AFC East: Week Two Review

The Bills look a lot stronger than their division counterpart the Dolphins, more competitive than many experts predicted. The Patriots had their hands full with the Jets and have given the impression that even though they're division champs, they may be vulnerable The Dolphins still have QB concerns, and the Jets look like hey have enough weapons to be competitive in the division.

Division Report 9/20/06

Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

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

Looking Back At Week Two

Coy Wire nearly blocked a punt at New England. Against Miami, he zeroed in.

It was Wire's block of a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter, setting up the third of Rian Lindell's field goals to give the Bills a 16-0 lead, that all but finished off a listless Miami Dolphins team in Sunday's 16-6 victory.

"It's a credit to him," coach Dick Jauron said of Wire's block. "He practices that play."

Wire, a red belt in karate and a former schoolboy star wrestler in Pennsylvania, is one of the Bills' best athletes. While limited as a strong safety, Wire has made it to his fifth NFL season because of his special teams skills and the serious approach he takes to the job.

Some questioned why the Bills kept Wire at the final cut over Rashad Baker (Minnesota), who would've helped their depth at safety better, but the move paid dividends on Sunday.

"We have high standards to live up to here on special teams, being No. 1 in the league the past two years," Wire said. "We gotta take our game to another level and make big plays for this team. I was in the right place at the right time, and I was able to get the block."

It was Wire's first career blocked punt, the first by Buffalo since Jason Peters had one at Cincinnati in 2004 for a touchdown.

Player Notes:

--QB J.P. Losman has not thrown an interception in two games and 41 pass attempts. His decision making has been much improved in his second year as a starter and now has completed 26 of 41 passes for 63.4 percent after finishing under 50 percent last season.

--RB Willis McGahee has passed Kenneth Davis (2,460) and moved into ninth place on the team's all-time rushing list with 2,536 yards. His 654 rushing attempts are also good for ninth place. He needs 22 to tie No. 8 Cookie Gilchrist. The Bills, as promised, are making McGahee the focal point of their offense. He's averaging 22.5 carries per game so far.

--TE Robert Royal hasn't been involved in the passing game as much as expected. The free agent from Washington has two catches for 17 yards but remains the main target at the position.

--WR Lee Evans (four catches, 44 yards) has hit the 100-catch mark for this career. He has 100 catches for 1,630 yards and 16 TDs in 34 games. That ties him with Marlin Briscoe for being the seventh-fastest player in Bills' history to hit the century mark. Larry Centers (23), Jerry Butler (28), Bill Brooks (30), Andre Reed (31), Quinn Early (31), Frank Lewis (32) are the top six.

--WR Peerless Price was held to two catches for 12 yards in Sunday's win at Miami but his receiving streak with the Bills (with a three-year interruption) is at 57 games.

--WR Josh Reed leads the team in receptions with seven for 79 yards and one touchdown. He made a nice move in the end zone at Miami to get free for a four-yard TD and at the moment is Buffalo's most reliable threat.

--FS Ko Simpson recorded a sack in his first NFL start Sunday in Miami, taking down Daunte Culpepper on a clean blitz.

--LB Takeo Spikes, who sat out Sunday's victory at Miami, is expected to play against the New York Jets. His status will be updated on Wednesday.

--PK Rian Lindell's 3-for-3 outing at Miami kept him perfect on the young season and he has made nine consecutive field goals overall. That's his longest streak since hitting nine in a row to open last year with. It was his 16th career three-field goal game.

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

Looking Back At Week Two

When the Dolphins' schedule was drawn up, it's obvious that this current three-week stretch was expected to be three easy Ws. However, now that they've lost 16-6 to the Bills at home, the next two against the 0-2 Titans and Texans are absolute must-wins if 0-2 Miami hopes to end a four-year playoff drought.

Perhaps more imperative is that struggling quarterback Daunte Culpepper needs to stay upright and make some big plays to quiet the distracters and quell any semblance of a quarterback controversy. Even Dolphins coach Nick Saban admitted Monday that Culpepper doesn't have the mobility he once had and he has to understand his limitations in order to manage the game more efficiently.

"(Culpepper) can be a good player. He is not playing like he's capable of playing right now," Saban said. "He's more mobile than lots of quarterbacks who play. He's just not as mobile as he used to be and he has to understand and manage that. And we need to help him do that."

If Culpepper is ever going to get healthy -- statistically -- it's this Sunday against the Titans and their 31st-ranked defense which got lit up by the Chargers Sunday -- giving up 476 yards.

The Titans have been outscored 63-23 in their first two games, and quarterback Kerry Collins put up a ridiculous 1.3 passer rating Sunday. Rookie Vince Young did notch his first NFL completion, but he remains the backup.

