Patriots

Gailey says Bills looking to improve

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Gailey says Bills looking to improve

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- Though their 2-0 records are identical, coach Chan Gailey says his Bills and the Patriots are very different teams. No kidding. It wasn't expressed as a statement -- there's no need, with New England holding a 15-0 series advantage since 2003. It was in the way he described each, independently of one another.

"They do a great job," Gailey said of the Patriots Wednesday. "And it looks like it doesn't matter who they plug in where, they do a great job. Everybody's on the same page. That's almost the highest compliment you can give to an offense is when everybody's on the same page.

"Obviously, that has a lot to do with Tom Brady and the way he runs the offense. He's a great quarterback when you look at physical talent. But he's even better when you see the way he manages the game and controls the tempo and does all the little things to help his team be successful."

Gailey's 2010 arrival in Buffalo was nothing like the dramatic entrance of, say, Rex Ryan in New York. There were no booming promises of Super Bowl trips, no delusions of -- or even allusions to -- grandeur. With just one season over .500 since 2004, the Bills' coaching search was long and it was painful; the team swung and missed on interviews more than once before landing Gailey.

You can see how, where the Patriots strive for dominance, Buffalo hopes for . . . improvement.

"I know one thing: If you lose you don't stay in this business very long," Gailey said. "If you win, sometimes people think you're better than you really are. The key is to try to do your best each week and help your team improve. We've gotten better personnel, our guys understand our systems better and we've been fortunate to win two games."

Here he sounds a bit modest.

The Bills actually look like a better team this season. They didn't just squeak through the first two weeks, they put up the numbers to lead the NFL in average rushing yards (190.0 per game), points per game (39.5), and touchdowns (10).

It makes more sense that Gailey is being cautious. Vanquished Week 1 opponent, Kansas City, isn't exactly the same kind of competitor as New England.

"I think everybody's excited and looking forward to it, but we're in a society of 'What have you done for me lately?' And it's been good the first two weeks and you've got to keept p it going or things turn in a hurry. We have to concentrate each and every week to win ourselves a ballgame. We're not a dominant team yet and we hope to be there one day. But we're blue collar, going to work everyday and we're just trying to get better," he said.

"I think our guys understand about hard work, they understand about going out and getting better each day and they also have learned the systems better. Like I said earlier, too, we've picked up some good players that have helped us on both sides of the ball. When everybody gets closer to the same page you give yourself a chance to be more successful."

A win on Sunday would be a huge step in the right direction. But Gailey isn't looking for the Bills to define themselves by Week 3, no matter what the outcome.

There's a long way yet to go.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

When the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore in the offseason and then managed to keep Malcolm Butler around, the consensus was not only might this be the best 1-2 punch at cornerback the team has ever had, but maybe, just maybe, it was the best duo in the NFL this season. 

Newsflash: it hasn’t been. Not even close. 

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The latest example comes from Sunday night in Denver. Gilmore returned from a three-game absence (concussion) to play well against Demaryius Thomas in that 41-16 win. The same can’t be said of Butler. He spent much of his day playing man-to-man versus Emmanuel Sanders and struggled mightily.

Butler’s issues started on the very first play. He got lost along the sidelines and surrendered a 31-yard catch. Butler initially had Sanders blanketed. The two were lined up outside the numbers along the left sideline. Based on the formation, and the alignment of safety Devin McCourty, it was pretty clear Butler was alone on an island. Sanders initially drove inside before straightening out his route. Then he cut sharply, working speedily to the flat. Butler had a good beat on the play but unwisely peeked into the backfield. That’s when Sanders turned up and found nothing but green grass.

“I would just say I’d just tip my hat to him,” said Butler. “It was a great route. He steered me in. Then he went up then went out then went back up so I thought that was it. It was a little more than I expected. You gotta learn from it and play it better next time.”

On the same drive, he was beaten again by Sanders, this time for 13 yards. The Pats defense tightened up and held Denver to a field goal but a pattern had already been established between the Patriots' 27-year-old cornerback and Sanders.

The next big play Butler coughed up came with 4:13 to play in the second quarter. Broncos QB Brock Osweiler summoned Sanders to come across the formation via motion but then sent him back as the wideout approached the tackle box. Butler overreacted, trying to jump out ahead of the motion while simultaneously looking into the backfield. It was then he realized Sanders had done an about-face. To his credit, Butler recovered and jumped on Sanders shortly after the snap of the ball, actually shoving the receivers’ right shoulder in an attempt to disrupt the pattern. 

As Sanders turned upfield, he appeared well-covered by Butler. But then another old habit that’s been hard for Butler to break appeared. He lost track of the ball once it took flight. Sanders slapped on the brakes and high-pointed the football while Butler watched, helplessly flat-footed. Chalk up another 23-yard gain.

“I would just say he underthrew it and I got pushed by,” said Butler. “I probably burst because I was expected the ball to come too. You just got to play it the best way you can. Things happen. He just made a great play. I was in good position but not good enough.”

Sanders caught one more pass on the drive, and should have had a touchdown in the second quarter, streaking past Butler toward the end zone. But Osweiler made a terrible throw, unable to even keep it in the field of play. Hence another field goal instead of a touchdown. Bullet dodged - and there were a few.

“You can’t win with three all day,” said Butler of the defense’s red-zone efficiency. “They’re very hard on us on protecting the red area and not giving up touchdowns in the red area. Bend but don’t break. That’s been the motto.”

The Patriots would break later and Sanders beating Butler was a part of it. The play coming about five minutes into the third quarter on Denver's only TD-scoring drive. The Broncos came out in trips, employing a bunch formation that had plagued the Patriots so often the first month of the season. Unlike then, the Pats handled communication perfectly and as Sanders worked toward the seam, Butler had good position and help toward the post, with safety Duron Harmon eyeballing Sanders the entire way. So did Butler do? He gave up outside leverage, with Sanders breaking hard to the flag. Butler’s footwork was a mess - he got spun around like he was auditioning for "Dancing With the Stars" - and was unable to recover until Sanders had picked up another 23 yards.

“Another good route,” said Butler. “He got me thinking inside and broke out. He’s a good player. A great receiver.”

There’s no denying Sanders’ talent, but Butler has got to be better and more consistent. He’s too often been lost in coverage or gotten caught gambling, eyeballing a big play that’s rarely come in 2017. With their issues up front, it’s the Pats secondary that’s going to have to lead the way. The corners have only occasionally played to the level expected of them. The clock is ticking. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: this is when the Patriots want to be playing their best football. About time Butler answered the call.