AFC East: Bills A Homecoming Of Sorts

The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC East. Will a homecomoing 'of sorts' for Jackson and coach Gailey help them this week?

Jackson goes back to hometown to play

   Dallas native Fred Jackson will be going home when the Bills face the Cowboys Sunday. That's home in the most literal sense.

   From the time he was about 10 to when he graduated from high school, Jackson and his family lived in a house that stood in what is now one of the parking lots of the new Cowboys Stadium. Many properties were purchased and knocked down to make room for the new facility in Arlington, Texas.

   "It'll be a lot of fun," said Jackson about playing his first NFL game in his hometown. "I have a lot of people coming to watch so you know I'll be geared up for that. But it's just another game and another opportunity to go out and play."

   The Bills (5-3) need to rebound from last week's dismal offensive showing in a 27-11 loss to the New York Jets in order to keep pace in the AFC East. Dallas is 4-4.

   Jackson, who left Dallas to play at tiny Coe College in Iowa, returns to Texas a star. He's currently third in the NFL in rushing with 803 yards and he's No. 2 in yards from scrimmage with 1,194.

   "We didn't play well on offense last week and we know that and I'm sure they know that so it'll be a good test for us," said Jackson, who as a senior at Lamar High played at old Texas Stadium in the state playoffs.

   "We want to come out, get everything established early and take care of what we do on offense. We feel like we just didn't execute last week so we'll focus on that this week and hopefully we can execute the plays called and play a lot better than we played last week if we want to have an opportunity to win."

   Sunday's game begins a grueling three-game road trip for Buffalo; four of their next five games overall are on the road.

   "It's a tough stretch for us but at the same time we need to take it one game at a time," Jackson said. "This week is Dallas so that's what we're focusing on. And we need to go down there and take care of business and get a W."

   And put a show on for the hometown, even if most of them will be rooting for the Cowboys.

Chan Gailey is going home to Dallas on Sunday.

   Well, it's one of the six NFL cities he has called home in his very successful coaching career, which also includes stops at five college towns.

    The Bills (5-3) face the Dallas Cowboys (4-4) in Dallas, where Gailey was head coach from 1998 to 1999. Despite compiling records of 10-6 and 8-8 and milking playoff appearances both years from a lineup of aging former stars, Gailey was fired by owner Jerry Jones.

   It would take nine more seasons for Gailey to earn another shot as an NFL head coach, the Bills hiring him in 2010.

   Despite that long wait and the way things ended in Big D, Gailey said Sunday's game has no extra meaning to him. Because that's the point; it was a long time ago.

   "That's gone, that's so far in the past it's not even funny," he said. "I can't even go there."

   Buffalo reporters didn't pry any deeper with Gailey but in a conference call with Cowboys media, Gailey was asked to elaborate on his experiences with Jones and if he harbors any hard feelings.

   "It was two enjoyable years," Gailey insisted. "I mean, we were fighting to keep our head above water and fighting to try to win games and it was a great opportunity for me. I appreciated the opportunity.

   "Those coulda, woulda, shoulda things, you think about, but if you dwell on them you're wasting brain cells. There's no sense in dwelling in that kind of stuff. You go on with life. If you're spending too much time in the past all you're doing is hurting yourself."

   Jones has often called firing Gailey a mistake; Jason Garrett is the Cowboys' fourth head coach since Gailey left.

   "I see him at the league meetings and see him at different places and it's just fine," Gailey said of his relationship with Jones.

   "We get along well. We're in a business and he had to do what he thought was best for his business. I don't ever begrudge a guy for that. If it's my business and I think I've got a decision I have to make, I make it. You just go on with life. That's just part of it."

   After leaving Dallas, Gailey coached two seasons as the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, six seasons as head coach at Georgia Tech and one more year with the Kansas City Chiefs as offensive coordinator.

   His first year with Buffalo produced a 4-12 record but his club enters Sunday tied for first place in the AFC East with a legitimate chance of snapping an 11-year playoff drought. Buffalo is 9-7 in its past 16 games.

   Dallas (three losses by less than four points) has lacked consistency and a killer instinct but still presents a mountainous challenge for Gailey's young Bills. The Cowboys rank seventh in offense averaging 400 yards per game and 11th in defense, led by linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who is second in the NFL with 12.0 sacks.

