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Here’s how the Patriots plan to contain Bills quarterback Josh Allen

Bills quarterback Josh Allen is a handful as a runner as well as a passer.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — Josh Allen is going to ditch the script.

It’s impossible to predict when, but at some point (or points) Thursday night the Bills quarterback will scan his receiving options and say, “Forget this,” and scramble out of harm’s way.

The Patriots have struggled to handle Allen’s improvisational skills in the last two meetings. The 6-foot-5-inch, 217-pounder deftly uses sidesteps and subtle shoulder and head fakes to make the first defender miss. Once he’s in the open field, he runs like a rampaging beast.

It’s when Allen is on the run that defenders are forced to ride the fine line between aggression and overaggression.


“He picks and chooses his battles, sometimes he goes in there to try to run you over, sometimes he slides, but the majority of the time he’s a competitor. He likes to go in and fight for the extra yards. But we’ve got to be smart,” Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan said Tuesday. “It’s a trend around the league for referees trying to protect quarterbacks and just protect quarterbacks in general. We’ve just got to be smart, not get any stupid penalties to help them out on offense and build momentum for them, so we can stop the momentum and get them off the field.”

McMillan and Mack Wilson are part of an overhauled linebacker corps after the offseason departures of starters Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.

Both McMillan and Wilson have slotted into the rotation and their roles continue to expand. Their speed and physicality will be needed to combat Allen.

McMillan, who missed last season because of a knee injury, credits a deep dive into New England’s schemes as a reason he’s been able to contribute and make plays.

“Just knowing the ins and outs of [the defense], knowing what guys are doing around me, learning over time, trial and error, going out there, making mistakes, and then coming back the next week and not making the same mistake,” he said. “So, I give my credit to all my studying and my family members being on me about playing good, and my teammates being on me, my coaches being on me about playing good, so more a little bit of motivation for me to go out there and excel.”


Matthew Judon said the Patriots must be on the same page when it comes to defending Allen, and it starts with a torrid pass rush.

Matthew Judon knows the Patriots are in for a challenge when it comes to slowing Allen. "He’s tough to tackle. A very tough tackle, and we’ve all got to converge," Judon said.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“Good [rush] lanes and be faster than him to the first-down [markers]. You’ve got to continue to chase him,” Judon said. “You see what he does in the open field when he gets to the second level, he’s tough to tackle. A very tough tackle, and we’ve all got to converge. We’ve all got to come and bring our hard hats.”

New contract for Tavai

Jahlani Tavai is getting a new contract. His mother will be getting a landscaping overhaul at her home.

The linebacker agreed a two-year extension worth $4.4 million. The fourth-year veteran has developed into a versatile defender during his year-plus in New England, playing inside and outside linebacker.

“I think I’ve got to treat my mama first; she wants a new backyard,” a smiling Tavai said when asked what he might do with his increased earnings. “I don’t need much.”

After rotating in during the first month of the season, Tavai has started the last seven games and has played 52.4 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s collected 37 tackles — third among Patriots linebackers — and 1½ sacks. Tavai also plays on the punt-protection unit.


Coach Bill Belichick said Tavai’s production, in addition to his contract status — his current deal is up after this season — factored into the decision to hammer out a deal.

“Jahlani’s done a good job for us,” said Belichick. “He’s played a lot of football. He’s played on every down. Smart, versatile player that’s earned playing time.’’

Tavai credited some other relatives for his ability to plug in at multiple spots on the defense.

“I just want to be on the field,” he said “I don’t care if I’m playing three-tech, on the edge or off the ball. I’ll be ready for whatever my role is. My older brothers have always instilled that in me — to be adaptable in any kind of situation. Luckily, I was blessed with some good genes to play on and off the ball, and I’m just going to keep riding with it.”

Practice updates

Safety Jabrill Peppers was a new addition to the injury report, missing Tuesday’s workout because of an illness. Damien Harris missed his third straight practice as the running back recuperates from a thigh injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day against the Vikings. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn was listed as a DNP for the second straight day, although he was on hand for stretching. Five players were listed as limited: center David Andrews (thigh), offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (calf), receiver Jakobi Meyers (shoulder), returner/cornerback Marcus Jones (ankle), and cornerback Jalen Mills (groin). Receiver DeVante Parker (knee) was upgraded to a full participant. Meyers said his shoulder, which he hurt against the Vikings, was feeling “good … a lot better than the hit.”


Jim McBride can be reached at Follow him @globejimmcbride.