Around the AFC East: Week 6 Postgame
By Scout.com Staff
The charade is over.
Kelly Holcomb will start at quarterback Sunday when the Bills travel to Oakland to face the Raiders, ending coach Mike Mularkey's two-week practice of keeping his starting quarterback the NFL's worst-kept secret.
"If it'll put everybody at ease, I'm going to start Kelly next week against the Raiders," Mularkey announced after Sunday's 27-17 victory over the Jets made Holcomb 2-0 as the club's starter since replacing a struggling J.P. Losman.
Holcomb, supported again by a dominating running game led by Willis McGahee, completed 18 of 26 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the NFL's No. 8 defense.
His two interceptions were costly, with the Jets converting both turnovers into touchdowns, including one that linebacker Mark Brown returned 18 yards to the Bills 2-yard line. But Holcomb responded with a drive to a game-clinching field goal by Rian Lindell, completing a 27-yard pass to a streaking Mark Campbell to the Jets 29.
"Obviously, that experience, some of the throws he made after the pick, he didn't get scared off of making those throws," Mularkey said. "It was crunch time down there ... and he made some great throws. You can tell on the sideline a guy that's flustered, and he wasn't flustered."
The Bills, who have climbed out of a 1-3 hole under Holcomb to even their record at 3-3, are tied with New England for first place in the AFC East.
"It seems everybody has got a little more pep in their step right now," said McGahee, who rushed 29 times for a career-high 143 yards. "Kelly's a great quarterback, J.P.'s a great quarterback, it just takes time."
As long as the Bills keep responding to Holcomb, Mularkey is clearly ready to ride his hot hand. Holcomb wasn't fazed by Mularkey's refusal to give him a public vote of confidence until Sunday.
"I think the bottom line is that we won the ballgame," said Holcomb, who signed with the Bills as a free agent after four years with the Browns. "I don't worry about that. The coach is going to make the decision, and he's going to do what he feels is best for the team, and you've got to live with it."
The Bills took a 24-10 lead early in the third quarter, but Kelly Holcomb's second interception of the game was returned to the 2-yard line by Jets linebacker Mark Brown, setting up Vinny Testaverde's quarterback sneak and cutting the lead to seven.
But after an exchange of punts, Holcomb put together a 10-play, 56-yard drive to Rian Lindell's 38-yard field goal, his second of the game, making it a two-score difference. Buffalo's defense then forced two Jets turnovers to seal the 27-17 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills controlled the clock for a season-best 38:35 thanks to Willis McGahee's career-best 143 yards rushing. The Bills defense sacked Testaverde five times and came up with three takeaways.
--QB Kelly Holcomb raised his record to 6-9 as an NFL starter, completing 18 of 26 for 172 yards against the Jets. He had two touchdowns, two interceptions and an 80.9 rating. He was sacked once. Holcomb will remain the starter when the Bills play at Oakland next week, coach Mike Mularkey said.
--RB Willis McGahee, who had 31 carries a week ago against Miami, had 29 for a career-best 143 yards in Sunday's win over the Jets. It was McGahee's 10th career 100-yard game. He had 90 yards by halftime.
--KR Terrence McGee, the NFL's No. 1-ranked return specialist, had another big game with returns of 41 and 42 yards setting up two first-half scores against the Jets.
--DE Ryan Denney, who entered the game with one sack, recorded two against Jets QB Vinny Testaverde on back-to-back plays. Denney has 9.5 sacks for his career.
--PK Rian Lindell nailed a 50-yard field goal to close the first half against the Jets, making him 5-for-6 this season from 40 yards and longer. He entered the year having made only four of 12 from that distance in his first two seasons with Buffalo, but he is kicking extremely well.
--RG Chris Villarrial, who missed the previous game with an intestinal virus, started against the Jets and was a big part of RB Willis McGahee's 143-yard day.
--RT Mike Williams, who missed three starts with an ankle injury, returned to the lineup against the Jets. Buffalo rushed for 177 yards while giving up just one sack against New York's No. 8 defense.
It's best to categorize the two-headed tandem of Miami tailbacks Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown as a work in progress.
Williams and Brown both failed to provide the boost the Dolphins were hoping for in Sunday's 27-13 loss to Tampa Bay. In his first appearance after serving a four-game drug suspension, Williams gained just 8 yards on five carries and was limited to 22 yards on a team-high six catches. And after rushing for 229 yards in the previous two games, Brown had just 22 on nine carries with two receptions for 44 yards.
The Dolphins used Brown and Williams together and individually, but the end result wasn't pretty against the NFL's top-ranked run defense.
"We have two good players there," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "We've got to figure out a way for both of them to get into a groove and for both of them to play. That's part of what we need to be able to figure out with our offensive staff as to how we utilize those guys so they're beneficial to helping our team be successful."
