Patriots

AFC EAST: Opportunistic Bills rout sloppy Raiders, 34-14

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AFC EAST: Opportunistic Bills rout sloppy Raiders, 34-14

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Rookie linebacker Matt Milano scored on a 40-yard fumble return on a rain-slick field, and the Buffalo Bills forced four turnovers in beating the Oakland Raiders 34-14 on Sunday.

Tyrod Taylor threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes and also scored on a 1-yard run for Buffalo. LeSean McCoy had a season-best 151 yards rushing and also scored on a 48-yard run.

The Bills improved to 4-0 at home for the first time since winning their first five home games of the 1995 season.

And Buffalo improved to 5-2, matching its best start during a 17-year postseason drought - the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports.

The Bills' defense dominated despite missing two starting defensive backs, and two days after trading its highest-priced player, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus , to Jacksonville.

Milano, playing in place of injured starter Ramon Humber (broken right thumb), scored the go-ahead touchdown, putting Buffalo up 14-7, with 32 seconds left in the first half.

Raiders running back DeAndre' Washington caught a short pass over the middle and turned up field when he was struck by cornerback Leonard Johnson. The ball popped loose and flew directly into the hands of Milano, who returned it up the right sideline.

With a steady drizzle falling for much of the afternoon, the Raiders then turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the second half.

Milano forced Jalen Richard to fumble while returning a punt, with Mike Tolbert recovering it at the Raiders 14.

On Oakland's next possession, Derek Carr's pass over the middle was tipped by linebacker Preston Brown, and intercepted by safety Micah Hyde.

The turnovers led to Stephen Hauschka hitting 35- and 44-yard field goals.

Buffalo then took command by going ahead 27-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Taylor capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive by scoring on fourth-and-inches.

Oakland (3-5) lost for the fourth time in five games, and was unable to carry over the momentum following its dramatic 31-30 come-from-behind victory over Kansas City on Oct. 19.

Carr finished 31 of 48 for 313 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Washington and two interceptions. After scoring on their opening drive on Jamize Olawale's 1-yard run, the Raiders' next eight possessions ended with four punts, three turnovers and a failed bid to score at the end of the second quarter.

The Bills continue relying on an opportunistic defense, which has forced three or more turnovers in each of their past four games.

That included a 30-27 win over Tampa Bay last weekend in which rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White forced and recovered receiver Adam Humphries' fumble to set up Hauschka's 30-yard game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left.

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Signature Plays: Hoping the defense falls for the slip screen

Signature Plays: Hoping the defense falls for the slip screen

We've already taken a look at a handful of go-to offensive concepts for the Patriots. There was the two-back stretch, the smash route, the post-wheel and the high-low crosser. Today, we'll focus on yet another key offensive play for the Patriots, one they broke out in the Super Bowl when they needed to spark a drive: the slip screen. 

There were points last year when the Patriots weren't thrilled with their production in the screen game. The assignments weren't executed perfectly. The timing was off. The production simply wasn't there. 

"Our screen game hasn't been as productive as we need it to be," Bill Belichick said on a conference call in November. "We need to, obviously, coach it better and execute it better. We're not getting enough out of it. It's disappointing."

But they stuck with it. Their offensive linemen are required to be athletes. (Just ask Dante Scarnecchia.) Their backfield was loaded with backs who can catch and make defenders miss in the open field. The screen game still has a chance, the thinking went. 

And in the biggest game of the season, when the Patriots needed to get a drive kick-started after going down 15-3 in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII, they turned to their screen game again.

In the fifth entry of our "Signature Plays" series, one that identifies some of the Patriots' favorite concepts in key situations, we'll take a look at how many elements are involved in one of New England's slip screens - and why, with the personnel the Patriots have in 2018, it should be a staple for their offense again.  

SUPER BOWL LII VS. EAGLES, 8:48 SECOND QUARTER, FIRST-AND-10,
REX BURKHEAD 46-YARD RECEPTION

THE CONCEPT: If an offense can get a defense flowing in the wrong direction, there's going to be an opportunity for a chunk play. If an offense can get a defense flowing in the wrong direction twice? That's gold. 

