Around the AFC East: Midweek News and Notes

More AFC East Week five news and notes about the Patriots' division rivals. The Buffalo Bills have Holcomb, but.... The Miami Dolphins analyze their tendency to self-destruct. Chad Pennington is telling people he'll be back for the New York Jets, but does his doctor agree? Get more inside info in Around the AFC East news and notes

PHOTO: New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington cheers from the sidelines as the Jets play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005, in East Rutherford, N.J. Pennington had surgery to repair his shoulder. (AP Photo/Chad Rachman)

Around the AFC East: News and Notes
By Staff

Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots


Yes, the debut of veteran quarterback Kelly Holcomb was encouraging.

But what had the Bills more excited following Sunday's 20-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins was the re-emergence of their once proud defense.

"It's big," said strong safety Lawyer Milloy after the Bills collected four turnovers and made the big plays down the stretch they needed to seal the victory and end a three-game losing streak.

"Defense wins championships. Our offense did an outstanding job keeping us off the field early, and down towards the end, we had to keep battling. Even when they were moving the ball on us, we remained focused and we talked about getting the ball. That's what happened."

After falling behind 17-0, the Dolphins roared back with two Gus Frerotte touchdown passes. After the Bills tacked on a field goal, going up 20-14 with 4:35 to play, Frerotte had Miami on the march toward the potential game-winning touchdown and PAT.

The Dolphins needed just seven plays to move to the Buffalo 25-yard line. On second-and-six, Frerotte hit rookie running Ronnie Brown for 11 yards over the middle. It was there that Brown ran into middle linebacker London Fletcher, who held Brown in place long enough for cornerback Nate Clements to strip the ball loose for a fumble. Free safety Troy Vincent recovered to end Miami's threat with 1:37 left.

After the Bills failed to get a first down (a 54-yard run by Willis McGahee was called back by holding), Miami got the ball back near midfield with :21 left. But sacks by Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney ended the game and gave Buffalo (2-3) a morale-boosting victory.

A year ago, the Bills' No. 2-ranked defense failed to close out three close losses.

"We were in these situations a few times a year ago and fell short," Vincent said. "It feels so good to seal a victory and make some plays."

The Bills, who opened the year with five takeaways against Houston, forced only one turnover in their three-game slide. The difference against Miami was playing with a big lead for a change, Milloy said.

"Our offense put points on the board," he said. "We forced the offense to have to throw the ball. It's to our advantage if we can get a team to throw."

Terrence McGee, Nate Clements and Vincent had interceptions. McGee's was especially important, coming in the end zone after Miami had driven to the Bills' 4-yard line in the second quarter.

There is much work still to be done, Vincent noted.

After the New York Jets, who upset Tampa Bay, visit this week, the Bills face a gauntlet of Oakland, New England, Kansas City, San Diego and Carolina.

"Our backs were against the wall," Vincent said. "We were 1-3. Enough about potential. We are what our record shows until we show different. (Sunday) we came out and left the stadium as a 2-3 football team with a chance to go 3-3 next week with a win.

"Defensively, we did some good things, but obviously we have to go back to the drawing board Wednesday and make some corrections if we expect to beat the Jets."


--QB Kelly Holcomb is expected to start Sunday's home game against the New York Jets, but coach Mike Mularkey's decision not to comment until watching the game tape was a strong indication that he will judge the veteran game-by-game. It's up to Holcomb to seize the starting job full-time. And he's OK with that. "It's good to get a win," said Holcomb, who has been with four teams in his nine-year NFL career. "We had our backs up against the wall. It's the fifth game of the season and you don't want to say it's a must-win, but that's what it felt like."

--QB J.P. Losman, who learned Holcomb would be starting in his place last Tuesday, spoke with the media for the first since his benching after Sunday's game. He expressed feelings of anger and embarrassment, but said he understood the move and is looking at his losing his job as a "minor setback" in what he hopes is a long NFL career. "You have to understand the situation you're in," he said. "Take your man pill. Swallow it. It's tough to swallow, but it's what you have to do."