Williams admits it was different playing in a two-back system after being used as a workhorse for almost his entire football career.
"For me starting my season this week, I feel like I did pretty good, but I can do better," Williams said. "It's a little different now. It's the first time in my life I haven't been the starting running back. But it's a new experience and a new opportunity for me to learn how to do things a little different."
Brown also is optimistic things will improve for Sunday's game against visiting Kansas City.
"Once we get going and have everything down, we'll look like a good offense," Brown said. "It's a matter of eliminating the mistakes."
The mistake-filled loss to Tampa Bay had many of the same earmarks as prior road defeats against Buffalo (20-14) and the New York Jets (17-7). The Dolphins committed nine penalties, two turnovers -- including a Gus Frerotte fumble returned 33 yards for a touchdown by free safety Will Allen -- and were dreadful on third downs both offensively (3-for-14) and defensively (8-for-17).
"We just have to get better as we go on," said Frerotte, who was sacked four times and completed 21 of 43 passes for 267 yards. "Guys have to take it personal. They have to say, 'What do I have to do to get better? Do I have to come in more? Do I have to study longer?'
"We're beating ourselves. That's what it comes down to. Teams aren't beating us. We're beating ourselves."
--SLB Junior Seau was declared inactive for the Buccaneers game because of a calf/Achilles tendon injury that he aggravated in Thursday's practice. Coach Nick Saban is hopeful that giving Seau time off will help heal an injury that has lingered since a 17-7 loss to the Jets one month ago.
--SLB Donnie Spragan started against Tampa Bay in place of the injured Junior Seau (calf/Achilles tendon) and finished with six tackles.
--DE Jason Taylor was limited to playing predominantly in pass situations against the Bucs because of a foot injury suffered in the first quarter. He finished with three tackles. Dolphins coach Nick Saban didn't reveal details on Taylor's injury other than to say, "I don't think it's going to be something that will keep him out long term based on what we know about it right now."
--CB Reggie Howard had three tackles against Tampa Bay while replacing the injured Eddie Jackson (hamstring) at nickel cornerback.
--CB Eddie Jackson (hamstring) was declared inactive for the Buccaneers game and replaced by Reggie Howard as Miami's nickel cornerback.
--DT Josh Shaw, who was signed to the 53-man roster Wednesday in place of the waived DT Tim McGill, was himself waived Saturday as the Dolphins cleared a roster space for RB Ricky Williams.
Playing for a chance to share the top spot in the division last week, the Jets fell further in the standings with another uneven offensive performance.
Yet even though they've had so many struggles on offense this season, that parity within the AFC East, including New England's return to the pack, gives the Jets some hope that they can straighten things out enough to make a run at the postseason.
After showing nothing in the running game for the first five games, Curtis Martin came alive against the Bills last week with 148 yards. The Jets still haven't had a 200-yard passing game, but they hope that will change soon enough now that they can open things up with veteran Vinny Testaverde under center.
Since there aren't any more major personnel changes for the Jets to make from within, they'll have to speed up the learning curve with they guys they've got before the season gets out of hand, which it could if they lose Monday night in Atlanta and go into the bye 2-5.
That's going to mean coming out of the bye in two weeks with Testaverde fully acclimated with offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's playbook and Martin still hot.
As much pressure as the defensive unit has been under so far this season, it will have to keep carrying the Jets at least the next handful of games, especially with an offense still learning and a continuing schedule against some of the tougher defenses in the league.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions at the beginning and at the end of the second half -- both while driving in Buffalo territory -- as the Jets fell 27-17 to the Bills.
Testaverde, under pressure all games and sacked five times, did run for a score late in the third quarter to get the Jets to within a touchdown. But his interception in the red zone with about three minutes left killed any chance for further rallies.
Curtis Martin ran for a season-best 148 yards and a touchdown, but the effort was undone by the Jets defense, which let up 177 yards rushing to the Bills, including 143 to Willis McGahee.
--DE John Abraham periodically had to be removed during the game in Buffalo due to a leg injury. He finished with just one tackle. Bryan Thomas received extended playing time in his absence, finishing with a pair of tackles.
--RB Curtis Martin led the Jets with a season-high 148 yards rushing and caught two passes for 3 yards against the Bills, becoming the seventh player to gain 17,000 yards from scrimmage with a 41-yard run in the third quarter. He also had 49-yard run, his longest since Dec. 14, 2003.
--CB Ty Law has been flagged a few too many times this season, but he has unquestionably improved the Jets' secondary. He made his third interception of the season against the Bills and was forced to make several tackles of RB Willis McGahee, keeping several big runs from getting bigger.
More Buffalo Bills articles: http://bills.scout.com
More New York Jets articles: http://jets.scout.com
More Miami Dolphins articles: http://dolphins.scout.com
can find the original article or others like it on PatriotsInsider.com
Or talk about it in