That's what a slip screen can do. By countering a defense's aggressiveness - the Eagles had an aggressive, relentless front that helped make them Super Bowl champions - the benefit of a play such as a slip screen can actually be twofold: First, if a big play is created, there's some immediate offensive gratification there; but second, a big play on one screen might help temper an opposing pass rush for the remainder of the game. 

The Patriots got the Eagles to pursue upfield hard on the first play of their drive midway through the second quarter. But they also got Philly's defense to pursue horizontally on a fake that ended up taking multiple defenders out of the play. 

THE PLAY: The Patriots aligned in a two-by-two formation with Tom Brady under center and Rex Burkhead in the backfield. On the opposite side of the line, the Eagles went with their standard single-high safety coverage on first down. They appeared to be in Cover-3 zone. 

Phillip Dorsett aligned wide to the right side of the formation with Danny Amendola in the slot. When Dorsett went in motion, the slot defender over Amendola took off to mirror the motion and help balance out Philly's defense. 

When Brady snapped the ball, he faked a handoff to Burkhead and then faked an end-around run to Dorsett. The Patriots have run so many of those jet-sweep types of runs in recent seasons, that the Eagles respected it. Not only did one defensive back mirror Dorsett's motion, but the fake to Dorsett appeared to help hold a pair of Eagles defenders on the offensive left side of the field. 

That's exactly what the Patriots were looking for since Burkhead was about to slip out to the right, into a wide open area of the field. 

One key to this play is the block of the right tackle -- in this case Cam Fleming. He needs to be a little soft here. Why? Because if he stonewalls his man at the line of scrimmage, that clogs things up for Burkhead. Again, he's slipping out to the right. So the right tackle has to bait his man into getting up the field, which Fleming does here. With the Eagles shading to Dorsett's motion, and with the left defensive end climbing up the field, the seas are about to part for Burkhead.

Not only does Burkhead have space to run, but he has a wall of bodyguards to escort up up the field. Shaq Mason, David Andrews and Joe Thuney have all freed themselves of the clutter at the line as Brady makes his throw. Because the motion did its job, it'll be a while before any of the big bodies have to throw themselves around.

The first block made is by Shaq Mason on safety Malcolm Jenkins, who read the dummy motion and flowed to the ball correctly. Still, Jenkins has no shot against Mason and is smothered. 

Then it's up to Andrews and Thuney. Backside linebacker Nigel Bradham flows to the ball, but Thuney gets in Bradham's way just enough to eliminate him. Andrews, meanwhile, has no problem blocking boundary corner Jalen Mills. 

But Burkhead wasn't done even as his first layer of protection was strewn about. He had another line of defense further down the field. Chris Hogan, who began the play aligned wide left, made sure the corner assigned to his side of the field was walled off. Then Amendola, who feigned a deep crossing route but was really focused on safety Rodney McLeod all along, made sure the deep-middle man would be a non-factor. 

The result was a huge gain that eventually ended in a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. 

THE PLAY IN 2018: Burkhead is back in 2018, though several Patriots backs could find themselves on the field in screen situations. James White and Sony Michel could both be in the mix for this play moving forward. Other key players return as well. Brady, obviously. Plus the three-man interior that moves well enough to make these types of plays possible. The Patriots should begin the season with Marcus Cannon as the bait-and-screen right tackle on these calls, which is an upgrade. And if the Patriots can swap in Julian Edelman for Amendola -- Edelman is as feisty a blocker as his teammate-turned-division-foe -- they should have the right mix to continue to rip off the occasional big gain with their slip screens. 

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Perry's Patriots Signature Plays series

Perry's Patriots Signature Plays series

What's made the Patriots so successful for so long? Continuity. As part of that, we take a look at a handful of go-to offensive concepts that they'll likely turn to again this season with old and new personnel. Click here for the full series.