There's still a lot of fight in the dog. Too bad for the Buffalo Bills, their fight still isn't producing victories.
Plagued by problems that have cursed them all season -- red-zone offense and defense and a failure to stop the run -- the Bills fell to the Carolina Panthers 13-9 on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills could come up with only three field goals against the Panthers' No. 7 overall defense and finished with just 216 net yards, the eighth time this season Buffalo has failed to top 300 yards.
"We get in the red zone three times and come away with three field goals. They get in the red zone three times and come away with two field goals and a touchdown," linebacker London Fletcher said. "That was the difference in the ballgame. Our offense couldn't convert. So that's why we're here talking about a loss."
And why the Bills are talking about their slim chances of making the playoffs.
Buffalo (4-7) had a golden chance of moving one game behind New England (6-5), a loser at Kansas City, in the AFC East. The Bills are mathematically alive, but three of their final five games are on the road, where Buffalo is winless in five tries.
The Bills play at Miami (4-7) next, then come home for showdowns with the Patriots and Denver Broncos (9-2). The Patriots play three of their final five games at home, starting with the lowly New York Jets.
"By no means do I think anyone on this team is going to give up," veteran wide receiver Eric Moulds said. "We still have to go out next week against Miami, play hard, and hopefully get a win on the road."
"I think he's played well enough over the three weeks from when he came in during the Kansas City game," Mularkey said. "He's given us a chance. I think his progress will continue. In some adverse situations, he's really performed well. He can't have a letdown, and he probably won't let that happen."
The Bills had plenty of time and two timeouts to produce a dramatic comeback, but on third-and-10 at the Carolina 43, Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble turned at the last second and intercepted a low pass from J.P. Losman to Roscoe Parrish, ending Buffalo's final threat with 41 seconds left.
Buffalo was outrushed 113 yards to 53 and finished with 216 net yards. Carolina had the ball 11 more minutes, limiting Losman to eight possessions. The Bills went 0-for-3 in the red zone, settling for three Rian Lindell field goals.
Miami offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have a different view of Buffalo's defense Sunday than when the Dolphins played the Bills earlier this season.
Linehan moved from the coaches' box to the sideline for the first time this season for last Sunday's 33-21 victory over Oakland. Dolphins coach Nick Saban was pleased with the result as Miami (4-7) had its highest point total since a 34-10 victory over Denver in the season opener.
"I thought he affected the players today and kept them in balance for what they needed to do to compete by telling them what we were going to call next and things like that," Saban said.
Dolphins quarterback Gus Frerotte also was happy Linehan was able to communicate with Miami's offensive players face-to-face rather than through a headset.
"When you're down on the field, you kind of get a feel for what plays and players are working," said Frerotte, who was 18 of 31 passing for 261 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. "I think (Linehan) did a great job with that today."
Linehan had come under fire in recent weeks because of several questionable play calls in crucial situations. Linehan, though, scaled back on his offense and orchestrated one of the Dolphins' most balanced games of the season with 32 runs and 31 passes.
"We kind of changed the approach a little bit," Saban said. "Really, we played a little more basic and didn't do as many things. We tried to count on execution."
Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams appears to have shaken the rust that followed a year-long retirement and four-game drug suspension. For the second consecutive game, Williams ran for 80-plus yards and outrushed fellow tailback Ronnie Brown in Miami's 33-21 win at Oakland.
As he was during his prime, Williams was most effective in the fourth quarter. Williams gained 62 of his 82 yards on his final eight carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run with 3:50 remaining that helped clinch the victory.
"I think they were wearing down a little bit, and our offensive line was doing a good job getting on them," said Williams, who has rushed for 359 yards on 78 carries since making his 2005 debut in Miami's fifth game. "We finally found some room to run. It was tough all day because they had eight guys in the box the whole day. We know if we could get out of that, we could find (room) somewhere else."
Brown had 15 carries for 56 yards.
Herm Edwards called it "something to build on."
But the subdued nature of the coach's voice made it clear that he and his New York Jets players are quite tired of searching for moral victories and silver linings in this dark cloud of a season.
The Jets again fell short Sunday, much the same way that Mike Nugent's 53-yard field-goal attempt fell short with 10 seconds left, sealing the Saints' 21-19 victory over the Jets (2-9). It was the Jets' sixth consecutive loss.
They did show some signs of life, albeit against the nearly equally inept Saints (3-8). Brooks Bollinger passed for 251 yards, marking the first time since opening day that a Jets quarterback topped the 200-yard mark. Bollinger's 27-yard touchdown pass to Justin McCareins in the third quarter gave the Jets their first touchdown in 171 minutes and 52 seconds, as well as a 16-14 lead.
"We had some improvement on offense," Edwards said, "(but) defensively, we let some things get away from us."
Mainly, the lead, as Aaron Brooks' 30-yard scoring pass to Devery Henderson with 8:32 left gave New Orleans its winning margin. Bollinger, who threw his first touchdown pass as a starter, drove the Jets inside the Saints 35-yard line twice in the final quarter, but they came up empty both times. Still, the young quarterback showed his mettle under duress, something that gives the Jets a little bit of hope.
"We played with confidence," McCareins said of the offense. "We think we can build on that."
But Bollinger, who now is 0-4 as a starter, admitted he would have trouble letting go of this one.
"It doesn't really concern me right now," Bollinger said when asked if he could take some positives out of his performance. "That's something I'll look at (Monday) and see what I did well. I know I left a lot of plays out there, too. There are some better decisions that I could have made, and then you don't have to be in a situation like we were. That's the goal.
"We just keep saying the same things and just have to keep doing it, just have got to keep going. That's the only thing I know."
The Jets led in a game for the first time since their Oct. 9 victory over Tampa Bay. In fact, they led at the end of the first quarter, at the end of the third quarter and during the fourth quarter. Once again, however, they didn't lead at the end of the game.
Aaron Brooks connected with Devery Henderson for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 8:32 left to lift New Orleans (3-8) to a 21-19 win over the Jets (2-9), who lost their sixth straight game. The touchdown came on a post pattern on which free safety Erik Coleman blew a coverage.
Brooks Bollinger, who directed the Jets to their first touchdown since Nov. 6 against San Diego, as well as four Mike Nugent field goals, drove the Jets inside the New Orleans 35-yard line on each of their final two drives. One ended with a Ben Graham punt into the end zone, after Bollinger was called for intentional grounding on third down, pushing the Jets back to the Saints 44.
On the next drive, they reached the 33 with 1:24 left on a 21-yard pass to Doug Jolley, who made a nice run after the catch. But an attempted run by Curtis Martin on first down lost 1 yard, and Bollinger then couldn't handle a low shotgun snap by center Pete Kendall. Bollinger fell on it but lost 3 yards. He got those back with a 3-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery on third down, but Nugent was short on a 53-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds left.
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