AFC East Report: Week 4

The weekly AFC East Report is a new feature, which will breakdown the AFC East Division. Each week, analysts who are avid fans of each of the respective AFCE teams, will present an objective analysis of their team and summarize important developments and key updates on each team. A weekly read of this column will keep you posted on all the important developments within the division.

On this week's "2004 Bills Report" on, Nick Romano and Mark Weiler will discuss this week's Bills @ Jets game beginning at 8 p.m. The show is open to call-ins at 1-877-913-9739 and begins at 7 p.m.

This week's AFCE games:

Miami @ New England; Buffalo @ Jets

Buffalo Bills:

To begin with, the truth on that ill-fated 4th-and-3. It was not a designed rollout, clearly in replay. I have viewed that play no less than a dozen times now. Here's how it went:

It was clearly a play-action fake to Henry who faked off-tackle left and an intended pass by Bledsoe. Right Guard Chris Villarrial pulled out to the right, for who knows what reason, opening the hole for Ted Bruschi who ran through untouched to make the sack. The Pats rushed six including Bruschi, and the Bills had five in to block after Villarrial's useless pull right which only causes fans to scratch their heads further. Had Villarrial not pulled, Bledsoe would have had time other than for Seymour blowing by Smith. What he would have done with that time is dicey nevertheless. Regardless, Bledsoe should have seen this coming if the play went off as it was supposed to have. Richard Seymour just effortlessly shed Lawrence Smith at LG to his side and ran is as expediently as one could. Those were the only two players to get through.

Bruschi made the sack and forced the fumble with Seymour as a safety valve in the event of a Bledsoe evasion, ….pardon me while I laugh at my own statement… Bledsoe clearly was setting up to throw the ball. So any notions of this having been a naked bootleg to the left are easily refutable by the evidence of the tape. Once again, how many times do these coaches need to ignore the lessons of the past and put the game in the hands of Bledsoe! Nonetheless…

This week's game for the Bills was both very much predictable and revealing. This was clearly not one of Belichick's better-coached games nor one of the Pats' better executed games either. Two plays prevented this game from turning into one of the worst routs in the NFL this season. First, Dillon's fumble on a 2nd-and-2 at the Bills 2-yard line costing the Pats a touchdown likely, three otherwise to go up was the first. The second was on the very next Bills drive.

The Bills were stymied following a 13-yard Henry run for a first down then a three-and-out at their own 25-yard line. On 4th-and-2, punter Brian Moorman fumbled the ball at the 10-yard line. In 9+ out of 10 similar situations the defense takes over inside the red zone or scores, which had both the prior two things occurred, would have spelled out the end of the game with the onset of a Pats blowout. Instead, Moorman ran 15 yards from the 10 to the first down and then added 34 more to put the ball at the Pat 41. Drew Bledsoe then promptly threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds for the Bills' only offensive touchdown on the game on a single-play "drive."

Bledsoe was seen by many to have had a solid game. Henry was more or less made the scapegoat for a slip on 3rd-and-2 on the play prior to Bledsoe's hallmark botch. I have received numerous e-mails asking me why I was not harder on Henry in my original write-up and game grades in this game, which is simple to explain. It is also why Henry received a B+ and not an A. So here's why:

In this explanation I will refer to the "last drive" as a combination of the two separate drives which were patched together by Bledsoe's sack/fumble/Pat-TD as a single drive. Yes, Henry did slip on 3rd-and-2 on the last drive forcing the unfortunate 4th-and-3. However, on that 4th-and-3, Bledsoe could not have appeared any more worthless as a QB in this league. Any person in their right mind could have guessed that the Pats would have blitzed. With the line in there at the time due to injuries during the game, and given that this team has been abysmal vs. blitzes all season long when they have come, and given that Villarrial pulled leaving 5-on-5 without a Vrabel blitz, 6-on-5 with it, why Bledsoe would even consider that he would have a reasonable amount of time behind this line is beyond me. To consider that he could drop back eight yards or so, set, and make a play under such circumstances and given his performances in recent seasons only further hammers home notions that the coaching staff has no clue what they have in Bledsoe.

At the most critical time, on this last drive, Bledsoe was awful! Fine, Henry slipped on the turf. Is he the only RB in this league to slip on the turf! Clearly not, even in key situations. But it is what did happen that fans and media seem to have failed to notice regarding Henry, and what did not happen regarding Bledsoe that seems to once again have gone overlooked.

