FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tedy Bruschi could help the New England Patriots solve one of their major problems – big plays against their injury-plagued defense.

The Pro Bowl linebacker might even do it tonight.

The Patriots removed Bruschi from the physically unable to perform list Saturday afternoon, making him eligible to play against the Buffalo Bills, an impressive comeback just 8 months after he had a mild stroke and less than two weeks after he returned to practice.

Coach Bill Belichick has said that once Bruschi was on the active roster, he would be treated like any other player. Whether Bruschi starts is expected to be determined by the Bills’ offensive lineup for the first series

“I’d like to get out there and see,” said the defensive co-captain, who has a knack for making big plays himself. “I believe my body’s physically ready.”

Bills safety Lawyer Milloy knows Bruschi too well to doubt him. They were teammates for seven seasons after the Patriots drafted both in consecutive rounds in 1996.

“If there’s anybody who can do it, it’s Tedy Bruschi,” Milloy said.

Belichick said he’s looked good in practice and hadn’t suffered any setbacks. He’s the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns and picked off a pass by Donovan McNabb in last year’s Super Bowl win. But the Patriots are 3-3, and one player can’t turn around a defense that has forced just three turnovers. Belichick had extra time to point out mistakes during the Patriots’ bye week by aiming his laser pointer at a player on the screen during film sessions.

“That’s obviously very motivating,” linebacker Chad Brown said, “Coach putting the red dot on you (while) watching film and letting you know this was not acceptable. He was an equal opportunity dotter. No one has played perfectly.”

In their last game, the Patriots allowed completions of 55 and 72 yards and a run of 68 yards in a 28-20 loss at Denver. They’ve given up seven completions of more than 40 yards this season. But the Bills’ longest completion this year covered 49 yards and their longest run gained 25. Still, they’ve scored on six of their opening drives in their seven games. Their offense has relied on Willis McGahee, the NFL’s fifth leading rusher. But he ran for just 50 yards in last Sunday’s 38-17 loss at Oakland.

“We just haven’t been able to throw the ball downfield very effectively this year,” wide receiver Lee Evans said, “but, sooner or later, we’re going to have to turn it loose. And, when it does happen, we have to make the play.”

The Patriots haven’t won two consecutive games, but lead the AFC East and still have all six games remaining against their division opponents, starting with Buffalo. The Bills are 2-0 in the division. Tonight’s winner will be in first place in the AFC East. The Patriots can jump-start their struggling running game against a defense that has allowed the most yards rushing in the league.

“You need a balanced offense,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who leads the league in yards passing. “It becomes tough to throw the ball when it’s windy, rainy, cold and breezy.”

The Bills allowed Oakland’s LaMont Jordan to rush for 122 yards and three touchdowns, the fourth time they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher after doing it only three times last season.

New England has won eight of its last nine against Buffalo.

“We have to get through the mystique of the whole situation, the atmosphere, the banners, the fact that they’re the world champions,” Milloy said. “Coach Belichick had two weeks to humble all their players, get them refocused. He has an uncanny way about making them feel like they’re not champions.”

Such as aiming that laser pointer.

“The bye week is always an opportunity to review and go over what you didn’t do right,” Brown said, “and coach Belichick is always very good at pointing that out to us.”

AP-ES-10-27-05 2024EDT

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