Pats know stopping Spiller is key

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Patriots last faced the Bills, it was Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden who played starring roles. The Patriots finished with 247 yards rushing, 243 of which came from the aforementioned duo.

But Buffalo has its own formidable ground game, led by C.J. Spiller, an electric back who leads the NFL with an unbelievable 7.2 yards per carry this season.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo knows his defense has to be ready to stop the run on Sunday when the Patriots host the Bills.

"Obviously they're a two-headed monster, or really a three-headed monster. [Tashard] Choice provides a spark off the bench as well," he said of Buffalo's running backs. "Any time a guy is averaging over seven yards a carry, you know they can always take one to the house. It'll take a group effort. The front seven has to do an excellent job staying on blocks and hopefully stop runs."

Mayo said that Spiller, who managed just 33 yards on eight carries during the first meeting, has taken on a different role since the September match-up.

"C.J. Spiller, his role has increased. He's doing a lot more things for them," Mayo said. "He's catching a lot more screens. He's breaking a lot more runs. I don't think he was averaging seven yards a carry when we played them the last time."

Spiller's play has caught the attention of nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

"This guy is a helluva player," Wilfork said of Spiller. "He's running the ball very well, catching the ball for them. He's really showing explosive plays that we were accustomed to seeing when he was in college and now what they drafted him for. He's coming into his own, and of course Fred Jackson, more of a power runner, but two good backs. This offense is a very explosive offense."

Mayo, who said it has taken a group effort for the Patriots' defense to get off to its strong start defending the run in 2012 (they yield an AFC-best 3.5 yards per carry), also noted that Spiller is running the football better on the interior of the line of scrimmage.

"It'll take 11 men to go out there and slow him down," Mayo added. "He takes the ball outside, and one thing he's been doing a lot better since the last time we played them, he's running inside as well. He's making a lot of guys miss inside and breaking those long runs."

Wilfork talked about the importance of stopping the run in order to make an opponent one-dimensional.

"We always talk about the run game. I think we are better this year," he said. "Every year you want to talk about making a team one-dimensional, and we have for the most part this year... We've been in some tough games where teams keep running the ball, and we did pretty well."

He said stopping the run and generating a pass rush have always been primary goals for the defense.

"It's going to continue that way," he said. "I'm very proud of the way we've handled the run game and hopefully we can do a little better job going forward."