   "Every game's a test," Gailey said. "You have to try to go win every game that you play. Like I told the players this morning, 'You want to go prepare and play this game like it's the game that gets you to the playoffs or doesn't get you to the playoffs. If it was the 16th one and this one got you into the playoffs, how would you prepare?' And that's how you have to prepare."

Scott A Doubter

    Count New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott among those who aren't quite sold on Buffalo's viability as a playoff contender in the AFC. Following the Jets' 27-11 throttling of the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a game that clearly delineated a playoff contender from a possible pretender, Scott said this Buffalo team wasn't all that much different from the team the Jets have dominated the previous two years.

   "It was the same plays they ran last year," Scott said of Buffalo's inept offensive performance. "They didn't put in any magic formula. It's all about executing. Some people can relish being the underdog. Some people can't handle being the favorite. That's still a good football team, but it's dangerous when a team that traditionally hasn't won starts winning. You have to handle success."

   Buffalo did not handle its success well against an opponent that not only is better on paper, is better on the field, and understands what it's like to play in big games. The Bills had won five of their first seven games and had an opportunity to make a statement against the Jets, not to mention put New York two full games behind them in the race for the division crown. The statement they made is that they may not be ready for all the glory that has been heaped upon them this season.

   "We were really excited about this game and to show our division we're here and we're a better team than we've been in the past and unfortunately we didn't show that," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played his worst game of the season as he was unable to figure out New York's aggressive and talented coverage-based defense.

   Coach Chan Gailey took the blame for the offensive dud, saying, "I don't worry about statements, I worry about winning and not winning and we didn't win today. They played great, we played poorly. It's my responsibility to get our team ready to play each week and I didn't get these guys ready to play well enough in this ballgame."

   Now Gailey has to find a way to get the Bills prepared for a three-game road swing that starts with a stop in Dallas, moves on to Miami and finishes back in New Jersey with a rematch against the Jets. It is a pivotal time in Buffalo's schedule and could determine if the Bills are going to remain in the chase for a playoff berth that has eluded them for 11 consecutive seasons.

   "We know we have to forget about this game and get ready for next week; that's what the good teams do," said cornerback Drayton Florence.

   And what good teams must do is go on the road and win. So far, Buffalo is 2-2 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium, though one of the victories was technically a "home" game in Toronto against woeful Washington.

   Dallas will provide a stern test, and will have the benefit of some inside information. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is the brother of Jets head coach Rex Ryan, and Rex said, "I'm sure we'll definitely be talking this week."

   Obviously, Rex will be happy to help his brother out because the Cowboys could deliver another dagger to an AFC East foe. And Rex will have plenty to say about how to slow down Buffalo's Fred Jackson, and how to take the Bills' average-at-best receiving corps away from Fitzpatrick.
   
NOTES:

   Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams was placed on injured reserve, ending his season with a foot injury that kept out the last three games.

   Williams, a first-time Pro Bowl pick in 2010, was scheduled to see a specialist sometime this week to determine the next course of action.

   His left foot was first an issue in training camp, but Williams attempted to play through the pain. Williams has started at nose tackle for the last six seasons and was rewarded with a $39 million contract extension in August.

   -- The signing of free agent Brad Smith to a four-year, $15 million contract appears to be a poor investment for the Bills. Smith was a complete non-factor on offense against the Jets. He was never targeted in the passing game, nor did he take any snaps in his role as a Wildcat quarterback. The only thing he did was return four kickoffs for a mere 76 yards. Smith had 19 Wildcat rushes for 84 yards in the first seven games, but disappeared from the game plan against his former team.

   -- Second-year DE/LB Alex Carrington recorded his first sack of the season against the Jets and the second of his career. It was Buffalo's only one after recording 10 the week before against Washington. Against a solid Jets offensive line the Bills did not get nearly enough push to create problems for Mark Sanchez.

   -- The Bills honored former placekicker Scott Norwood with the 26th annual Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Distinguished Service Award which honors players for their contributions to the Bills on and off the field. Norwood made 72.3 percent of his field goals during his seven years (1985-91) in Buffalo, and his 670 points still rank third in Bills history. But of course he is known by a nation of football fans for one miss -- his wide right 47-yard attempt that would have given the Bills a victory in Super Bowl XXV.

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