On that last drive, Bledsoe dropped back to pass 18 times. The Pats rarely blitzed until the 4th Q in this game, puzzling indeed given their successes blitzing against the Bledsoe-led Bills. Nevertheless, they did blitz in the 4th and on that last drive, Bledsoe was sacked 5 times in 18 dropbacks. For those of you into numbers, that is 28% sacks on pass plays. Had the Pats blitzed all game, how many sacks would Bledsoe have added to the seven he sustained? Had Bledsoe done anything throughout the rest of the game following the first throw to Evans for 55 resulting in only 3 points, then the Bills would never have been in this situation to begin with.

After the Bills first play from scrimmage in this game, a 55-yard toss to Lee Evans, who was promptly taken off the field for the red-zone offense, ...pardon me while I collect myself after falling off of my chair laughing…, which promptly and on cue failed to punch it in, the Bills settled for 3. Between that first play from scrimmage, until the start of the last drive, during that 46 and a half minutes of play, Bledsoe went 8-of-16 for 80 net yards passing which included the 41-yard toss to Eric Moulds on a drive continuation set up by Moorman (special teams) and yanking momentum from the Pats while handing it to Bledsoe.

Bledsoe however was useless in providing on-field performance leadership in putting together any sustained consistent drives of any length whatsoever going 7-of-15 for 39 net yards in drives between the first and "last" drives otherwise. In fact, the first drive following the long pass to Evans and resulting in a field goal ended as such due to a Bledsoe overthrow to Reed at the goal line.

Drive two was halted on a Bledsoe sack on 3rd-and-6. Drive three was halted on 1st-and-10 on an extremely poorly thrown Bledsoe interception. Drive 4/5 were the Moorman/Moulds TD set. Drive 6 was ended on a Bledsoe overthrow to Shaw on 3rd-and-7 just prior to the half. Drive 7 was halted due to a string of 20 yards worth of penalties changing a 3rd-and-1 to a 3rd-and-21. Drive 8 was halted due to a Bledsoe sack on 3rd-and-6, prior to that on 2nd down, another overthrow. Drive 9 was halted on a Bledsoe wide throw to Moulds on a 3rd-and-4. Bledsoe did nothing other than a single big play pass with plenty of time in the pocket to a primary on a designed play, that quite frankly any other QB could have thrown given the circumstances.

Henry was the one that provided the vast majority of the offense throughout that stretch of the game. He rushed 18 times for 83 yards and 4.6 yards-per-carry with little support from Bledsoe and the passing game during that same stretch of sheer and utter non-productivity by Bledsoe. That is a pace of well over 100 yards on the game! If the Bills knew how to play consistent offense and had a quarterback capable of providing a decent short game and effective 3rd-down play, then it would be much better than it currently is the offensive line notwithstanding, although that same OL remains a problem nonetheless.

That is why I do not fault Travis Henry for losing this game. As well, and for fear of jinxing us, not one media member or fan seems to have noticed that Henry has not had a single fumble in 74 touches this season! I would say that given that this was his single largest issue, that he deserves some credit for this. Could just be me however!

The difference in this game at least, was the quarterbacks. Brady followed through on several throws realizing that he was going to take a hit usually connecting. Bledsoe cowered and ducked under any hints of pressure. That's a good sign that your career is over Drew. One way or another this fan torment must end!

Next up, the Jets at the Meadowlands. If Trey Teague cannot go at center, then the Bills have a linemen that has never started at center playing. Given that of the four touchdowns that the Bills have scored this season, one was set up by the D at the opponents' 18-yard line and gotten on a missed coverage on a pass play, that another was v. a prevent D in garbage time, that the third was a deep play to Moulds again set up by special teams in the opponent's end of the field, and that the fourth was a special teams TD. To expect the Bills to score more than 17 this week is absolutely baseless. To expect the league's second best scoring-average team to score fewer than 20 at home vs. an overrated D is also baseless. Expect the Bills offense to once again contribute to Jets points. Putting two and two together, the Jets win this week too.

The Bills are a team that does not know how to win; lacks discipline; plays without heart; has not players that consistently step up to make the big plays; one whose depth issues on the line will now become glaringly obvious with predictable injuries to players other than Teague; whose QB is useless and worse being more a liability than an asset; whose "coaching upgrade" is not an upgrade at all at present (a strong statement given the circumstances surrounding the eviction of the prior keepers); a team whose defense has now been predictably exposed as one incapable of stopping above average offenses at all; and a team on the verge of utter collapse emotionally and one that is led by a GM that fans and media no longer have any confidence in. When talk replaces walk, and excuses become the order of the day in ridiculously couched evasive answers with fortress-type hedging to tough questions with statements that this near dead last offense "is really better than that", then it's time to for a dose of reality.

