Around the AFC East: More Week 8 Notes
By Scout.com Staff
In their previous two trips to New England, the Bills had lost to Tom Brady and Co., by a combined score of 60-6.
The Bills did a lot better Sunday night, but still came away on the wrong end of a 21-16 score. With first-place in the AFC East on the line, New England showed it still has the heart of a champion despite an injury list that included 17 players, while the Bills showed they still don't know how to win a big road game in the division against a quality opponent.
The loss dropped Buffalo to 3-5 heading into their bye, including 0-4 on the road.
"There are no moral victories in this league," wide receiver Eric Moulds said. "That's a helluva of a team over there. They've won three world titles. It's good to say we hung with them, but we need wins. They know how to finish games and keep their poise. A couple of times we felt they were out of the game, but those guys kept on fighting. Brady was poised, their defense, even though we moved the ball up and down the field on them, it made plays. That's what you do when you're world champions."
The Bills dominated the game statistically, rolling up 394 yards to New England's 273. They out-rushed the Patriots 147-93, something that never occurred in their four previous losses since 2001. Running back Willis McGahee gained 136 yards on 31 carries, and Buffalo led in time of possession 39:20 to 20:40.
But the Patriots proved it's not how long you have the ball, but what you do with it that matters. Brady produced 14 points in a 1:34 span of the fourth quarter to erase 16-7 deficit, basically needing 28 fewer players than Kelly Holcomb to produce five more points. Buffalo was 0 for 3 in the red zone, and it came back to haunt them.
"We need to score touchdowns," coach Mike Mularkey said. "We had a chance early on in the game that would've been a big momentum builder for our team. We've got to make some plays down there and get points when we get that opportunity."
Buffalo dominated the first half with 22 minutes of clock, yet led on the scoreboard just 3-0.
Squandering this golden chance to dethrone the Patriots will gnaw at the Bills for a while, leaving themselves open to a ton of second-guessing.
Ahead 16-14 with 7:06 to play, they decided to pass on second-and-seven at their own 32. The result was a sack and fumble when Holcomb was blind-sided by linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who blew past guard Bennie Anderson. That led to New England's winning TD two plays later.
Down 21-16, Buffalo still had plenty of time to mount a comeback of their own with 5:32 to go. Two plays, however, doomed them.
First, Moulds was called for offensive pass interference for shoving Asante Samuel after making a big third-down catch. Faced with third-and-17 at midfield, Holcomb got nine yards back with a completion to Josh Reed. But on fourth-and-eight, instead of attacking down field, Holcomb swung a pass out into the left flat to Moulds, eight yards shy of the first down. He was tackled for no gain by Hank Poteat and linebacker Mike Vrabel.
"I was trying to get the ball to Roscoe (Parrish)," Holcomb explained. "I thought I was going to have him pre-snap, but the corner sloughed off and the safety came over and they were doubling him. If I threw the ball, it was going to be intercepted. My thinking was to get Eric the ball and let him try and make a play."
Said Moulds: "The play was designed to make them suck up on me, but they didn't. I felt that I could have broken a tackle and made a play, but they did a great job of running to the ball. It was a play we'd like to have back."
It was a fourth quarter they'd like to have back, too.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, the Bills' top pick out of the University of Miami who missed 10 weeks with a broken wrist suffered in training camp, was used as a runner, receiver and punt return specialist against the Patriots. Parrish had six touches for 48 yards, catching his first NFL pass, good for 17 yards to convert a third down. He also returned three punts for a 11.0 average, a better mark than Nate Clements (7.3) and Jonathan Smith (6.8) have averaged this year. That showing is likely to earn him the job full time for the rest of the year.
--FS Troy Vincent injured his left shoulder late in the game and came out for a series. He was able to return briefly. Vincent did not think his shoulder was dislocated, but added "I took a pretty good shot on it." For him, the team's bye week comes at a good time.
--DT Sam Adams played sparingly in the second half as the coaching staff chose to play younger backups Justin Bannan and Lavale Sape in the three-time Pro Bowler's place. Bannan did a nice job pressuring QB Tom Brady and Sape had a fumble recovery. It's believed the decision to sit Adams was made by line coach Tim Krumrie, who may have been upset by Adams' penchant for not playing the scheme that's called. The Patriots averaged 4.2 yards per rush on Buffalo, led by Corey Dillon's big second half when he scored two touchdowns. An upset Adams wasn't sure what the future holds in store for him, but he's far and away Buffalo's best defensive tackle. If the coaching staff plays all young players against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, in two weeks, it could be a very ugly afternoon.
