New England quarterback Mac Jones, left, and center David Andrews walk off the field after beating the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 6 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Jones threw just three passes, but should be more active when the teams meet again on Sunday. Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Buffalo Coach Sean McDermott is not expecting another three-pass effort from Mac Jones this time.

McDermott believes he’ll be seeing New England’s rookie quarterback play a bigger role in the Patriots offense Sunday in the second meeting of the teams this season.

And with Coach Bill Belichick joking – we think – about what he hid from McDermott the first game, it’s possible McDermott is on to something.

“We can use our whole passing game. All the pass plays that we have, they haven’t seen,” Belichick teased the day after beating the Bills, 14-10, in gusty conditions on Dec. 6. “We can use all of them next time we play them. That game plan’s already been made.”

Has it? Really?

Sounds like the mind games have already begun.


That’s the beauty of running the ball 46 times, with just three pass attempts the first game. Even though the Patriots are sure to throw it more than three times, it still leaves a bit of mystery for what the Patriots can and will do to attack the Bills in Sunday’s pivotal AFC East matchup.

Plus, seeing an opponent twice, especially in games only a few weeks apart, naturally lends itself to a few surprises.

But New England is still going to run the ball often, whether in the hurry-up or not, and continue to do so until the Bills show they can stop the Patriots. Make no mistake, the run game is still going to be a significant part of the plan.

If McDermott’s defense couldn’t stop the ground-and-pound offense in Week 13, what makes anyone think they’ll be able to do so in Week 16? It’s not like they can put any more people in the box than what they had during the 14-10 loss.

They already went to that well, and the Patriots still made them pay.

Now, it’s fair to assume Jones will be more than Mr. Handoff in the upcoming game, but he’s not going to get into a shootout with Josh Allen if the Patriots can help it. While the Patriots adjust the game plan from week to week for the opponent they’re playing, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels know what gives them the best chance to win against the Bills or anyone else.


And it’s not having Jones heave the ball 40 or 50 times. It’s having him be efficient, and creating comfortable situations for him to throw, especially if teams have some success shutting down the run.

Like with the Colts last week, the Bills also know their best shot at leaving Foxborough with a win is stopping the run, getting a lead, and forcing Jones to beat them.

That’s why it would be a hoot to see McDaniels have Jones come out firing right away from the no-huddle, right from the first series. Once again, that bit of mystery, not knowing what McDaniels has up his sleeve with respect to throwing the football, or attacking in general, is going to keep McDermott and Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier up all week.

McDaniels said Tuesday he was going to start fresh with a clean sheet before devising the actual plan for Sunday. What happened in Week 14 will factor in, but there’s always room for improvement, not to mention surprise.

He called it playing “a chess game with yourself” describing how to tackle a defense the second time around, especially one that also doesn’t show the same thing in a subsequent meeting.

“I think the biggest mistake people can make is relaxing and not going through the preparation as if this is the first time we played them,” said McDaniels. “So I try to get myself into a mindset of, I don’t care what happened three weeks ago. I’m going back through and I’m studying the players, I’m studying the scheme, I’m studying the game plan and I’m going to try to make each decision based on what we feel this week, not three or four weeks ago … we’ll go in with a plan we feel good about.”

One that’s bound to bollix the Bills.

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