The jig is up on Donahoe's fantasy football like management of this team which has neglected its lines throughout his tenure for the most part and only figures to worsen this offseason. Offseason. There's a word that should become more prominent in discussions regarding the Bills in ensuing weeks. Fan interest in this team is dropping like the space pod that returned from the sun only weeks ago. Expectations are all but dead for anything other than hopes of perhaps simply returning to the 6-10 that the team reached a year ago with few willing to wager much that even that occurs.

Certainly to reach Donahoe's winning season as promised and stated that there is no excuse for not achieving, the Bills must now go 9-4 the remainder of the way. At present they may be fortunate to go 4-9. The result for the Bills on this season appears to be well under way towards giving Bill Parcells the first overall selection in next year's NFL Draft but certainly in competition for that regardless.

Isn't that special!

To discuss this piece further, or for general discussions on the Bills and the AFC East, tune into the "2004 Bills Report" live on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. at The number to call into the show is 1-877-913-9739. View my other analyses at

Analyst: Mark Weiler;

New York Jets:

The Jets won a squeaker against a bad Miami team. The strategy nearest I could tell was to keep the Dolphins offense on the field long enough for them to lose the game. The four Miami turnovers were the difference and the Jets should send flowers to Jay Feeley, or is it AJ Fiedler??


The Jets offense looked thoroughly confused if that's possible when your running back is averaging almost 5 yards per carry. Miami's defense deserves its props, but the Jets were lucky their strategy of playing safe didn't backfire on them because they ran a string of three-and-outs in the second half that must have made Wannstedt think his offense was playing for the Jets too. Martin and the offensive line had another big day going over 100 yards again so they were able to control the pace of the game, but the passing game was lost and the Jets couldn't take advantage of a strong ground game in critical situations. This is the culmination of the bad playcalling I've been complaining about for the past 3 weeks, all that needed to happen was for them to face a good defense for it to surface.

Consider 2 stats: first, the Jets were 1-for-11 on 3rd-down conversions. Second, they had 6 drives that went inside the Dolphins 40 that resulted in 3 points and 5 punts - there were 3 such drives against the Bengals and 2 more against the Chargers which yielded no points. This area of the field is just outside kicker Doug Brien's range so you'd think it would be a point of emphasis to call high percentage plays to get one more first down or at least get the ball to the 30. But if Paul Hackett isn't calling WR screens and passes into the flat for no yardage, he's calling something else the defense is ready for, which is alarming when you consider defenses have to account for Martin. Toby Gowin must lead the league in pooch punts.

Calling Justin McCareins: you looked great last year with Tennessee and in preseason. It's time for you to show up and earn your paycheck.


The D sprung to life this week against what looks to me like the worst offense to play in the NFL for years. The defense seems to run hot and cold, giving up yardage and then making big plays. But in the first half they were able to stop Miami every time they entered the red zone, something they weren't able to do in the first 2 games this year. If it wasn't a dominant performance until midway into the 3rd quarter at least you can say they came on when it counted generating turnovers, points and killing any momentum the Miami defense was building. It's hard to gauge progress against an offense that's starting five second string linemen, but the D-Line beat up on a group they were supposed to beat up and the linebackers made plays. I wasn't crazy about the secondary (Fiedler to Gilmore isn't Montana to Rice) and you have to wonder what the coaches think of Barrett and Strait (the #2 and #3 corners) when there are times Terrell Buckley is lining up ahead of them.

Overall, Jets fans have to feel pretty good about how the team is playing as a team. When the defense is struggling the offense picks up the slack, and when the offense finally struggled the defense rose to the occasion. That's what winning teams do. The game against Buffalo next week should be more of the same as the offense will have a hard time putting up more than 21 points, so the defense must hammer the statue Buffalo puts out there at QB. The defense just got 4 sacks against Miami, and Fiedler escaped another 3 or 4 with his mobility. The Bills have a soft line and now have some injuries to their starting five, so the Jets should tee off on Bledsoe as they always do. The two big story lines will be the Jets running game against Buffalo's strong front-7 and whether Moulds and Evans are hard for the Jets secondary to handle. If either of those goes in the Jets favor they should be big favorites to win. With an improved run defense and Travis Henry not running as well as he did last year it's hard to see the Jets getting beaten in the trenches.

Analyst: Nick Romano

Miami Dolphins:

Dolphins Flounder To 0-4

The 2004 Miami Dolphins continued their losing ways on Sunday by falling to the rival New York Jets 17-9. For the first time since their inaugural season in 1966 under George Wilson, the Dolphins have opened the season 0-4. In those four games, opponents have returned more interceptions (three) for touchdowns than the Dolphin offense has scored (two). It would have been four interceptions (in four consecutive games) had James Farrior not dropped a sure touchdown on the Dolphins 10-yard line last week. The most telling stat this season, with a quarter of it now over, Olindo Mare is responsible for 20 of the Dolphins 32 total points (8 per game avg.).

