Around the AFC East: Week 7 Midweek News
By Scout.com Staff
With seven takeaways in its last two games, both victories, Buffalo's defense is starting to make game-turning plays once again. The Bills defense had only one takeaway during the team's recent three-game losing streak.
But while the takeaways are critical, coach Mike Mularkey remains concerned about the unit's continued inability to stop the run.
Last Sunday, the New York Jets became the fifth straight team to top 100 yards on the Bills. Veteran Curtis Martin, who entered the game averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, averaged 7.1 thanks to ripping off big gains of 49 and 41 yards.
Take away those two runs, and Martin averaged 3.6 yards on his 16 other carries.
"Again, we were effective most of the day but we gave up two runs for 90 yards," Mularkey said. "The cause of it ... us being out of place, not the right gap control. One time, and I give them (the Jets) credit, they had a better idea than we did. But it's a matter of those two plays being the difference in their running game."
Buffalo allowing two big runs to the Jets wasn't an aberration, however.
For the year, the Bills have given up 12 runs of 20 yards or better and 27 runs of 10 yards or better.
What to do heading into Sunday's game at Oakland, where the Raiders have a good running back in Lamont Jordan, but may be without banged-up WR Randy Moss?
"Well, all you can do is address it, practice it, point out why they're happening," said Mularkey of the critical breakdowns that are leading to big runs. "We either work it out Wednesday in the meeting rooms or on the practice field through Friday, but that's where it has to take place. That's how it'll make a difference on Sunday. But until we stop it, teams will keep trying to do it (run the ball), hoping a gap opens up because we're undisciplined. Until we stop doing that, it's going to happen."
--QB Kelly Holcomb, who won his second straight start by throwing for 172 yards and two TDs against the Jets last Sunday, is the fourth Bills quarterback to start his Buffalo career with a winning streak. He has been named the starter for Sunday's game at Oakland.
--QB J.P. Losman, who lost his starting job to Kelly Holcomb two weeks ago, will remain the backup until further notice. Coach Mike Mularkey said Holcomb would start Sunday's game at Oakland and a switch back to Losman is unlikely anytime soon with the offense in a much-improved groove. Losman was 45 of 94 passes for 433 yards, 47.9 percent, one TD, two interceptions, 10 sacks and a 55.9 rating in his four starts.
--RB Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run against the Jets gave him a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games, the longest streak of his young career. He has at least one run of at least 10 yards in 19 consecutive games.
--WR Eric Moulds has caught 14 passes and two TDs with Kelly Holcomb at quarterback. Moulds' medium-range route running over the middle and on sideline routes is tailored for Holcomb's game.
--WR Jonathan Smith, in his second season, caught his first NFL touchdown pass in last Sunday's win over the Jets. Smith, who has emerged as the team's top punt return man, now has four catches for 54 yards and is becoming more involved in the passing game when the Bills use four wides.
--RB Shaud Williams had six carries for 34 yards, including a long run of 21, in last Sunday's win over the Jets. The more work Willis McGahee gets, the more work for Williams, who provides occasional rest time for McGahee and is the team's main third-down back.
--TE Mark Campbell, who had just two catches with JP Losman at quarterback, has five for 49 yards in the past two games since the team switched to Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb's ability to read defenses quicker and check the ball down to his tight ends and running backs means Campbell's numbers should steadily improve. He had a 27-yard grab against the Jets to set up a key late field goal.
--TE Tim Euhus, who missed the season's first five games with a shoulder injury, saw action on special teams last Sunday against the Jets.
--RT Mike Williams, who missed three starts, was able to start and finish the game against the Jets last Sunday. His badly sprained ankle has come around, though he's not fully healed. The Bills are hoping he makes it to their bye weekend in two weeks.
--CB/KR Terrence McGee, who had returns of 43 and 42 yards against the Jets, became the first Bill to post returns of 40-plus yards in three consecutive games. He also had an interception for a second straight week.
--DT Sam Adams posted his first sack of the season, blasting through the line at the snap of the ball to take down Vinny Testaverde inside the Jets 10-yard line last Sunday. The sack was the 40th of Adams' career. The Bills are 6-2 when he's part of a sack.
