The Buffalo Bills came into Sunday worried about Tom Brady. They should have been more concerned with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
Brady was his usual efficient self, but the New England Patriots' quarterback was upstaged by Green-Ellis and Woodhead, who powered a potent rushing attack that gained 217 yards in a 34-3 victory.
Green-Ellis led the way with 104 yards on 19 carries. He needs 72 more for his first 1,000-yard season. This was his second 100-yard performance in four games against Buffalo and he has 202 yards in two meetings this year. Woodhead added 93 yards on 13 attempts and scored on a 29-yard run. He ran for a 22-yard touchdown when the teams met in Foxborough, Mass., earlier this season.
"I think they've got good vision," Bills nose tackle Kyle Williams said. "They're good at finding the lane. When they get you up and running, they're good at finding the cutback lane or staying outside and running it out. With Woodhead, he can sneak back in there. He's tough to find."
Brady threw for only 140 yards, to go with three touchdowns. But Green-Ellis and Woodhead provided plenty of support.
"One thing [the Bills have] been struggling with is against the run," Brady said. "[Buffalo] was 32nd against the run, and we knew coming in that we needed to establish it, get things going on the ground, and possess the ball, and we sure did. And I think that takes a lot of pressure off the pass game, when you can hand it off all the times we did, and gain those yards."
Like most teams, the Bills geared up to defend Brady and the Patriots' high-powered passing attack. And why not, considering the high level at which Brady has been playing during his team's seven-game winning streak?
But the Bills should have known better. This is the same Patriots team that gashed Buffalo for 200 yards in a 38-30, Week Three victory. The Bills have now given up 200 rushing yards in a game seven times this year, one shy of the franchise record.
The Bills were caught off-guard by New England's approach. The Patriots often ran when the pass was expected and passed when Buffalo anticipated the run.
"They do a good job of breaking their tendencies," Williams said. "When you feel like you have a beat on them, they'll run plays out of different formations. And the slash plays, they just kill us. Those bounce plays, those wide zone plays just killed us today on the cutback."
It was a discouraging performance by the Bills' defense, which had played well the last two games. But no answer could be found against the Patriots, who gained 163 of their rushing yard in the first half.
"I think the past couple of weeks we played teams that are kind of power teams that come right at you, and these guys mix that in," Williams said. "But today it was a lot of that zone, just trying to get you running so that they could find a lane and cut back and that's what they did. They ran it well and killed us with it."
The Bills were last in the NFL against the run last season until improving down the stretch to climb out of the cellar. To avoid finishing last this season, they will have to shut down the New York Jets, who rushed for 274 yards in an early-season win over the Bills, in the finale.
"If you can't stop the run in the National Football League, you're not going to win a whole lot of games," Bills strong safety Donte Whitner said. "Especially when you play a team like New England because they use the run to set up the play-action and other throws. We knew we had to stop the run today, and we failed miserably."