Around the AFC East: Look back at Week 11
By Scout.com Staff
A year ago, a big midseason win at Seattle sparked a second-half playoff run by the Bills. This year, a 48-10 loss at San Diego could put the team into free fall.
Sunday's loss to the powerful Chargers wasn't only the worst in the Tom Donahoe Era that began in 2001; it was the worst in 20 years for the franchise. It dropped the Bills to 4-6 and kept them winless in five attempts on the road this year.
Incredibly, Buffalo still remains alive in the AFC East title picture; New England leads at 6-4 and still must play at Buffalo. But make no mistake about it, losing the way they did to the Chargers has had a sobering effect on the Bills, who next host a good Carolina team (7-3). The Panthers had won six in a row before losing Sunday to Chicago.
"It makes it harder being two games out with six left," linebacker London Fletcher said. "However, we still play them (the Patriots) at home, and they have some tough games left. We have tough games left. We know this division won't be decided until the last couple of ballgames ... but we've got to rebound from this."
Do they. The Bills were never in the game against the Chargers, who scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions to take a 35-10 lead at halftime. Buffalo managed to stop star running back LaDainian Tomlinson (19 carries, 67 yards) but that only opened things up for quarterback Drew Brees, who was brilliant. He completed 16 of first 17 passes, had 265 yards and four TD passes by halftime, and finished with 339 yards, the most allowed by Buffalo's No. 13 defense this season.
The Bills were forced to go back to J.P. Losman at quarterback after veteran Kelly Holcomb suffered a concussion last week, but the QB switch wasn't a factor. Down 25 points at halftime, Buffalo's game plan was blown up. The Bills wound up with just 202 yards of offense and 12 first downs.
"There's definitely something to learn from it, all phases, coaching as well," coach Mike Mularkey said.
How realistic is making the playoffs at this juncture?
Fletcher said he was a realist.
"Personally, I love playing on the road. There's nothing better than going into someone else's stadium and getting a victory," he said. "Playoff teams do that. They win on the road. And we haven't. So we're kidding ourselves thinking we're a playoff team being 0-5 on the road."
San Diego (6-4) scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions and cruised to a 48-10 rout of the Bills (4-6), whose game plan was thrown out by halftime when the team trailed by 25 points.
The turning point came shortly after quarterback J.P. Losman briefly regrouped the offense and drove Buffalo 55 yards in eight plays to a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Daimon Shelton. That cut the Chargers' lead to 28-10 with 1:23 left in the second quarter.
But San Diego needed just 46 seconds to score its fifth touchdown of the half and put the game away. San Diego's Drew Brees, who would finish with 339 passing yards and four TD passes, had pass completions of 17, 26 and 16 yards before capping the drive with a 29-yard bullet over the middle to Keenan McCardell.
Brees had a 152.3 rating for the first half. At one point, San Diego had 227 offensive yards to 16 for the Bills and led in first downs 14-1.
--QB J.P. Losman, who got the start over Kelly Holcomb (concussion), had his best road game, completing 20 out of a career-high 36 pass attempts for 168 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Sunday's loss at San Diego. With the Bills trailing by 25 points at halftime, however, the Chargers knew the pass was coming, and Losman wound up being sacked six times.
--RB Willis McGahee lost his second fumble in as many games in Sunday's loss at San Diego. He's playing with bruised fingers, but on Sunday, he merely dropped an exchange with quarterback J.P. Losman that hit him in the chest. The turnover led to a Chargers touchdown.
--WR Lee Evans, who had two touchdown catches against Kansas City the previous week, drew a lot of attention from the Chargers, who held him to four catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns. He had a long catch of 42 yards, but it came in garbage time and resulted in no points.
--DE Aaron Schobel, who had taken advantage of inexperienced left tackles over the past several weeks to raise his sack total to seven, was shut out by Chargers journeyman Leander Jordan. Jordan was subbing for an injured Roman Oben.
--DT Sam Adams, who did not dress for last week's game due to swelling on the knee, was able to start against San Diego but left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
--WR Roscoe Parrish had a career-high six kickoff returns for 176 yards against San Diego, including 37- and 45-yarders.
The Patriots put in arguably their most complete effort of the season against the reeling Saints, earning a 24-17 win at Gillette Stadium. The victory improved the Super Bowl champs to 6-4 on the season heading toward a tough Week 12 matchup in Kansas City. New Orleans fell to 2-8.
It wasn't pretty or dominant, but New England, the better team, came out on top. Tom Brady led the Patriots offense, completing 15 of 29 passes for 222 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions despite getting sacked three times and being pressured all afternoon. With Corey Dillon out of the lineup with a calf injury, New England used a two-headed rushing monster of Patrick Pass (13 carries for 53 yards) and Heath Evans (16 carries for 74 yards) to average better than 4.4 yards per carry as a team.
And while the Saints offense put up big numbers through the air (Aaron Brooks completed 27 of 50 passes for 343 yards with two scores), New England's defense came up with the plays it had to in the end. Eugene Wilson intercepted a pass in the end zone with the Saints at the Patriots 22-yard line as time expired.
