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Patriots not taking Bills lightly
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - The New England Patriots have won three Super Bowls since Buffalo last made the playoffs. They've won their last 15 matchups and 20 of their last 21 against the Bills.
Sounds like Sunday's game in Buffalo should be a major mismatch, right?
Both teams are 2-0 and the Bills lead the NFL with 79 points. So the Patriots aren't about to take them lightly.
"You never can underestimate any team," defensive end Mark Anderson said Monday. "They got a great start. They look very good on offense from what I've seen, running the ball as well as passing."
Buffalo followed its season-opening 41-7 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs with a 38-35 win over the Oakland Raiders on Ryan Fitzpatrick's 6-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson with 14 seconds left on Sunday. Fitzpatrick completed 28 of 46 passes for three touchdowns and an interception, and Fred Jackson ran for two scores as Buffalo overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit.
The Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers 35-21 on Sunday. Tom Brady threw for 423 yards six days after setting a club record with 517 yards passing.
Brady may have the rich resume, but Fitzpatrick has developed into a dangerous, somewhat elusive quarterback.
"The best way to play mobile quarterbacks (is to) keep containment on the edges and have the big guys give us force in the middle," Anderson said, "and, in the secondary, applying shutdown coverage on the receivers and that's going to allow us to get to the quarterback."
The secondary, though, is nicked up.
One safety, Josh Barrett, played Sunday with a cast on his wrist and lower part of his hand to protect a right thumb injury. Another safety, Patrick Chung, left in the third quarter with a thumb injury but returned to the game wearing a cast. Cornerback Leigh Bodden also has been bothered by a thumb injury but played both games.
"It seems to be going around a little bit on the defensive backs," Barrett said. "You're not in there thinking about it at all, but just wrapping up (ball carriers), small stuff, that it can hinder and inhibit you from doing. ... Obviously, there's a bit of pain involved, but guys are out there playing with pain all the time. So you've got to be as physical as you can with it."
Two other Patriots suffered knee injuries against San Diego, tight end Aaron Hernandez and Zoltan Mesko. Coach Bill Belichick provided no update on their conditions Monday. A report on boston.com said Hernandez, who had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, will miss one to two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament, according to a league source.
If Hernandez is out, Dan Gronkowski will move up to the No. 2 tight end spot behind his brother Rob, who caught two touchdown passes on Sunday. Dan, formerly with the Denver Broncos, signed with the Patriots on Sept. 7, five days before their opener.
He said he's ready if Hernandez isn't.
"Definitely," he said. "They expect me to know everything and I'm at that point. So I'm ready to get in there and just help out the team however I can."
Mesko's, a left-footed punter, hurt his left knee. Belichick said the injury caused the Patriots, leading 20-14, to try for a first down on fourth-and-4 at the Chargers 49-yard line. They failed and San Diego took over. Belichick said placekicker Stephen Gostkowski might have filled in for Mesko if a punt was essential.
"It would probably depend what the situation was," Belichick said, "where the ball was, how far we were punting, that kind of thing."
Based on the first two weeks of the season, punters may not have much work to do Sunday. New England is third in the NFL with 73 points, six behind Buffalo.
That's quite an improvement for the Bills, who had losing records the past six seasons, haven't won a playoff game since 1995, last reached the playoffs in the 1999 season and have just one winning season since then.
On Sunday, though, they can beat the Patriots for the first time since a 31-0 victory in the 2003 opener at Buffalo.
"By no means are we taking them lightly," Barrett said.
By David A. Clarke Jr.
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