Hannable: No matter what Bills are saying this week, Patriots should be aware of potential chippy play

Ryan Hannable
December 21, 2017 - 1:28 pm

Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — While the Bills are saying all the right things leading into Sunday’s game against the Patriots, once Sunday at 1 p.m. comes there’s no guarantee things go as planned.

Everyone knows what happened the last time the Patriots and Bills met in Buffalo when Rob Gronkowski had a cheap shot late hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White and he was suspended for a game.

Immediately afterwards the Bills players said they would remember what happened the next time the two teams met, and then when White spoke a few days later, he called Gronkowski a “dirty” player.

But, when speaking this week ahead of Sunday’s meeting, the Bills changed their tune.

“We know if we go out there and try do anything selfish or anything to hurt the team, we can cost ourselves a playoff spot -- or one of our main players -- by going out there and doing something stupid,” White said to reporters Wednesday. “We need everybody. It’s going to be a total team effort. We gonna definitely need everybody on the field to beat this team. We gonna put that on the back burner and just focus on winning.”

Added Micah Hyde: “Tre's gonna handle his business, we're not worried about that. But at the same time, yeah, we are a family, we understand that, we like to be hanging out with each other inside and outside the locker room and so when something like that happens you wanna stick up for him. But you gotta stay within the rules and the regulations of the game. 

“Fines and suspensions are coming left and right. You see it in the NFL all the time, so you gotta be smart, try not to hurt your team and get a negative penalty. So, yeah, we are a family but there's ways you go about it without jeopardizing your team.” 

If Rex Ryan were still around things may be different, but new coach Sean McDermott appears to have brought a new culture to the Bills and the players are buying in. With that being said, there’s still a chance a player could go off on his own and take a shot at Gronkowski. 

Hyde’s line of “there's ways you go about it without jeopardizing your team” is worth considering and keeping an eye on. If there was one Bills player to watch out for it is defensive end Jerry Hughes.

Say the Patriots are up big in the second half, perhaps they should consider more than in other games removing Gronkowski. In the past three games he’s played in, the tight end has played over 90 percent of the snaps, including all 59 against the Steelers last Sunday. This could change this week.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the Bills trying to get the Patriots a cheap penalty or two after the play. In the last meeting in Buffalo, the Patriots had nine penalties for 66 yards. Buffalo desperately needs a win, as it is in the running for one of the two wild card spots and likely need wins in its final two games. The Bills will be looking for any sort of edge they can get.

“I’m sure it'll be a very competitive game, like it always is against Buffalo,” Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “I think that the Bills have played great football all year long. Coach McDermott's done a great job with the team. They’re very disciplined. They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re very competitive in every phase of the game on every play. There’s no downs off. There’s no plays off. 

“We're going to have to play a good 60-minute game. We need to play with fewer penalties, fewer mistakes, better ball security, better tackling, better discipline. There’s a lot of things we need to do better than the last time that we played them, but they’re a good football team. They’re well-coached and I’m sure that we'll get their best shot. We need to give them ours.”

With the Patriots’ win last week over Pittsburgh, they have the inside edge on the No. 1 seed, as all they need to do is win in Weeks 16 and 17. Making sure they have all their star players for the postseason is vital, so maybe taking a more cautious approach with Gronkowski and even Tom Brady this week against the Bills is necessary.

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