"To have handled that and through the course of a game, he made a lot of special plays," McDermott said. "And so, that's all part of the growth and the development of a young quarterback too. I thought he responded well and so did the offense. It's a new day, a new week and we're moving forward."


New England's 3-0 start has come against some suspect competition, just like the Bills has. But the Patriots defense has been incredible.

New England's defense has not allowed opponents to score an offensive touchdown yet this year. They're the first defense in the NFL since 1970 not to surrender a touchdown in the first three games of the year.

The Jets scored one touchdown on a pick-six, and another on special teams last Sunday against the Pats. Like the Steelers and Dolphins before them, they never hit the end zone on offense.

And doubly challenging for the Bills offense this week—the Patriots defense starts fast. New England has not allowed a first-half point in its' last five games – a stretch that goes back to last year's AFC Championship game against the Chiefs.

The Bills average 12-first half points scored in their three games so far this year. Some early scores this Sunday might jolt the Patriots back to reality.


He's won more games against the Bills than he has anyone else in his Hall of Fame-bound career. Yet Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady has been good, not great, in his last four matchups against Buffalo.

Against head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in the last two years, Brady's Patriots have won all four games. Brady's numbers: 66% completion rate, with four touchdowns and four interceptions in the four games. He's been sacked eight times by the Bills the last two years.

The 42-year old GOAT told his radio show in Boston this week how he's looking forward to coming to New Era Field.

"I love playing up there," he said. "It's one of the great environments in NFL football. It's an old stadium, but they get incredible support. We've played up there early, we've played up there late, we've played up there when they've not had great records, when they've had great records, and their fans are into it. They cheer, they love football. It's going to be a hell of a game."


For the first time since 2010, the Bills face a Patriots team without WNY native Rob Gronkowski. The Amherst native pulled the plug on his stellar NFL career after a series of nagging injuries.

"Gronk" was always a focal point when the Bills defense got ready to play New England and he was still productive. In 15 career games against the Bills, Gronkowski averaged five receptions and 71 yards per game. He scored 12 touchdowns in his career against Buffalo.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier says he doesn't see the Patriots missing the talented tight end just yet.

"Based on the numbers they put up these first three games there's not much of a drop off, although we know Gronk was a tremendous player for them," Frazier said Monday. "They're putting up outstanding numbers. They get into the fourth quarter and the games aren't close. So, they found a way to fill that void and have success."


The Bills will spend the week looking to plug a hole in their defensive line rotation, with the loss of defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. He tore a knee ligament Sunday and is on injured reserve for the rest of the year.

Phillips had been steadily increasing his snap count through the first three games this year. He was in on 33 percent of the defensive snaps against the Jets, 40 percent against the Giants, and 43 percent this past Sunday.

The Bills healthy defensive line rotation will need some tweaking, maybe even an addition as the week moves along.

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