--DE Ryan Denney, who comes into the game on passing downs, has three sacks in his last two games.
--DT Tim Anderson, making his second start in place of Ron Edwards (shoulder), who is out for the season, notched his first career sack against the Jets.
--PK Rian Lindell is 13 of 14 for the year after making both of his field goal attempts in Sunday's win over the Jets. With 239 points in just under 2 1/2 seasons, Lindell ranks ninth on the Bills' all-time scoring list.
A.J. Feeley's disappointing tenure in Miami ended Tuesday with the Dolphins trading him to San Diego for fellow third-string quarterback Cleo Lemon and an undisclosed draft choice.
In 2004, the Dolphins had hoped Feeley was going to solidify their quarterback position after trading a 2005 second-round draft choice to Philadelphia for his services. Feeley had gone 5-1 as a starter in 2002 replacing the injured Donovan McNabb.
Instead, Feeley struggled as badly as the Dolphins did during a 4-12 campaign. Feeley had six of his turnovers returned for touchdowns and posted a 3-5 record as a starter while splitting snaps with Jay Fiedler.
Feeley had a chance to win a starting spot this season under first-year coach Nick Saban when competing with Gus Frerotte during the preseason. But Feeley played poorly and was reduced to a third-string role behind Sage Rosenfels entering the regular season after a 4-of-17 passing performance in the preseason finale against Atlanta.
Lemon, 26, has spent the past two seasons as a reserve in San Diego but flashed promise during his preseason appearances. The 6-2, 215-pound Lemon played at Arkansas State and then bounced around the NFL, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League 2 before landing on San Diego's developmental squad in 2003.
Lemon was San Diego's fourth-string quarterback last season before moving to a third-string role in 2005 behind Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
--QB Gus Frerotte has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in three of his past four outings entering Sunday's home game against Kansas City.
--QB Sage Rosenfels could eventually be pushed for his backup role behind Gus Frerotte by Cleo Lemons, who was acquired Tuesday along with an undisclosed draft choice from San Diego for quarterback A.J. Feeley.
--RB Ronnie Brown was held in check (nine carries for 22 yards) by Tampa Bay's run defense in last Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Buccaneers, but he did score on an 8-yard run.
--RB Ricky Williams has admitted he is still growing comfortable with not being the featured tailback in Miami's offense as he shares the rushing load with rookie Ronnie Brown. Williams gained only 8 yards on five carries against Tampa Bay in his first game back from a four-game drug suspension.
--WR Chris Chambers was Miami's leading rusher against Tampa Bay with three carries for 25 yards on reverses, but he committed a holding penalty and also failed to come up with a long pass from Gus Frerotte deep inside Buccaneers territory.
--WR Marty Booker had a catch for the 78th consecutive game against Tampa Bay but was limited to just one reception for 12 yards.
--WR Wes Welker enjoyed his best outing on offense of his two-year NFL career against Tampa Bay, catching three passes for 97 yards while playing as Miami's slot receiver.
--TE Randy McMichael has cooled off after a fast start, catching just five passes in the last two games after logging 14 receptions in the first three.
--K Olindo Mare continues to enjoy an outstanding season with three touchbacks and field goals of 47 and 53 yards against Tampa Bay. Mare, though, did shank a punt for only 8 yards.
--MLB Zach Thomas continues to lead the Dolphins in tackles by a wide margin, with his total of 76 more than double that of any other player. SLB Junior Seau is second at 35.
--DE/OLB David Bowens is set to start Sunday against Kansas City if Jason Taylor (foot) is unable to play. A starting defensive end with seven sacks in 2004, Bowens has just one tackle this season as he adjusts to playing in Miami's new 3-4 scheme.
--DE Matt Roth will receive extended playing time Sunday against Kansas City if Jason Taylor (foot) is unable to play. The Dolphins selected Roth in the second round of the 2005 draft with the pick it acquired from the Chiefs for CB Patrick Surtain.
