You think of difference-makers for the New England Patriots, and the names are easy to rattle off: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman (before he suffered a broken foot), Danny Amendola.
Somewhere along the line, the name of coach Bill Belichick also will come up for his consistent strategic brilliance before and during games.
But a member of the Patriots’ defense? Almost never … until now.
The Patriots have a genuine candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in end Chandler Jones. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Rochester product and former Syracuse University standout leads the league with 10.5 sacks, and has forced a pair of fumbles.
Others can talk about the Patriots’ many offensive stars, but Jones is very much on the radar of the men who will be trying to keep Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor upright Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
“He’s legit,” guard Richie Incognito said. “You’re looking at a tall, rangy, athletic, physical specimen. He’s quick, he’s explosive, he’s very sudden. He’s really just come into his own. And the way they scheme defense and the way they play defense, they want to get him one-on-one and they want to get him causing some ruckus.”
“He comes off the ball, he has good feet, like a stutter step to try to get you to lunge one way so he can come around the opposite direction,” right tackle Seantrel Henderson said. “He has good, long arms, a good bull rush, with a rip. He has really good counter moves and really good balance that he’s good at making plays with.”
Jones, in his fourth NFL season, sacked Taylor a game-high three times in the Patriots’ 40-32 victory against Buffalo on Sept. 20 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. In all, New England had eight sacks for minus-53 yards.
Henderson is confident that he and the rest of the Bills’ offensive linemen have a good understanding of what they need to do to prevent Jones from having another big game.
“With him, it’s all about having strong feet and strong hands,” Henderson said. “You’ve got to get your hands on him first before he touches you. You don’t want him to get a couple of steps and get into his move.”
Safety Bacarri Rambo was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Bills’ 22-17 victory against the New York Jets last Thursday night.
Rambo had the game-sealing interception of a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass in the final seconds. He also forced two fumbles, including one that fellow safety Duke Williams returned for a touchdown, and recovered another.
Rambo is the second Bills player to receive the honor. Linebacker Preston Brown won it in Week Three.
Brady told reporters in New England about his reaction to watching video of the Bills’ defensive backs since he threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns against them in September: “It was a little disappointing to see from my study that they were playing as well as they were, but that’s part of it. You’re going to go against good players. And they’ve got good players, so we’ve got to still kind of figure out how to move the ball down the field.”
The Bills used a day off Wednesday to stage their annual Thanksgiving Blitz Wednesday with players, their families, team staff and the Food Bank of Western New York helping to distribute meals to 625 families at the Food Bank.
Making the effort possible was the more than $43,000 in donations from the Bills players and coaches that funded turkeys and Thanksgiving meals for more than 1,000 families in WNY. The remaining families will receive their meals throughout the holiday season.