Ryan, Bills throw jabs, but Patriots have ruled AFC rivals
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Rex Ryan didn't wait long before turning his attention directly from his team's first win towards Buffalo's next opponent.
"Hey, you know, I can sit back and say I don't care who plays quarterback because I know (Tom) Brady ain't," Ryan said Monday, looking ahead at Sunday's road game against the New England Patriots.
"I don't care who plays quarterback. (Former Patriot) Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If (Bill) Belichick's playing quarterback, we're coming after him. I promise you that."
And asked on a conference call with the Buffalo media what he thinks of Ryan's antics regarding him, Belichick said, "We're really focused on Buffalo's football team and their coaching staff and what we're going to have to play against and prepare for on Sunday."
If you haven't been keeping up with the Patriots, you don't know Brady is serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starter and was almost six quarters into that new role when he hurt his right shoulder. Enter rookie Jacoby Brissett, who finished the second game of the season and then won his starting debut in Week 3, a shutout against the Houston Texans. But Brissett hurt his thumb in the game.
Garoppolo and Brissett both played well, and the Patriots have gone 3-0 heading into this game against the 1-2 Bills.
While all this was going on, slot receiver Julian Edelman, a quarterback in college, was the emergency guy -- and was seen as the starter this week if neither young player could make it.
But Garoppolo and Brissett were back at practice Tuesday. Both were listed as having "limited participation" on Wednesday's injury report.
As far as facing the possibility of Edelman playing, Ryan said, "I know how difficult it is to defend against a running quarterback. We have to be ready in case Edelman is at quarterback, right? I have a funny feeling he isn't going to be Brady back there."
Garoppolo and Brissett might not be Brady, either. But clever game plans by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made it seems like Brady, who returns for Game 5 at Cleveland, wasn't even missing.
"I think the process we've gone through is really the same," McDaniels said Monday. "I know the variables change, but I don't think anybody here ever considers anything adversity."
Last week against the Houston Texans, McDaniels took some of the pressure off Brissett by calling an option (13 yards) and a bootleg (a 27-yard touchdown run) for the rookie. The Patriots also called three handoffs to Edelman and a tight end reverse by Martellus Bennett.
The Bills lost to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets before, with new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, surprising the Cardinals 33-18.
"I think the Arizona game really highlights how good they are, how tough it's going to be and how much work we have ahead of us," said Belichick.
Ryan and his defensive coordinator brother, Rob, changed up their defense, bringing more pressure on Carson Palmer than they had brought on Ryan Fitzpatrick the previous game. It worked well - and you have to think they'll bring it again this week.
The Patriots have won 28 of the last 32 games against the Bills and are 72-21 against other AFC East teams in the regular season since 2001. Buffalo has won only once at Gillette Stadium, and that was the final game of the 2014 regular season, with the Patriots resting players for the playoffs.
LeGarrette Blount has been dynamic running the ball for the Patriots, who have also had to survive with a rebuilt offensive line. On the other side of the ball, they've been without Chandler Jones (traded), Rob Ninkovich (suspended, one more game) and Dont'a Hightower (knee). Hightower was listed as having limited participation Wednesday.
Blount has run for 298 yards and four touchdowns (at least one in each game), turning in the team's first back-to-back 100-yard games since 2012.
The Patriots, lit up for almost 400 yards over the last three quarters by Ryan Tannehill, was near perfect against Houston, and the special teams produced two fumbles that led to touchdowns.
New England has seven takeaways in the last two games.
Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor, dangerous with his legs, is 47 of 77 for 527 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions but also ripped off a 49-yard run and another for 20 and a touchdown last week. LeSean McCoy has run for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who missed the Arizona game with a foot injury, was still not back at practice Wednesday. But the Bills might get massive left tackle Cordy Glenn back. He was limited Wednesday.