The win gave New England back-to-back wins for the first time in 2005 and helped the Patriots remain comfortably atop the downtrodden AFC East.
--OL Russ Hochstein made his first career start at center in place of Dan Koppen who was placed injured reserve with a shoulder injury earlier in the week. Hochstein had six previous career starts (including postseason action), five at guard and one as a third tight end, including a start at guard in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
--RB Patrick Pass returned to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury suffered against the Bills in Week 9. Pass was a key contributor against New Orleans with 13 carries for 53 yards and two catches for 36 yards, although he limped off the field at times and still appeared to be hindered somewhat by the injury.
--RB Corey Dillon was inactive for Sunday's game against the Saints with a calf injury suffered a week earlier in Miami. Dillon has now missed all or parts of five games this season due to injury.
--DB Artrell Hawkins made his New England debut against New Orleans after joining the team earlier in the week. Hawkins played nickel back as the first corner off the bench throughout the win over the Saints. The eighth-year veteran finished the game with one tackle.
--LB Mike Vrabel caught his sixth career touchdown pass (including postseason action) with a 2-yard score from his spot as an extra tight end in the second quarter against the Saints. All of Vrabel's six career catches have gone for touchdowns in his five seasons in New England. The catch was Vrabel's second score of the season; the other came on an interception return in Week 2 in Carolina.
--Bill Belichick's father, Steve Belichick, died Saturday night due to heart failure at age 86. The senior Belichick, a former assistant football coach and highly thought of scout at the Naval Academy, had been around his son's success in New England at times during the team's recent run of dominance.
"Personally, I coached this game with a heavy heart," Bill Belichick said after the win over New Orleans. "My dad passed away. I found out about it in the middle of last night. Obviously, he had a tremendous influence on my life personally and, particularly in the football aspect, it was great to be able to share the tremendous memories with him and some of our recent successes, as I did when I was a kid when he was successful as a coach of the Naval Academy and that program.
"Yesterday he did what he enjoyed doing. He went and watched Navy play, watched them win. Some of his former players were there. He had dinner and I spoke with him after the game. And like he normally does Saturday night, sitting around watching college football, and his heart just stopped beating. So I'm sure that's the way he would have wanted it to end. He went peacefully, which is unusual for him."
Belichick did not tell his team about the loss until after the game.
The Dolphins will have to try to stop Oakland's potent offense on Sunday without the services of their leading tackler.
Middle linebacker Zach Thomas suffered what is a potentially season-ending shoulder injury in last Sunday's 22-0 loss to Cleveland. Thomas separated his right shoulder when hitting Browns quarterback Charlie Frye on a blitz at the end of the first half.
After the Browns game, Dolphins coach Nick Saban didn't want to immediately address how much playing time Thomas was expected to miss. Saban, though, knows a defense that already is struggling will sorely miss Thomas' services.
"Zach is an outstanding player and great leader," Saban said. "He has done an excellent job of managing the defense. I think his tenacious attitude is something that is a great example for everyone else. If he can't play, we will certainly miss that."
Saban has two options to replace Thomas -- shift weak-side linebacker Channing Crowder or promote backup Derrick Pope into the spot. Neither player is expected to match the productivity of Thomas, whose 118 tackles entering the game were 62 more than anyone else on the roster.
Even when Thomas was playing, the Dolphins still had allowed Reuben Droughns to rush for 105 of his 166 yards in the first half. Seventy-five of those yards came on a touchdown run on Cleveland's first offensive snap.
"It was just one of those days," said Thomas, who also injured his right leg early in the game.
Sage Rosenfels squandered the chance to make inroads toward a starting position when replacing the injured Gus Frerotte (finger) in a 22-0 loss at Cleveland. Rosenfels threw the first of two interceptions on his second pass and never got into sync, completing five of 10 passes for 14 yards before being benched late in the third quarter in favor of Frerotte.
"I had a few bad reads I would like to have back, but there is nothing I can do now," said Rosenfels, a five-year veteran who had just one previous NFL start.
Coach Nick Saban said Frerotte would start against Oakland as long as his right index finger doesn't experience significant swelling. Frerotte was hurt in a 23-16 loss to New England the previous game.
"We got our butts kicked," said Frerotte, who only connected on four of his 18 passes. "We have to go back and not quit. We have to find the guys who want to be there and play 60 minutes without giving up."
--MLB Zach Thomas suffered a separated shoulder in Sunday's 22-0 loss to Cleveland that may sideline him the rest of the season. Thomas was injured late in the first half after hitting Browns QB Charlie Frye on a blitz.
--QB Sage Rosenfels completed five of 10 passes for 14 yards with two interceptions before getting benched late in the third quarter against Cleveland. Rosenfels got his second NFL start in place of Gus Frerotte, who sprained his right index finger the previous game against New England.
--QB Gus Frerotte played in a backup role Sunday against Cleveland because of a sprained right index finger suffered the previous game against New England. Frerotte completed four of 18 passes for 53 yards in slightly more than one quarter of play in relief of the struggling Sage Rosenfels.