Offensively, the Dolphins changed quarterbacks but not their ineffectiveness. Jay Fielder was pitiful and threw two interceptions, several near interceptions and numerous underthrown and overthrown passes all afternoon. Fiedler capped his day with a miserable and unexplainable attempted lateral to a lineman with less than two minutes to go. As for the line, it was bad business as usual. The O-line committed key penalties and had several missed assignments that had Fiedler running for his life and at times looking like a pinball bouncing around the backfield (when he wasn't throwing errant passes). RB Leonard Henry did have a big 50+ yard run which helped to inflate his 85-yard rushing total. TE Randy McMichael and WRs Marty Booker and Darrius Thompson made a few impressive catches but it simply wasn't nearly enough as the Dolphins failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second consecutive week.

The lone beacon of light for the Dolphins (outside of Mare) was once again the defense. They held the Jets to a mere 10 points and kept the game much closer than the final score indicated. DE Jason Taylor, MLB Zach Thomas and the secondary played very well and essentially grounded the Jets. In four games the Dolphins defense has given up a mere 42 points (10.2 per game avg.), doing so with starting DTs Larry Chester and Tim Bowens.

Week 5 has the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots waiting for the Dolphins. With a tremendous home field advantage and 18 consecutive game winning streak going for them, expect the Dolphins woes to worsen to 0-5. South Florida fans and media are now in a feeding frenzy and calling for Dave Wannstedt's and (Lack of Personnel Man) Rick Spielman's head on a platter while owner H. Wayne Huizenga has been MIA and unavailable for comment. There is suggested reading for folks reveling in the once proud Dolphins demise...checkout...Fire Dave

Analyst: Chris Dellapietra

New England Patriots:

Just who are these 2004 Patriots, anyway?

Long known for their stifling defense, stellar special teams and pinpoint, dink and dunk passing attack to supplement an anemic rushing attack, these are not your 2003 Patriots. Their run defense has been porous, their special teams abysmal, while both the passing and rushing attacks have been amongst the best in the league. Yes, our Patriots actually sport the leagues 3rd ranked offense, led by all-world QB Tom Brady and a very under-rated receiving corps, featuring two WR's (David Givens and David Patten) both averaging more than 20 yards per catch.

All this, despite minimal contributions from Troy Brown, Deion Branch and Kevin Faulk due to injuries. Throw in a much improved Daniel Graham (team leading 4 TD's) and all of a sudden this is a much different Patriots team, than those that have won two of the past three Super Bowls. Witness Corey Dillon averaging nearly 5 yards per carry, see Brady carry out the play action like no one else in the league not named Payton Manning. Watch the Patriots march up and down the field like those old San Diego Charger teams of the Dan Fouts era.

With nearly one third of the roster overturned from last year, we see this Patriots team still searching for its identity. Defensively, rookie Vince Wilfork has supplanted Keith Traylor as the starting nose tackle. Safety Shawn Mayer was released after a hideous special teams performance against the Bills and 2nd year man Eugene Wilson is emerging as one of the best safeties in the league (he was named AFC defensive player of the month for September)

Under-rated MLB Teddy Bruschi should finally supplant Zach Thomas as the "other" inside LB representing the AFC in this years Pro-Bowl, opposite Ray Lewis. Bruschi has been a versatile and valuable member of the Patriots team since 1996 and continues to make plays in the passing game, (he has 4 TD's on interception returns in his career)

Offensively, former All-American wrestler Stephen Neal looks to have a firm grasp on a starting guard spot opposite Joe Andruzzi. Neal, at 6'4" and 305 lbs. is a mauler in the running game and has been a big factor in Dillon's effective inside running this year. Despite the season ending injury to highly touted rookie TE Ben Watson, the Patriots will continue to feature a two TE set, with savvy veteran Christian Fauria teaming with Daniel Graham to help with the blocking and pass catching duties.

Bethel Johnson has been unable to show off his speed in the kicking game as the Patriots have continued to play the worst special teams of the Bill Belichick era. Combine this, with their inability to return punts, poor tackling on special teams and it's no wonder the most valuable member of the special teams unit in 2004 has been new punter Josh Miller, who is amongst the league leaders in both punting and net average.

I expect the Pats to clean up their recent sloppy play, minimize their penalties, play better special teams and pound the Dolphins at Gillette this Sunday. Miami has so much trouble scoring that the Pats should once again be able to win this week without playing their best brand of football. Pay special attention to the injury report this week as the Patriots will be hoping to get both Deion Branch and Kevin Faulk back from injuries.

Pats 27 Miami 13.

Analyst: Craig Natale;

Buffalo Football Report Top Stories