AFC East: Week 1 Review

Notes from around the AFC East. The Bills lost two players on Sunday. One may be out for a while. The Patriots looked like anything but division champions. The Dolphins had trouble slowing down Charlie Batch, a league journeyman. If that's the case, then what happens when they play teams with starters? The Jets won handily, but kicking concerns have them auditioning bodies this week.

Division Report 9/12/06

Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

    BUFFALO BILLS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Looking Back At Week One

The Bills took a 17-7 halftime lead but couldn't sustain the momentum in the second half and lost 19-17 on a safety delivered by Patriots defensive end Ty Warren on J.P. Losman with 8:33 to play.

Buffalo took a 7-0 lead on the first play of the game when linebacker Takeo Spikes, in his first game in nearly a year after Achilles' tendon surgery, sacked Tom Brady and caused a fumble which was scooped up and returned five yards by London Fletcher.

The Bills had a chance to go up by 17 points early in the third quarter but Willis McGahee was held to no gain on a fourth- -and-one at the Patriots' 7-yard line. New England took over and drove 93 yards in 12 plays to a touchdown, cutting Buffalo's lead to 17-14. Brady connected with RB Kevin Faulk for a 17-yard TD to cap the drive.

New England tied the game on rookie Stephen Gostkowski's 32-yard field goal to cap a 14-play, 63-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. On the next series, Losman was sacked in the end zone by Warren for what proved to be the game-winning safety.

Rookie safety Donte Whitner intercepted Brady on the next series, but the Bills ended up punting after another Losman sack and New England ate the final 6:15 of clock to seal the victory, their 11th in the last 12 meetings against Buffalo.

Player News

--LB Takeo Spikes injured his left hamstring after one series and did not return. He said the injury was minor and that he expects to play at Miami.

--FS Troy Vincent injured his right hamstring in the first half and did not return. His status for Miami will be updated later in the week.

--RB Willis McGahee had a big first half against the Patriots with 42 yards on 10 carries but wasn't the same after tweaking an ankle. In the second half, he averaged just 2.9 yards a rush on 10 attempts and was stuffed for no gain on a critical fourth-down call.

--RB Anthony Thomas had a productive relief appearance for an injured McGahee (ankle), gaining 29 yards on three carries and catching two passes for 16 yards during a first-half TD drive. He capped the drive with an 18-yard run up the middle for the score.

--SS Donte Whitner, the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, made his first interception of his NFL career, off Tom Brady in the fourth quarter. Whitner entered the game after Coy Wire started and finished with eight tackles, a pass breakup and his pick.

--KR Terrence McGee, who led the NFL in kick return average last season, got off to a good start with four returns for a 27.5 average, including a long of 44.

    MIAMI DOLPHINS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Looking Back At Week One

Despite the absence of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (appendectomy), the Dolphins' leaky, revamped secondary allowed his backup Charlie Batch to throw three touchdowns passes and complete 60 percent of his passes for 209 yards with a 126.5 passer rating in a 28-17 loss.

Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper, making his first start since shredding his right knee last October 30 with the Vikings, had a hot-and-cold debut, completing 18 of 37 for 262 yards.

He helped build a 17-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a series of short passes to his backs and Wes Welker. However, an 87-yard touchdown catch-and-rumble from Batch to tight end Heath Miller gave the Steelers a 21-17 lead with 6:11 remaining. Whether he was down on the 1-yard line or not, and Saban hadn't gagged on the challenge flag, it still wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Culpepper's rustiness showed as he panicked in the pocket and threw two interceptions in the final six minutes, including the game-clinching 42-yard touchdown pickoff by linebacker Joey Porter.

Player News

--G/C Joe Toledo (foot) will be out for at least two more weeks, according to coach Nick Saban. Despite their lack of depth at center/guard Saban benched 2003 third-round pick Wade Smith last week and activated former Saints lineman Kendyl Jacox, who had been with the team for less than a week.

"He did a really good job at center and because they were a 3-4 team, he's a little bigger and if the situation occurred in the game when he had to go in and play center that he might do a little better job against the nose, but nothing more than that," Saban said.

--RG Bennie Anderson, who was cut by the Bills after the season, has plenty of incentive to pave the way for Ronnie Brown to gash his former teammates.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the Bills coach the past two years, should have plenty of inside information on Buffalo's tendencies, particularly on offense.

--QB Daunte Culpepper, despite throwing two critical interceptions in the final six minutes and posting only had a 49.6 passer rating, did a lot "of good things in the game," according to coach Nick Saban

"We missed a couple throws where we had guys open and I think those are all timing issues," Saban said. "I don't think it is a matter of ability. I think it is a matter of timing -- putting the ball on the guy when he is ready for it, making the choice and decision at the right time based on what you see and I think the more we practice, the more we play, the better we are going to get at all that stuff."

--WR Marty Booker, who was nearly knocked out when he fell on the ball early in the second quarter as he tried to hold onto a pass from Culpepper returned in the third quarter and hauled in a 52-yard catch-and-run to set up a touchdown run by Brown that gave the Dolphins a 17-14 lead. Saban said he thought Booker may have had a concussion but he was cleared at halftime and should be fine after two days off from practice.