--FS Lance Schulters temporarily lost feeling on the left side of his body when colliding with MLB Zach Thomas on a second-quarter tackle attempt against Cleveland. Schulters did return in the second half and finished tied for second on the team in tackles with seven.
--CB Kiwaukee Thomas continued his slide down the depth chart by being declared inactive against Cleveland. Thomas lost his spot as nickel cornerback to Reggie Howard two games ago after a rough outing in a 17-10 loss to Atlanta.
Rock bottom at Mile High.
That summarizes where the Jets are after a 27-0 loss to Denver that marked their fifth consecutive defeat and their first shutout loss since the season finale of 1995, when they lost 12-0 to New Orleans. That, of course, was the first season of the Rich Kotite era.
This game featured both Brooks Bollinger and Vinny Testaverde leaving with injuries, as the injury-ravaged offensive line again was unable to provide sufficient protection. Denver recorded four sacks. Jets coach Herm Edwards couldn't name a starter for the New Orleans game on Sunday, but it's very possible that it could be Kliff Kingsbury. Bollinger, who suffered a concussion, later threw up on the sideline.
The Broncos offense was as dominant as the defense, recording nearly a 25-minute advantage in time of possession. Denver's first two scoring drives totaled a combined 19 minutes.
The postgame highlight was owner Woody Johnson briefly answering reporters' questions. He said the Jets "didn't quit," but gave a no comment when asked about coach Herm Edwards' situation. Edwards raised some controversy during the week leading up to the game when he initially was unable to defuse speculation about him moving to Kansas City after the season.
"We'll keep going and we'll keep practicing," Edwards said. "One thing we haven't done around here since I've been here is pointing fingers. We won't do that. It's not our character, and it's not what we're about."
The losing, however, clearly is wearing on the players.
"It's very hard, but we've just got to stay focused and stay positive," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "It's very, very frustrating. Something (good) eventually will come out of it. ... The sun is going to shine soon."
The goals have become very basic for a 2-8 Jets team that was thinking about the Super Bowl back in July when training camp started.
"We've just got to play better every week," defensive end John Abraham said. "The best thing for us is to get better every game and try to win one."
Try to win one. That's what it has come to for the Jets.
One week after throwing four interceptions against Carolina, Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger didn't turn the ball over once in a 27-0 loss at Denver. However, he didn't play after the first quarter, as he left the game with a concussion shortly after being leveled by a blitzing Al Wilson.
In his absence, veteran Vinny Testaverde doled out four turnovers, two on picks, one on a strip sack and one on an aborted snap exchange. Testaverde also left the game with an injury, as his right ankle seemed to buckle with 1:11 left in the game. He was replaced by Kliff Kingsbury, who went 1-for-2 for 17 yards in his NFL debut. Testaverde's turnovers included a fumble recovered by former Jet Nick Ferguson, and an interception by almost-Jet John Lynch, who spurned the Jets and close friend Herm Edwards when he was a free agent in the spring of 2004.
While the Jets' quarterbacks were wobbly, literally and figuratively, Denver quarterback Jake Plummer continued to enjoy a renaissance season. Although he lost a fumble, he stretched his interception-less streak to 219 attempts, and completed 18 of 26 passes for 225 yards. Mike Anderson rushed for 113 yards and three short touchdowns on 26 carries.
The Jets (2-8) were on their heels all day. Denver's first two drives consumed 95 yards and 9:34, and 81 yards and 9:26, respectively, as the Broncos (8-2) showed off their impressive running game. The Jets, in fact, ran only two offensive plays in the second quarter. New York's best chance to score ended when Testaverde was intercepted by Lynch on a third-and-1 from the Denver 29 in the third quarter.
--QB Brooks Bollinger went 4-for-5 for 26 yards before leaving the Denver game shortly after being sacked by Al Wilson in the first quarter. Bollinger sustained a concussion and later vomited on the sideline. His status for the game against New Orleans next week is unclear.
--QB Vinny Testaverde went 15-for-25 for 152 yards with two interceptions and two lost fumbles in relief of Brooks Bollinger (concussion) at Denver. Testaverde still doesn't have a touchdown pass in his second tour of duty with Gang Green. He left with 1:11 remaining with a right ankle injury. Coach Herm Edwards said that if the Jets had to play their next game the day after the Denver loss, Kliff Kingsbury would be the QB because of the uncertain health status of Bollinger and Testaverde.
--RB Curtis Martin had 7 yards on four carries at Denver as the Jets were forced to abandon their running game because they trailed early. It was his worst game since he had 6 yards on four carries against Buffalo in the 2002 season opener. Martin sustained a high ankle sprain in that game.
--WR Laveranues Coles had a team-high six receptions for 62 yards at Denver.
--WR Justin McCareins had five receptions for 73 yards at Denver, his third five-catch game this season. His one rushing attempt for 8 yards on an end-around made him the Jets' leading rusher as well.
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