With the loss of center Kevin Mawae for the season, the Jets are reeling somewhat from the fact they've lost so many key players so early in the season. That's forced them to scramble and make changes less than halfway through a season in which the Jets were picked by some to go to the Super Bowl.
"We've been snakebitten," Mawae said. "We've had a lot of injuries to a lot of key guys. As a player you don't really think about it until it's you."
Mawae is the fifth Jets player to be placed on the injured reserve this season. The others are tackle Marko Cavka, safety Andre Maddox and linebackers Mondoe Davis and Darrell McClover. Cavka was expected to be the Jets' top reserve at tackle and the other three players were supposed to contribute on special teams.
Quarterback Chad Pennington - who injured his shoulder in Week 3 and underwent surgery to repair the damage - is expected to join that list.
"Obviously (Mawae's) a leader and we'll miss his leadership," said offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who has already switched Jason Fabini from left to right tackle because of a knee injury and Adrian Jones from right to left. "But that goes across the board. Any time you're going through what we're going through right now with injuries and you keep losing starters, that's going to affect you emotionally anyway."
It's over the final 10 games that coach Herman Edwards' talent for leadership and motivating players will be tested. Through the first four years, the Jets have bought into everything Edwards told them. Injuries and bad starts plagued them almost every season and the team rebounded to make the playoffs in three of those years.
Now the Jets (2-4) are dealing with a poor start as well as injuries to key players that could make it impossible for the Jets to come back.
"It's always hard to lose good players, a Pro Bowl-caliber player. He's been a good player here his whole career," Edwards said of Mawae. "(We're) going to miss him, there's no doubt about that. But we've lost some players already. So I'm not going to all of a sudden make it a gloom-and-doom situation. He's out. He's done. So there's really no more to say."
--QB Vinny Testaverde took a step back against the Bills with a 12-for-26 game for 161 yards and two crucial interceptions in the second half. The good news is offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger trusts him enough early to let Testaverde throw deep often. He didn't connect much Sunday but will get closer in the coming weeks.
--QB Brooks Bollinger remains the backup and won't play unless Testaverde gets hurt.
--RB Curtis Martin fended off rumors that he's lost a step with a season high 148 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. It was also a good showing for the offensive line as they held off the Bills to allow Martin to convert on several big runs, including a 49-yarder.
--RB Cedric Houston did not get a carry against the Bills and may not get too much playing time considering that coach Herman Edwards seems hesitant to use anyone but Martin.
--WR Laveranues Coles struggled in one-on-one matchups against the Bills and recorded just four catches for 33 yards. He has just 26 catches in six games and only one touchdown, a troublesome start for Coles, who was outstanding for the Jets in 2002.
--WR Justin McCareins broke out in a big way against the Bills with five catches for 116 yards, including a 29-yarder. Because of his height, McCareins could be a solid red zone target to complement Coles so look for the Jets to try and exploit this as Testaverde becomes more comfortable.
--WR Wayne Chrebet was quiet Sunday with just one 9-yard reception. With his buddy Testaverde back at quarterback he was expected to contribute more but it almost looks like he's being phased out. His games will likely be hit of miss from here on out.
--TE Chris Baker didn't make a catch and the Jets didn't complete a single pass to the tight ends, probably because neither Baker or Doug Jolley matched up favorably with the tough front seven of the Bills.
--K Mike Nugent recovered from his two missed field goals two games ago against the Bucs and hit a 44-yarder against the Bills. The rookie is still dealing with life in the NFL but seems to be coming around after some early-season problems.
--DE John Abraham has been held sackless in the last three games, in part because the Jets keep falling behind early and opponents don't have to pass as often. He also sustained a hit to the thigh against the Bills, which caused him to leave the game periodically.
--LB Mark Brown has been sensational playing in place of Eric Barton (high ankle sprain), coming up with six tackles and a score-saving interception against the Bills. He's headed back to the bench with Barton ready to return this week against the Falcons but Brown has earned himself the chance to get back in for some snaps - especially against the run.
--LB Eric Barton (high ankle sprain) is expected to play against the Falcons Monday night after missing the last three games.
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