ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — When the New England Patriots want to bring the heat, it’s going to be scary for opposing quarterbacks.
We tried to warn you. This could be the best collection of pass rushers that head coach Bill Belichick has ever had, and the Patriots’ front seven showed off Sunday with eight sacks coming from five different defenders. Defensive end Chandler Jones led the way with three sacks, while Jamie Collins recorded 2 1/2, Rob Ninkovich and Alan Branch had one apiece, and Dont’a Hightower came away with half a sack.
That shows the Patriots can bring pressure from everywhere and confuse young quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor, thanks to their flexibility.
“You look at numbers, it’s great,” Ninkovich said after the Patriots’ 40-32 win over the Buffalo Bills. “It’s just the versatility of different guys coming, different guys in coverage, having guys who are very versatile and well-rounded as far as linebackers, defensive linemen coming, dropping. The more different looks you can give an offense, the better you’re going to be.
“We have to continue to improve. We did a great job for 40 minutes, and then the last 20 minutes, we started to try to get a little too aggressive and pin our ears back too much.”
Jones, Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard all can either rush the passer or drop back in coverage on the edge. Hightower, Collins and Jerod Mayo mostly stay in coverage against the pass, but all three players also are dangerous blitzers who make the most of their limited opportunities. The Patriots further confuse offenses because their defensive ends can play inside at defensive tackle, and big bodies like Branch, Malcom Brown and Sealver Siliga can generate pressure up the middle.
“It’s fun,” Ninkovich said. “We’re still growing, and we still need to continue to grow as a unit and understand almost like that non-verbal communication, we’re still working on it to improve and get better.”
The Patriots now have 11 sacks and are on pace for 88 on the season. That unrealistic number would break the record for most by a Bill Belichick-head coached defense by 40 sacks.
The Patriots’ best pass-rushing moment came late in the third quarter, when Branch strip-sacked Taylor for a 5-yard loss on first down. On second down, Collins strip-sacked Taylor. Jones then sacked Taylor for an 11-yard loss on third down, forcing a punt.
Despite all the pressure, Belichick wasn’t entirely impressed.
“We had our moments,” Belichick said. “We let them run around a lot, too. Taylor ran around, and he scrambled and threw for big yardage. I didn’t think it was all that great. We made some plays, and we gave up some plays. It wasn’t very consistent.
“We’ve got to coach better, be more disciplined and play better. We’ll see it again this upcoming week. We’re going to have to do a better job than we did today.”
Taylor ran for 43 yards on five carries with a touchdown. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions. The Bills lost 53 yards on the Patriots’ eight sacks.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images
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