--Second-year OT Jason Peters, a converted tight end, earned his first start at right tackle for an injured Mike Williams (ankle) and earned some high grades. Williams dressed, but saw action only on special teams.
--Coach Mike Mularkey on Buffalo's play calling Sunday (the Bills ran off 28 more plays than New England and had 39:20 in possession time): "I'd say it's probably the best execution of plays. It's a matter of being consistent with making some plays happen and unfortunately we came up short."
Dolphins quarterback Gus Frerotte had a simple way of dealing with the media speculation surrounding his status as a starter entering last Sunday's 21-6 victory over New Orleans.
"Don't listen to it, don't read it, don't care," Frerotte said following a 16-of-28 passing performance for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"That's not the people who make the decisions, so it doesn't matter what they think. It might sound kind of pompous, but that's the way I see it because I know what happens in games. Sometimes people don't play well. That's what I had last week (in a 30-20 loss to Kansas City). If something happens, you just battle through it and be a leader."
Frerotte did that against the Saints, performing well enough to continue staving off Sage Rosenfels for playing time. Although he did connect on a 54-yard strike to David Boston, Frerotte was more conservative in his downfield passing attempts, with no other completion spanning more than 20 yards.
"It was about moving the chains and taking what they give you," said Frerotte, who has struggled with his accuracy since a standout performance in the season opener against Denver. "We were throwing some of the short stuff. After watching the film, they give some of that up with the coverages they play. We wanted to take advantage of it."
On Monday, Dolphins coach Nick Saban said Frerotte played "pretty well", but does believe there is still has room for improvement.
"I thought we made some good plays in the passing game and I think there are other plays that we could have made," Saban said. "There were a couple of balls that we could have possibly caught that were not perfect and then there's probably a couple of other throws that we could have made a little bit better."
--Defensive tackle Manny Wright has yet to get activated for a game this season but Saban said the rookie is "one injury away" from receiving playing time. A 2005 fifth-round supplemental draft pick, Wright had a horrible training camp that included an incident where he broke into tears after being yelled at by Saban on the practice field. But the 313-pound Wright has lost 22 pounds since the start of training camp and is learning how to better play defensive tackle after being drafted as a raw prospect who left Southern California before his junior season because of academic problems.
"I'm starting to learn the system more even though I've got a lot of things still to learn," Wright said. "I've changed my technique. At USC, I basically just ran up the field. Here, I'm using my hands more and trying to develop as a player. I'm moving in the right direction."
--Saban was treated like a returning hero by fans who attended the Dolphins-Saints game in Baton Rouge, which is where he coached Louisiana State the past five seasons. Saban had a 48-16 coaching record with the Tigers and led the team to a share of the 2003 National Championship.
"I really do feel like this was coming home to play a game," Saban said. "It was exciting for me, even though I did not say it (beforehand)."
Coach Herman Edwards was mad Monday. But he wasn't in fire and brimstone mode, trying instead to keep things positive in a season that's about a loss or two from being over.
While he wasn't planning any lineup changes against the Chargers, he wouldn't rule out using new personnel once the game starts.
"It could take place," Edwards said. "If the performances of players are not up to the standard that we think is acceptable, then there will be some changes."
Edwards went on to say the changes could be anywhere, and while he didn't give the players an edict regarding job security, they understood the stakes.
"I think the players know how I feel. They know how I feel about being 2-5," Edwards said. "They understand where I'm coming from. Trust me, they know."
How much weight the threat carries is unknown. While he did bench Vinny Testaverde for Chad Pennington just four games into the 2002 season, it must be noted that Edwards has very rarely made changes even at the most dire of times.
Edwards might consider bringing in Brooks Bollinger should Testaverde continue to struggle. Other than that, the Jets don't have enough depth to make any serious changes in their rotations.
--DE John Abraham hasn't had a sack in four games, but he's not about to break down over it. He's angry at the situation facing himself and the 2-5 Jets, but figures getting angry isn't going to do much.
"Everybody's mad right now, but I'm not going to come in here and throw a chair around every damn day until we get it right, that's not going to help anybody," Abraham said "I could come in here mad as hell and cussing everybody out, but it ain't going to do nothing."
--The Jets finally increased their roster by placing QB Chad Pennington (rotator cuff), C Kevin Mawae (torn triceps) and LB Eric Barton (torn biceps) on injured reserve. The Jets signed LB T.J. Hollowell off the Giants' practice squad and OG Doug Nienhuis.
"Obviously the guy that would help right away is (Hollowell) for us special teams-wise," coach Herman Edwards said. "He can do that. He can be a pretty good special teams guy."
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