the AFC East: Week 8 Recaps
By Scout.com Staff
The Bills (3-5) enter their bye week still searching for their first road victory, hardly a comforting thought with tough road assignments still ahead at San Diego, Miami, Cincinnati and the New York Jets.
Sunday night's heart-breaking 21-16 loss at the New England Patriots (4-3) denied Buffalo a shot at taking over first place in the AFC East at the season's halfway point. It was the Bills' fourth consecutive road loss after ending last season with four road wins.
"Yeah, almost," free safety Troy Vincent said. "Close but we didn't get it done. The champions found a way to win it at the end and we found a way to let it slip away."
It was Buffalo's fifth consecutive loss at New England, which stretched its record against division foes to 21-6 since 2001.
Unlike their previous four defeats on the Patriots' home turf when the Bills were out-scored 108-34, they dominated this game for three quarters and were executing a textbook road game plan.
Powered by running back Willis McGahee, who would finish with 136 yards on 31 carries, the Bills' first three drives lasted 11 plays each. At one point, they led in time of possession 17:35 to 3:44, successfully keeping the ball from New England's Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
So what went wrong?
Settling for field goals instead of touchdowns came back to haunt the Bills, as did a sack and fumble by Holcomb that helped fuel a dramatic 14-point explosion by the Patriots within a 1:04 span of the fourth quarter, turning a 16-7 deficit into a 21-16 lead.
"There's no moral victories in this league," Moulds said. "That's a helluva team over there. They've won three world championships. It's good we hung with them, but we need wins. They know how to finish and keep their poise. A couple times we felt they were out of the game but those guys kept fighting and when you're world champs, that's what you do."
The Bills are off until playing host to the Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) on Nov. 13.
The Bills, who dominated on the stat sheet, took a 16-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on Rian Lindell's third field goal of the game, but too many mistakes at clutch time and too much Tom Brady spoiled their upset bid.
Two short Corey Dillon touchdown runs within a 1:04 span gave the Patriots a 21-16 lead with 5:32 left. A 37-yard pass from Brady to Deion Branch set up the first score and a 21-yard completion to Branch, right after linebacker Rosevelt Colvin sacked Bills quarterback Kelly Holcomb and forced a fumble at the Buffalo 23-yard line, set up the second.
In the final minutes, Holcomb drove the Bills to the New England 39-yard line and appeared to have converted a big third down with a pass to Eric Moulds. However, Moulds was whistled for offensive pass interference for shoving Asante Samuel. Two plays later, on fourth-and-eight, Holcomb threw to a well-covered Moulds in the left flat and he was hit by Hank Poteat and Mike Vrable for no gain.
The Patriots (4-3) were then able to run all but :03 of the final 1:56 off the clock to clinch to deny Buffalo (3-5) first place in the AFC East.
Kelly Holcomb became the first Buffalo quarterback in 12 games to top 200 yards
passing with a 263-effort in Sunday's loss at New England. He was 20 of 33, including
a 55-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds, but also had two turnovers.
--WR Eric Moulds posted season highs for catches (nine) and yards (125) in Sunday's loss at New England. It was his first 100-yard game in 20 starts dating to last season.
--RB Willis McGahee responded to last week's poor outing at New England with his fourth 100-yard game and first on the road with 136 yards on 31 carries in Sunday's loss at New England. McGahee had been averaging just 56 yards rushing on the road, but ran hard all game as Buffalo dominated time of possession.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, Buffalo's top draft pick who broke his right wrist in training camp and returned to the lineup a week ago, caught his first NFL pass, good for 17 yards, in Sunday's loss at New England. He also returned punts and had two rushes.
--WR Lee Evans caught just one pass for 14 yards and was whistled for two penalties in Sunday's loss at New England.
--PK Rian Lindell was three of four on field goals against the Patriots, including a 41-yarder, and is 17 of 19 at the season's halfway point.
--FS Troy Vincent injured his left shoulder with 7:21 to play. He did not know if was dislocated, "but I took a pretty good shot," said Vincent, whose injury will be re-evaluated during the week.
Miami's next opponent leads the NFL in rushing, but the Dolphins may be ready to give the Atlanta Falcons a run for their money in Sunday's game at Dolphins Stadium.
The Dolphins (3-4) enjoyed their best rushing performance of the season in last Sunday's 21-6 victory over New Orleans in Baton Rouge. Ronnie Brown enjoyed his fourth game of at least 95 rushing yards, jaunting for 106 on 23 carries. Ricky Williams also had his best performance since coming off a four-game drug suspension. Williams had 17 carries for 82 yards, which helped play a role in Miami controlling the clock for 36:23.
"I think it was good enough to help us win," said Williams, who entered the Saints game having gained just seven yards on 11 carries. "I was able to get the ball a little more. We sustained some drives and were able to run the ball. The biggest thing for the running game is rhythm."
The Dolphins finished with 188 rushing yards on 47 carries, which stands in stark contrast to their previous 30-20 loss to Kansas City in which Miami rushed just 14 times for 94 yards.
