On Thursday night, will the Patriots force the Bills to punt?
When the Bills and Patriots met on a windy night in Buffalo in early December 2021, Buffalo punted five times. In a pair of 2021 rematches, both of which Buffalo won, the Bills punted a total of zero times.
Coach Bill Belichick, one of the great defensive coaches of all time, was asked about that dynamic during a Monday appearance with The Greg Hill Show on WEEI.
Here was the very pointed question: “The last two meetings against the Bills did not go your way. Two full games without forcing a punt. How personally do you take the inability of this defense to stop Josh Allen, and is that part of the motivation as you prepare for Thursday night, to host those Bills?”
In response Belichick said this: “Yeah, well, again, it’s a big challenge playing Buffalo. We’ve got to -- we need everybody to play well. I mean, we had them in punt formation on the first series of the game in the second game and gave up a fake punt. So, you know, I don’t really put that on the defense. But, regardless, they moved the ball consistently on defense. We certainly didn’t make them punt in the playoff game. So, yeah, it’s -- we know it’s a big challenge, and we’re going to have to play better than we played against them in the last two [games] in every area of the game.”
Belichick, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of football dating back decades, has his facts confused. The Bills did not run a fake punt in either the Week 16 game or the wildcard playoff meeting. The fake punt happened during the second drive of a game in New England played in Week 16 of the 2020 season, a Monday night game the Bills won, 38-9.
So in eight quarters of football against the Bills, Belichick has forced zero punts. And zero punt formations. We’ll see whether that will indeed change on Thursday night, in what will be a very significant AFC East battle.