NFL Cougar Highlights: Week Nine

IT HAS BEEN an odds-defying year for Buffalo Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel. While the undrafted rookie free agent's signing with an NFL club may not have been an improbability, excelling throughout the preseason and earning an opening-day roster spot seemed a long shot to even his most subjective supporters.

But starting an NFL game as a rookie? Lightning strikes and winning lotto ticket territory.

And yet that is exactly happened on Sunday. With Bills interim starter Thad Lewis out with injured ribs and the flu, Tuel took 75 percent of the first-team snaps during the past week of practice and was named the starter against Kansas City.

Although KC spoiled his first starting nod with a 23-13 win, for a good while it appeared the Wazzu alum might lead the struggling Bills to victory over the undefeated Chiefs and their stingy defense. The rookie tossed a 59-yard pass for the game's first score and the Bills finished the first half with a 10-3 advantage. But an opportunity to take a two touchdown lead in the third quarter went horribly sideways when Tuel's errant pass on third and goal from the Chiefs' one was intercepted and returned 100 yards to tie the score.

It was Tuel's second look at the dreaded "pick-six" this season, the first coming in week five relief against Cleveland. Still, subtract his two interceptions on Sunday and Tuel showed that the unlikelihood of his being a starting QB in the NFL may not be such an oddity, after all.

MEANWHILE, IT WAS SWEET revenge for Jets back Chris Ivory, as he took it to his former club, New Orleans, by rushing for 139 hashes and scoring once in their victory against the Saints. Ivory spent the last three season with New Orleans before being traded to the Jets for a fourth-round draft pick earlier this year.

Here's how all the NFL Cougs performed in week nine:

Husain Abdullah, CB, Kansas City, 5th season: Assisted on one tackle in the still-undefeated Chiefs victory against Buffalo.

Jed Collins, FB, New Orleans, 5th season: Ran the ball once for a seven yard gain in the Saints' 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.

Brandon Gibson, WR, Miami, 5th season: Did not play; out for the season on injured reserve due to a torn patella suffered in week 8.

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets, 4th season: Gained 139 yards on 18 carries (7.7 YPG), including a 3-yard touchdown run, in the Jets' defeat of New Orleans.

Rian Lindell, K, Tampa Bay, 14th season: The Vancouver native was true on three extra-point tries and one field goal (from 33 yards) in the Bucs' 27-24 overtime loss to his first NFL team, Seattle.

Travis Long, LB, Philadelphia, 1st year: Did not play; assigned to the Eagles' practice squad.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Tennessee, 5th season: The Tacoma native issued four solo tackles in the Titans; 28-21 win against St. Louis.

Jeff Tuel, QB, Buffalo, Rookie: Completed 18 of 39 passes for 229 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions in the Bills' loss to Kansas City; also rushed for 17 yards on 3 carries.

Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago, Rookie: Plays on Monday Night Football versus the Packers.

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