McCoy or no McCoy, Pats focused on slowing Bills run attack

New England could chase Taylor with a defensive line that is lacking in depth

The Houston Texans face off against the New England Patriots at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
The Houston Texans face off against the New England Patriots at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots will have a lot on their mind when they travel to Buffalo to face the division-rival Bills.

They’re just trying their best to avoid making it all about the R-word: revenge.

“I guess so,” safety Devin McCourty said when asked if he and his teammates are out to avenge a loss later this week. “I mean we want to win. I guess you can call it that if you want.”

New England showed deficiencies in all three phases of the game in its 16-0 loss at home in Week 4. One of the most glaring was its run defense, which allowed the Bills to rush for 134 yards, the most the Patriots have allowed in a game this season.

Buffalo also kept the Patriots offense in check by holding it to a season-low 1 for 12 on third down.

The Bills gave the Patriots a steady diet of running back LeSean McCoy in the first game, but his status for this week is in doubt after he sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury.

If he can’t go, it would put more of a load on quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Mike Gillislee and Reggie Bush, who notched his first touchdown of the season last week against Miami.

McCourty said whoever they have in the backfield will be a challenge to contain.

“The things that we knew they did well, they’re continuing to do it,” McCourty said. “I think everyone knows they’re going to run but they still go out there and run the football against everybody.”

Taylor’s ability to scramble kept the Patriots off balance in the first meeting. That opened up passing lanes and led to long completions to receiver Robert Woods.

This time, New England could chase Taylor with a defensive line that is lacking in depth.

Tackles Alan Branch and Malcolm Brown had little rest in last week’s win at Pittsburgh with Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) and Vincent Valentine (back) inactive. Anthony Johnson was called up from the practice squad to add to the rotation, and he could be called upon again this week.

Coach Bill Belichick said he thought Branch and Brown did a good job taking on the extra workload against the Steelers, but acknowledged “ideally that’s not necessarily where you always want to be.”

Defensive end Chris Long said one goal this week is to limit the opportunities for Buffalo’s playmakers to get into the open field.

“Those guys are very capable of getting on the edge,” he said. “You gotta be wary of that, and you have to know what your job is … because it might not be the same thing each play.”

Also included in that equation is not getting sidetracked by any head games the Bills might try.

In the pregame of the Oct. 2 meeting, a shoving match erupted near the sideline when New England quarterback Jacoby Brissett jogged past a group of Bills players and was shoved by safety Robert Blanton.

Brissett didn’t stop, but New England receiver Malcolm Mitchell came to Brissett’s defense. It led to a brief scrum involving several other players and assistant coaches.

After that game, tight end Martellus Bennett expressed displeasure with the Bills players, but said this week that he wasn’t concerned about any lingering issues.

“I’m just chilling, man,” he said. “I’m always on alert.”

NOTES: Patriots RB Dion Lewis, who has been on the reserve/physically unable to perform list since Aug. 30, returned to practice Thursday. Lewis had surgery on his left knee in November to repair an ACL injury.

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AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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