 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Looking Back At Week One

New England got a surprise dogfight from the visiting Bills in the opener, squeaking out the 19-17 victory on a late Ty Warren sack of J.P. Losman in the end zone for the safety.

Tom Brady found very little to his liking in the passing game for the Patriots, getting strip-sacked by Takeo Spikes on the opening play of the game, resulting in a London Fletcher touchdown and a 7-0 Buffalo lead just 12 seconds into the game. The Bills pulled out to a 17-7 halftime lead, thanks in large part to an inept New England passing offense that saw Brady complete just three passes in the first 30 minutes, get sacked three times and put up an amazingly low three yards of net passing in the first half.

But the bright side for the home team came in the running game where Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney and the rest of the Patriots ball carriers combined for 41 carries and 183 yards (4.5 avg.). Maroney shinned in his debut, with 17 carries for 86 yards (5.1 avg.) including 27 on his first career attempt.

Brady's number improved slightly in the second half allowing him to finish with 11 completions on 23 attempts for 163 yards with a pair of touchdowns to go along with three sacks and one interception. Benjamin Watson was his favored target on the day, although he caught just three passes for 50 yards, while Troy Brown (9 yards) and Kevin Faulk (17 yards) hauled in the scores.

But make no mistake, Brady knew after the game that the running backs and the defense were the keys to New England's fortunate opening day win, not his passing game.

"I think they really carried us today. Kevin made a great catch for a touchdown, both backs, Corey and Laurence, ran very hard. I think we were pretty effective running the ball, and I think the rest has to pick it up," Brady said. "I'm happy we won. I think our defense really played great. But obviously we need to improve."

That improvement will have to come next week in New York, where the Patriots travel to challenge the 1-0 Jets in another AFC East battle.

Player News

--LB Tedy Bruschi, WR Chad Jackson and WR Doug Gabriel led New England's list of game inactives for the opener. Bruschi continues to work his way back from a broken wrist suffered in training camp. Veteran linebacker Junior Seau made his New England debut starting in Bruschi's inside linebacker spot. Seau finished with 8 tackles.

--SS Rodney Harrison returned to the starting lineup for the New England defense less than a year after tearing three ligaments in his knee late last September in Pittsburgh. The defensive captain finished the game with a team-high 9 tackles.

--TE Benjamin Watson led New England with just three receptions for 50 yards in the win over the Bills as Tom Brady completed just 11 passes on the day.

--RB Laurence Maroney got off to a quick start in his first game in a Patriots uniform. Maroney took his first career carry for 27 yards to the delight of the Gillette Stadium crowd. The first-round pick finished the opener with 17 carries for 86 yards for a 5.1-yard average. He also returned three kickoffs for a 19.7-yard average.

--DT Ty Warren recorded an 8-yard sack and safety on Bills quarterback J.P. Losman midway through the fourth quarter of New England's opening day win. It was the first time the Patriots recorded a safety in a game since Mike Vrabel and Jarvis Green combined for the two-point feat against the Dolphins in December 2003.

--PK Stephen Gostkowski got out the rookie kinks in New England's opener. The fourth-round pick hit a 32-yard field goal to tie the score at 17 late in the 19-17 victory.


 NEW YORK JETS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Looking Back At Week One

Had Mike Nugent not had a bad day, the Jets might have won fairly comfortably. Instead, the second-year kicker's woes inadvertently pushed the Jets to a stirring 23-16 win over Tennessee in the season opener for both teams.

The Jets led 16-0 in the fourth quarter, thanks mostly to a 1-yard scoring run by Kevan Barlow and Chad Pennington's 8-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery. But Nugent's missed point after attempt, as well as missed field-goal attempts from 34 and 30 yards, left the door open for a Tennessee comeback.

Two short touchdown runs by Travis Henry, the second set up by a strip sack of Pennington at the New York 1, plus a pair of two-point conversions enabled the Titans to tie the score at 16. But Pennington directed a 57-yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker, putting the Jets ahead again.

Tennessee's last chance ended on the Jets' 8 when Kerry Collins threw incomplete on fourth down with 35 seconds remaining.

Player News

--LG Pete Kendall left in the second quarter with what was announced as a left hamstring pull. Norm Katnik replaced him and finished the game. Kendall's thigh was wrapped while he stood on the sideline, but he said afterward he was OK.

--S Kerry Rhodes seemed to injure his left knee on Tennessee's final offensive play, but said he was fine after the game. Rhodes' interception set up Mike Nugent's 18-yard field goal in the third quarter.

--QB Kellen Clemens, who appeared to have the edge over veteran Patrick Ramsey during training camp, was the third quarterback.

--TE Sean Ryan, who played two seasons with Dallas without making a reception, finally got one. He gained 10 yards on the catch before fumbling it away to the Titans.

--WR-PR Tim Dwight (thigh) practiced all week but was inactive. Leon Washington and Jerricho Cotchery handled punt returns instead.

--WR Jerricho Cotchery, who beat out Justin McCareins for a starting spot during training camp, made his first NFL start. He had six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.


Related: Bills Report | Jets Confidential | Dolphin Digest | Patriots Insider


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