--WR Eric Moulds, who had 10 catches for 80 yards through four games with Losman at the helm, caught seven for 59 yards and his first TD of the season with Holcomb under center. Moulds didn't lobby the coaches to change QBs, but he was honest with them. He wanted the veteran Holcomb to play because he feels it gives the team the best chance to win and the clock is ticking on his 10-year career. He said he doesn't regret speaking his mind. "If you think people deserve better, and that you feel we have a good team, well, somebody has to speak up and say something," Moulds said. "Why not me? I'm a team leader. Some people may not like it, but I'm going to be honest and say what's on my mind. You've got to say what's on your mind. I think people respect honesty rather than watch somebody mope around here."

--The Dolphins' 18 penalties was a team record, breaking the mark of 14 set twice before, in 1995 against Cincinnati and in 1996 against New England. It still fell shy of the record for an opponent's mistakes against the Bills. San Francisco was whistled for 22 flags against Buffalo on Oct. 4, 1998. Coach Mike Mularkey, whose own team committed seven penalties and had a costly turnover, didn't want to hear how the Dolphins gave the game away on Sunday. "I'm not going to apologize because there were a number of things we gave as well," he said. "I feel good about the win because it's a big win. It's big for this football team, especially within the division."


--QB Kelly Holcomb is now 5-9 as a starting quarterback in the NFL and he has won two in a row. He started the 2004 season finale for Cleveland against Houston, a 22-14 Browns' victory.

--WR Lee Evans' 49-yard catch-and-run on the opening series set up Buffalo's first TD against Miami. It was the team's longest play of the year and Evans' eighth catch of 40-plus yards. The Bills simply haven't put the ball in Evans' hands enough this season.

--RB Willis McGahee caught two passes for just five yards against Miami. It's a mystery why he hasn't developed into more of a receiving threat for Buffalo. In two seasons, he has 30 catches for 205 yards.

--FS Troy Vincent's third interception of the season on Sunday was the 46th of his career. He's tied for 44th on the NFL's all-time list with Jack Christiansen, Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin, Hall-of-Famer Mike Haynes, Ed Meador, and Dave Whitsell.

--RT Mike Williams missed his third consecutive start with an ankle sprain, but was able to dress. He was able to participate on some special teams and the coaches are hoping that he'll be ready for the Jets game.

--RG Chris Villarrial missed Sunday's game with an intestinal illness that required him being taken to the hospital. His availability for this week's game against the Jets won't be certain until late in the week.


Dolphins coach Nick Saban had hoped mass penalties would be a thing of the past after his team's bye week, but a franchise-record 18 infractions helped doom Miami in Sunday's 20-14 loss at Buffalo.

"It is really kind of a shame for (the players) because they are not giving themselves the best chance to be successful," said Saban, whose team ranks third in the NFL in penalties with 52. "We need to do a better job as coaches to promote the kind of thought process that is going to help guys make better choices and decisions about things like this in a game.

"Ultimately, you want to beat the guy in front of you. That is your goal. The things that you do that don't enhance your ability or opportunity to do that are definitely things that you want to improve on and eliminate so you have a better chance to get that done."

Saban is particularly frustrated by dead-ball infractions. The Dolphins had four offsides penalties and five false starts against the Bills.

"Those are the unprovoked penalties," Saban said. "It's not going to get fixed until everybody takes responsibility for it."

Saban's players feel the same way.

"The majority of the penalties are pre-snap. That's what upsets you more than anything," Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael said. "We fought back, but when you have 18 penalties on the road, it's hard to fight like that."


--Saban said he will continue to stick with rookie long snapper John Denney, despite his second botched snap of the season against Buffalo. Punter Donnie Jones couldn't field the bouncing snap and fumbled, leading to Buffalo gaining possession at the Dolphins 45-yard line. The Bills then drove for a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.

"Sometimes when you play with young players, you have to live with some problems they have as they develop," said Saban, who waived trusted veteran Ed Perry in the preseason in favor of Denney. "We are going to continue to work with the guy and hope that we can get him consistent enough that these things go away."

--The Bills honored Thurman Thomas at halftime of Sunday's game, but the tailback still has fond memories of the one season he played with Miami. Thomas signed with the Dolphins in 2000 after parting ways with the Bills and played for half a season before suffering a career-ending knee injury.

"I got to see another side of (a football) organization and my year there was excellent," said Thomas, who becomes eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2006.