"We had great balance on offense," said coach Nick Saban, whose passing offense produced 168 yards. "We were very effective using (Brown and Williams). I think we're growing on how we do that. I was pleased with our ability to keep the ball offensively, which I think was something that had been absent."
Atlanta, which had a bye last weekend, is averaging 188.1 rushing yards a game. The Dolphins held New Orleans to 90 yards on 17 carries and just three rushing first downs while also.
"Miami did a nice job stopping the run," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "They loaded up and got us in situations where they could pressure us. We didn't do a very good job of protecting (quarterback) Aaron (Brooks) at all."
Sunday's 21-6 victory over New Orleans was arguably Miami's most complete performance of the season.
Despite the absence of starting cornerback Sam Madison (hip), the Dolphins played outstanding pass defense against Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, who was sacked six times, including once for a safety by defensive end Kevin Carter. Brooks also was intercepted by Madison replacement Reggie Howard in a 14-of-31 outing.
Plus, the Saints failed to convert any of their 11 third-down opportunities against a defense that had allowed its previous two opponents (Kansas City and Tampa Bay) to each convert eight-of-17 attempts.
"That is a real critical thing for us in terms of getting off the field," coach Nick Saban said. "We thought that (quarterback) pressure was going to be something that was going to be important in the game. We did a nice job of executing."
Madison (hip) missed Sunday's 21-6 victory over New Orleans and was replaced by
Reggie Howard. Madison had started 59 consecutive games.
--CB Reggie Howard enjoyed his best outing of the season against the Saints. Howard had Miami's first interception in four games and helped the Saints fail to convert any of their 11 third-down attempts.
--SLB Junior Seau missed his third consecutive game against New Orleans because of a strained calf. He was replaced by Donnie Spragan, who wasn't credited with a tackle.
--DT Vonnie Holliday had a standout performance against the Saints, registering six tackles and one sack. Holliday also pressured QB Aaron Brooks in the end zone on a third-quarter play that resulted in a sack for a safety by DE Kevin Carter.
--CB Kiwaukee Thomas assumed Miami's nickel cornerback role against New Orleans with Reggie Howard moved to the starting lineup in place of Sam Madison.
--DE Kevin Carter registered his first sack for a safety since his rookie season in 1995, tackling Aaron Brooks in the end zone during the third quarter. Carter, who missed two days of practice last week because of a sore knee, finished with two tackles.
If the Jets could say there was anything perfect about the bye week, it was the timing. Coming at just about the midway point, with the team reeling from a long list of injuries and a 2-5 record, the time off was especially beneficial.
"When you're winning games, you don't want the bye week," Testaverde said. "Obviously in our situation, we could use a break, kind of step away and take a deep breath then come back and regroup, see if we can get this thing started. Hopefully, this comes at a really good time for us. It's only good if we can get it turned around."
The Jets have lost quarterback Chad Pennington, center Kevin Mawae and linebacker Eric Barton for the season to injuries. Backup quarterback Jay Fiedler is also out at least another month with a shoulder injury, forcing the Jets to essentially coax the 41-year-old Testaverde out of retirement. Running back Curtis Martin is declining quickly due to age and an injured knee and is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.
"The middle of the season is ideal from a physical standpoint, but what we've been through at this point, I think it will do guys a lot of good to get away and forget about it," new center Pete Kendall said. "Coming in here and answering the same questions every week about where we are certainly doesn't do you a lot of good (when you're) trying to focus on the future instead of the past."
The Jets are convinced that all their problems are caused simply by "correctable mistakes," whether coming from the offensive line or the run defense.
"Definitely. Whatever it is, it's the little things for us," said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who intends on spending the next four days resting. "When we watch it on film, we say it's easy to correct but in the game everyone is like, `What's going on?' It's just the little things you have to focus on."
It's all on one side of the ball - defense.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma continues to be a force in the middle, and his impact on how teams attack the Jets is immeasureable.
The secondary has made huge strides thus far, with corners Ty Law and David Barrett overcoming inconsistent performances with big plays that have the Jets ranked fifth against the pass in the NFL. Safeties Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes have played well together despite being just a second-year player and a rookie, respectively.
Despite the loss of nose tackle Jason Ferguson to free agency, the front four has played well, particularly Dewayne Robertson, who teams now have to specifically game plan against, along with Vilma and defensive end John Abraham.
Pick your poison. The Jets were already struggling on offense when they lost quarterback Chad Pennington and center Kevin Mawae for the season within the first six games.
Meanwhile, running back Curtis Martin has struggled with age and a banged-up knee to get off to one of the worst starts of his career. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles hasn't made an impact, while the guy he was traded for, Santana Moss, is having an outstanding season for Washington.
Priding themselves on being able to stop the run last year, the Jets have fallen to 29th in the NFL in that regard, though a lot of that has to do with the last two games, in which they've allowed 382 yards rushing.
Losing Eric Barton, first for three games with an ankle injury and then for the season with a torn biceps, didn't help either.
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