I recall conversation I had with Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey in training camp. I asked him about the team’s stern focus on building up the defensive and offensive lines the past two years.
"[GM] Buddy [Nix] and I both believe the game, a major part but not the whole part, is won in the trenches," Gailey told me in August. "It is won on both sides of the line, and who can control that part of the game. It's hard to find those guys. So when you get the opportunity to get them, you take that opportunity."
Two years ago the Bills didn't have defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, left tackle Cordy Glenn or defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Buffalo also played without defensive tackle Kyle Williams for most of 2011 due to injury. All five players are making an impact in the trenches in 2012, leading the Bills to a 2-1 record.
But can the Bills beat the Patriots (1-2) by winning in the trenches?
Make no mistake, Buffalo had the Patriots in mind when making personnel decisions. New England has owned the division for most of the past dozen years. Pressure Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was partly the reason Buffalo paid $100 million to Williams and also signed Anderson in free agency.
The Patriots’ pass protection has been inconsistent. Brady already has been sacked seven times in three games. Buffalo's defensive line also dominated in last week's win against the Cleveland Browns.
"[The Bills] are an aggressive team up front," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said this week. "They don’t have to blitz you to create pressure."
The New York Giants are the one team that consistently had New England’s number. The Giants beat New England several times by pounding Brady and winning in the trenches. The Bills will try to implement that strategy on Sunday.
Buffalo's offensive line is an underrated group that has allowed just one sack this season. If the Bills' defensive and offense lines perform well against New England, Buffalo could pull the upset.