--WR David Boston is seeing a specialist concerning his injured right knee, but Dolphins coach Nick Saban didn't offer a prognosis on when he will be able to play again after being declared inactive for last Sunday's 20-14 loss to Buffalo.

--CB Eddie Jackson will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, Saban said, after injuring his hamstring against the Bills. Jackson had replaced Reggie Howard as Miami's nickel cornerback.

--LB Eddie Moore left the Buffalo game with a knee injury, but Saban said he didn't believe the ailment was significant. Saban said Moore, who plays on special teams, will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

--OG/OC Alonzo Ephraim saw his first action of the season as a wedge blocker against Buffalo, but drew a personal foul on his first snap for unsportsmanlike conduct.

--RT Vernon Carey barely played against Buffalo, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him receive snaps Sunday against Tampa Bay after replacement starter Stockar McDougle committed two of his team's franchise-record 18 penalties.

--LS John Denney received a vote of confidence from Saban after botching his second snap of the season against Buffalo. Denney's gaffe led to a fumble by P Donnie Jones that gave the Bills possession at the Dolphins 45-yard line.


Following arthroscopic surgery last Thursday, Chad Pennington assured everyone he would be back and not just ready for training camp next summer, but the mini-camps and off-season programs that precede camp in April and May.

"I know when I'm healthy I can compete with any of the quarterbacks in this league and I can help our team win," Pennington said. "To have that scenario be there for me next year is pretty exciting."

Pennington will go through a four- to five-week period of active rest, which will have Jets trainers moving his shoulder around for him rather than using his own muscles to do it. Pennington said he could probably start throwing in March.

"I'm an optimist and I look at who we're dealing with, and we're dealing with a guy who has always been very resilient coming back," coach Herman Edwards said of Pennington. "He's going to come back."

It had been widely reported that MRIs of Pennington's injured shoulder solicited conflicting responses from Jets physicians and from noted surgeon Dr, James Andrews, with the Jets believing Pennington had a torn rotator cuff while Andrews seemed to indicate a less serious injury.

Pennington claimed each side had different "interpretations" of the MRIs, which he said were inconclusive. The reason he stayed quiet for so long regarding the injury was because he didn't have all the facts, and why he spent 10 days consulting family and friends before finally deciding -- on his own and not on orders from the Jets -- on having Andrews scope the shoulder.

"The only way that I was going to get an answer as an athlete and the only way the organization was going to get an answer was to... have Dr Andrews do an arthroscopic procedure on me, hoping that nothing was wrong," Pennington said. "But if something was wrong, he could definitely tell what it was and what he needed to do and fix it."

Pennington said Andrews repaired a tear in the middle of the shoulder capsule -- what houses the three bones comprising the shoulder -- and a minor tear on the underneath surface of the rotator cuff that had to be "cleaned up."


--Funny thing about the Jets tight ends. After being in the doghouse for much of training camp, Doug Jolley became a serious target for the Jets as soon as starter Chris Baker dropped a ball in the first quarter. He finished with three catches for 46 yards, including a 22-yarder.

"Well, we ran a little bit different offense," coach Herman Edwards said. "We spread it out; we threw it a little bit more than we have been. We felt that was the way to go when we attacked these guys."


--RB Derrick Blaylock (broken bone in his foot) may not be out for the season after all. He's having surgery Wednesday to have a pin inserted and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Rookie Cedric Houston will move into the backup role.

--RB Cedric Houston will be elevated to backup with Derrick Blaylock out the next 6-8 weeks with a broken bone in his foot. The Jets like Houston and consider him a possible replacement for Curtis Martin.

--DT Dewayne Robertson is breaking out, as he seems to be used to wearing the cast on his fractured hand. He had eight tackles and two sacks against the Bucs and got rave reviews from the coaching staffs of both teams.

--LB Victor Hobson had 13 tackles against the Bucs and has been playing much better this season after slimming his body down a bit, giving him more speed to work the middle of the field better and take on opposing running backs and tight ends.

--LB Eric Barton (high ankle sprain) is improving and could come back to the starting lineup after missing the last two weeks. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday. His replacement, Mark Brown, had seven tackles and a half-sack.


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