Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The NFL welcomed back the regular officials Thursday night. The New England Patriots hope their red-zone offense also makes a triumphant return.
WHO: Patriots (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
• Talk about the game with Staff Writer Mike Lowe in a live chat at noon Monday at pressherald.com.
One season after scoring touchdowns on more than 65 percent of their trips inside the 20, the Patriots have converted just six of their 12 visits, a distinct difference for an offense accustomed to ranking among the league's best.
"We want to score every time we get down there," receiver Deion Branch said. "That's our goal, to score in the red area. We've just got to do a better job of executing our plays."
New England's recent red-zone ineptitude was on full display Sunday night in its 31-30 loss to Baltimore. Nursing a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tom Brady marched the offense 79 yards to the Baltimore 2 before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 20-yard field goal.
In a 20-18 loss to Arizona two weeks ago, the Patriots entered the red zone just once in the first half, again settling for a Gostkowski field goal.
"That's been a big reason why we've lost these last two games, because we're kicking field goals," Brady said. "If you start scoring touchdowns in those situations, then those are four-point swings every time you have to kick a field goal.
"It's hard to win if you're not productive in the red area. We have to (be). That's something we have to do better."
It's not going to get easier Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (2-1) and a revamped defense that has allowed four touchdowns -- two from inside the 20 -- in victories against Kansas City and Cleveland.
The Chiefs and Browns don't have the perennially strong offense the Patriots (1-2) have put on display in recent years. But an offseason overhaul on Buffalo's defensive line, anchored by defensive end Mario Williams, is sure to make Brady's task much more formidable.
Defensive end Mark Anderson, another key offseason free- agent signing who recorded 10 sacks with the Patriots last season, has one of Buffalo's nine sacks, which is tied for seventh- best in the league.
"It's a big front, it's big linebackers, they can all move, they're athletic and they really count on those front four to get to the quarterback and they do it," Brady said.
BILLS: Running back Fred Jackson has the team doctor's clearance to play this weekend.
CARDINALS: Fullback Korey Hall retired, three days after signing with the team.
REDSKINS: Left tackle Trent Williams is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay after being limited in practice because of a bone bruise in his right knee.
RAIDERS: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey still has no recollection of the devastating hit by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy last week that left him with a concussion and neck strain.
JAGUARS: Receiver Laurent Robinson returned to practice and is expected to play against Cincinnati.
GIANTS: The team may be without receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has a knee problem, for Sunday night's game against Philadelphia.
TITANS: Linebacker Colin McCarthy will miss a third straight game because of a sprained right ankle, and receiver Kenny Britt missed a third straight practice because of an injured left ankle.