New England Patriots: Stephon Gilmore

Getting to know the Bills, again

December, 24, 2013
In an odd scheduling situation, the New England Patriots’ regular season is bookended with matchups against the Buffalo Bills.

They began the 2013 season with a come-from-behind win over the Bills back in Week 1, a game that feels like it took place an eternity ago. They’ll wrap up the regular season against Buffalo, this time playing host to the Bills, who find themselves in the basement of the AFC East entering Week 17, but heading in the right direction.

Buffalo has had some promising moments, including a 23-20 win over the Ravens, a sweep of Miami and a November thrashing of the Jets.

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, the team’s top draft choice in April, has dealt with three knee injuries, though coach Doug Marrone previously has guaranteed that Manuel will play this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The former Florida State signal-caller is a critical piece of the Bills’ future, as they are hopeful he can stabilize the offense and give the new coaching staff the dependable quarterback it needs to successfully implement its system.

For more on the Bills, here’s a look at names and faces of note that were not included in our first “Getting to Know the Bills” post.

Record: 6-9 (fourth in AFC East)
Head coach: Doug Marrone (first season)
Offensive coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett
Defensive coordinator: Mike Pettine


1. RB Fred Jackson. Many (this reporter included) supposed that Jackson would slide into a complementary role under Marrone, with C.J. Spiller taking over as the workhorse in Buffalo. But as Jackson has done for so many seasons, he continues to be productive and steady. A dependable receiver as well, Jackson is well over 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season and is a player the Patriots' defense will need to account for on Sunday.

2. LT Cordy Glenn. A starter from Day 1 of the 2012 season -- his rookie campaign -- Glenn is a massive blindside protector, standing at 6-foot-6 and nearly 350 pounds. While many surmised that Glenn would settle in as a right tackle or guard in the NFL after a strong career at Georgia, he has been largely used on the left side of the line, helping to soften the blow of losing Demetress Bell in free agency before the 2012 draft (it’s been a favorable switch for the Bills). Glenn will be counted on to protect Manuel for seasons to come.

3. WR Robert Woods. A rookie out of USC, Woods was speculated to be a player the Patriots were interested in during the second round, a spot where they ended up taking Aaron Dobson instead (Woods was no longer on the board). He’s led the Bills in receiving yards in consecutive games and four times this season, with season totals of 39 catches for 560 yards and three touchdowns. He scored his first career touchdown in his lone catch of Week 1. He was ejected from the Bills' Week 16 game against Miami for punching Dolphins safety Reshad Jones.


1. LB Kiko Alonso. Born in Newton, Mass., Alonso finds himself in the middle of the defensive rookie of the year race as the quarterback of the Bills' defense and a tackling machine. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 145 tackles to go along with four interceptions and two sacks. Alonso was a second-round pick out of Oregon who came on immediately for Buffalo, providing every-down dependability as both a pass- and run-coverage player.

2. CB Stephon Gilmore. The second-year pro was not able to play in Week 1 as he recovered from a preseason broken wrist, but he’s back now and playing at a very high level. Gilmore played well in two games against the Patriots last season and gives the Bills the type of perimeter cornerback who can stand toe-to-toe with top targets on an opposing offense. He has the agility to handle quicker receivers too.

3. CB Nickell Robey. The Bills invested wisely in Gilmore with a first-round pick last year, and they added another promising cornerback this past offseason. That player, Robey, went undrafted after coming out of USC, but he has played standout football as a slot option for the Bills. He lacks size at just 5-7, but he’s extremely quick, pesky and has enough ball skills to be a disruptive nickel (no pun intended) corner. He has three sacks in his past two games.

OTHER NOTES: The Bills lead the NFL with 56 sacks, including seven last week against Miami. ... Sunday marks the third time in six seasons that the Patriots and Bills have played in the regular-season finale. ... J.J. Unga has taken some snaps in relief of starting right guard Kraig Urbik, who has been battling a foot injury. ... Jerry Hughes, acquired in a trade this offseason, has 10 sacks. That gives the Bills a trio of double-digit sackers (Mario Williams and Kyle Williams as well). ... In the event Manuel does not play, Thad Lewis would be under center for Buffalo. ... The Bills have a terrific duo of interior defensive tackles: Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus, both of whom are capable of rushing the passer. ... Veteran wideout Steve Johnson may return after sitting out Week 16 due to the passing of his mother. ... Free safety Jairus Byrd, who was inactive in Week 1, has four interceptions in 2013. He received the franchise tag this offseason, and is expected to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Gilmore: Key PI penalty 'terrible call'

November, 11, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering their Week 10 matchup against the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills had been called for just 40 penalties in eight games in 2012, the third-lowest total in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
AP Photo/Steven SenneChan Gailey's Bills were penalized a season-high 14 times for 148 yards against the Patriots on Sunday.
On Sunday, they were flagged a whopping 14 times for 148 yards against the Patriots.

Though some of those calls were obvious, such as offsides and false starts, there were also some judgments that appeared could have gone either way.

Among the calls that will be most in question was a pass interference call on Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore that occurred in the end zone.

The call was on a second-quarter deep pass intended for Patriots receiver Brandon Lloyd, and gave the Patriots the ball on the Bills' one-yard line (a 37-yard penalty). The throw to Lloyd landed several feet out of bounds, and did not appear to be catchable. The Patriots eventually scored a touchdown to expand their lead.

"That's a terrible call," Gilmore said. "I think Lloyd came up to me and he said he tripped over my feet. But I didn't even touch him. I didn't know what the call was."

The rookie cornerback felt that his technique on the play was sound.

"I was playing great defense. I was running with him, I wasn't even touching him," he continued. "I don't know what happened, because when he threw the ball, I speed-turned and I'm looking at the ball and he's throwing a flag behind me. I don't know what the reason for the flag was."

Earlier in the game, Gilmore was called for another pass interference penalty in the end zone. In total, the Bills were flagged for defensive pass interference four times, including three times in the end zone. Buffalo entered the game tied for the fewest pass interference penalties in the league, with just one in their first eight games.

Gilmore was asked if he felt like the flags were loose overall during the game.

“Very loose,” he said. “Those two plays, (Bills cornerback) Leodis (McKelvin) had a flag, it was like 50 yards right there. The penalties killed -- I think we played OK, but I think we gave them more than what they earned. It’s a bad feeling.”

Between the 14 penalties called and three turnovers committed, the Bills did themselves no favor in a tight game against a division rival. They outgained the Patriots 481 to 347 yards in total offense, and controlled the clock with an edge in time of possession, 33:50 to 26:10.

"You can sit here and talk about them, should they have been called, shouldn't they have been called," Bills coach Chan Gailey said after the game. "You've got to look at the film and decide. You always have questions about them."

Like Gailey, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick reserved judgment on the calls until he's had a chance to review them on film.

"That's not for me to judge," he said. "I didn't see -- I know we jumped offsides a few times, and that's something we can't do. I don't know about the other ones. We'll look at the film and look at them, (but) you've got to be able to try to overcome those."

And while the Patriots made their own share of mistakes, including seven penalties for 73 yards, the Bills' self-inflicted wounds are likely to linger as they prepare to turn the page to their Week 11 game, just four days away against Miami.