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Sunday, January 1, 2012
Defense makes adjustments again

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 246 yards in the first half against the Patriots on Sunday, then followed it up with 61 in the second half. The Patriots also intercepted him four times in the second half, turning a 21-14 halftime deficit into a 49-21 victory.

Defensive adjustments, anyone?

"Just different looks, showing different looks," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "We had to see what they were going to do. They were kind of checking the plays at the line of scrimmage and things like that to see what [defense] we were in, but we were just sitting in our regular defense. We had to do some things like that, and we got it done."

Mayo added that the Patriots didn't necessarily wait until halftime to make the adjustments, even though it might have seemed that way. It's a familiar script, the same one the Patriots used in wins over the Broncos on Dec. 18 and Dolphins on Dec. 24, even if coach Bill Belichick downplayed it after the game.

"It's unfortunate in the past two weeks it has taken us to get in a deficit like that to come out and play the way we should," cornerback Kyle Arrington said. "That is definitely not the goal for this team."

The Bills said they didn't necessarily see adjustments by the Patriots as much as self-inflicted wounds after they built the 21-0 lead by using an up-tempo approach.

First, receiver Stevie Johnson was benched for the remainder of the game for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his 18-yard first-quarter touchdown catch, when he lifted up his jersey to show an undershirt that had the words "Happy New Year" written on it. A holding penalty and botched snap contributed to the Bills' offense stalling in the second quarter, and they also lost tight end Scott Chandler to injury.

"We just couldn't get it going back after that," Bills coach Chan Gailey said.

That's not to say there weren't some defensive tweaks made by the Patriots.

"They mixed it up a little more in the second half," Fitzpatrick said. "They made some adjustments at halftime."

Some of the personnel-based changes in the second half included playing Sterling Moore (2 INTs) at right cornerback over Arrington in the nickel, using Julian Edelman in the slot over Nate Jones, and bringing linebacker Dane Fletcher closer to the line of scrimmage in the dime package. The Patriots were without linebacker/defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who had been slowed by a hip injury during the week, after the fourth series of the game, which might have sparked some of the creativity with Fletcher.

"Once again, it was adjustments we made on the sideline, coaches drew some things up," Mayo said. "We showed the mental toughness to get it done."