ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rex Ryan readily concedes he had a much easier time drawing up a defensive game plan the last time the Buffalo Bills prepared to face the New England Patriots.
It goes without question, the biggest factor working in the Bills coach’s favor was he didn’t have a certain Tom Brady to worry about four weeks ago.
“It was a great time to play them,” Ryan said Wednesday, reflecting back on Buffalo’s 16-0 win against a Jacoby Brissett-led New England offense on Oct. 2.
“They have a new player back there for some reason,” he added, with a distinct roll of his eyes in referring Brady. “He looks decent.”
Once the laughter subsided, Ryan went on to praise Brady by calling him the best quarterback he’s faced.
The Bills (4-3) have their hands full Sunday, when the Patriots (6-1) come to town with Brady back at his familiar spot under center since serving a four-game “Deflategate” suspension.
In reeling off three consecutive wins , Brady has completed 75 percent of his passes for 1,004 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. New England has combined for 85 points, 1,300 yards and 70 first downs.
That’s a significant turnaround from an offense that managed just 277 yards, 13 first downs and was shut out at home for the first time since 1993 against Buffalo.
Brady has been so productive Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams wondered how much of an advantage the quarterback might have actually gotten for using under-inflated footballs.
“Maybe it didn’t make a bit of difference,” Williams said.
The AFC East rival Bills know Brady only too well. Since taking over the starter’s job from Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has a 25-3 record against Buffalo. One more win and Brady matches the NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against one opponent: Brett Favre had 26 over Detroit.
One of those victories still stings Ryan in particular.
In New England’s 40-32 win at Orchard Park last season, Brady had three touchdowns and 466 yards passing — the most by a Bills opponent in franchise history. Brady used an up-tempo, quick-passing attack to negate Buffalo’s pass rushing efforts.
Ryan credited Brady for how well he can identify mismatches from the line of scrimmage based on how the defense is aligned.
“You don’t want to present the same picture because once he’s seen it, he’s got great recall and he’s got the skill to beat you,” Ryan said. “So hopefully, you can paint a different picture for him.”
Another concern is how the Patriots keep defense’s off-balance with a sturdy running game led by LeGarrette Blount. It doesn’t help that the injury-depleted Bills had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 28-25 loss at Miami during which Ryan’s defense surrendered 256 yards rushing.
“What running back wouldn’t be happy seeing the team he’s about to play just gave up 200 yards,” linebacker Preston Brown said. “You know (Blount) is going to be excited to see that we had some mishaps.”
The key remains keeping Brady in check.
“It’s the same team, but you know when you have Tom Brady it’s a new team,” Brown said, assessing the differences of how the Bills contained Brissett.
“It’s definitely going to be a totally different challenge with the pass, especially with the quarterback we went up against. I mean, we shut them out,” Brown said. “But we only had 16 points, so it’s definitely going to be a tougher game if we only score 16 again.”
Ryan is hopeful the Bills are up to the challenge Brady presents.
“I’d much rather scheme against some other team, a team down at the bottom than at the top,” Ryan said. “As a competitor, you want to go up against the best, or you want to see how you stand you up against the very best. And we’ll find out on Sunday how we stand up to these guys.”
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