It's also time for Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown to get off as the Titans allowed LaDainian Tomlinson and Co. to gain 241 yards on the ground at 6.5 a pop, and have the 29th-ranked run defense.

Player Notes:

--QB Daunte Culpepper may have been rushed into action too soon after his major knee surgery last October as he has appeared rusty and shown no confidence when facing a pass rush. He has three interceptions and two fumbles for a 69.2 passer rating with one touchdown pass, while getting sacked 10 times for negative 82 yards - second most in the NFL.

--WR Chris Chambers has caught a total of two passes for six yards in the first half of the first two games. It is imperative that offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey get Chambers more involved in the offense earlier in the game. He did make a highlight-reel, finger-tip, diving 23-yard touchdown catch with 1:54 remaining to help Miami avert the shutout Sunday.

--TE Randy McMichael was distraught after Sunday's loss to the Bills after dropping a potential touchdown pass, committing two false-start penalties and whiffing on a block to get Culpepper sacked. He did have three catches for 34 yards.

--WR Marty Booker tweaked an ankle late in the fourth quarter Sunday and hobbled off the field. He said it wasn't serious and expects to play against the Titans Sunday.

--RG Bennie Anderson underwent surgery to repair a torn left triceps muscle Tuesday. The injury occurred late in the first quarter Sunday when he was simply fending off a defender. Anderson is most likely out for the season.

--RG Trey Darilek, who played mostly special teams for the Eagles the past two seasons, may get the nod this week as Bennie Anderson's replacement Sunday, Kendyl Jacox, also recovering from foot surgery, was ineffective.

--RG/C Joe Berger (sprained foot) has shed the walking boot and is wearing orthotics, but he is still a week away from practicing.

--DT Vonnie Holliday had an MRI on his calf Monday but nothing irregular showed up.

--MLB Zach Thomas had just five tackles Sunday, and admitted afterward that for some reason he didn't come out on the field with any energy.

--DE/OLB Jason Taylor ran off the field in agony after a Bills' offensive series in the fourth quarter. It appeared to be a back spasm as the trainers attempted to stretch his back with Taylor on the floor. It might've been cramps as well, as Taylor didn't miss a play. Taylor missed several practices in training camp because of a sore back. Taylor had no sacks or quarterback hurries against the Bills, as QB J.P. Losman didn't spend much time in the pocket before releasing a flurry of short passes.

--CB Will Allen committed a key pass interference penalty on WR Lee Evans that cost the Dolphins 50 yards and then got beat on the ensuing 4-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reed, however, the Dolphins secondary showed major improvement over Week 1 against the Steelers as they allowed just 83 passing yards.

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

Looking Back At Week Two

After months of trying to learn the New England offense and then dealing with a lingering hamstring injury that cost him all but three training camp practices and delayed his pro debut, second-round pick Chad Jackson finally got on the field for the Patriots in last Sunday's win over the Jets. And as he's expected to for a team that recently traded Deion Branch and previously lost David Givens to free agency, the rookie wideout out of Florida made an instant impact in New York.

Blessed with 4.32 speed, it was Jackson's receiving ability and hands that stood out on his first career catch, a 29-yarder down the left sideline in the first quarter at Giants Stadium. After beating his man off the line, Jackson had to reach back over the Jets defender to haul in Tom Brady's slightly underthrown pass. But for his first catch in his first game, everything was perfect for Jackson, who had just two receptions on the game but added his first career touchdown on a 13-yard scissors route near the end of the first half of New England's 24-17 win.

"It was a relief to just get in the game," Jackson said afterwards. "As a rookie, you never think you're going to get that much playing time but, at the same time, getting the catch and scoring a touchdown, that's a great feeling for me."

It's a feeling Patriots fans and coaches alike hope Jackson has even more often in the coming weeks as he continues to get acclimated with the offense, build a relationship with Brady and get up to full speed. With New England still undermanned at receiver, there will be plenty of catches up for grabs as the season rolls on.

"We're going to need more of that from him," said Brady. "I think we're going to need more of it from all the receivers. We have to find ways to execute better in the passing game."

Jackson hopes that will improve as his field relationship with Brady improves.

"I wouldn't say we're on the same page right now," said Jackson. "We still have a lot of work to do. (Tom) is still frustrated right now about how the offense is still struggling a little bit, especially the passing game. So, he just wants it to get back on top. He wants it to be like a Super Bowl passing offense, what it used to be. We just got a lot of work to do to get this team going."

Things should get going a little faster with Jackson in action, especially if he can build on a successful debut and become the consistent playmaker New England was hoping it was getting when it traded up on draft day to select the exceptionally talented Gator. The Patriots saw flashes of it against the Jets, and will need to see more in the coming weeks to help lift the passing game in the absence of its top two receivers from the previous four seasons.

"I think that Chad did some positive things," coach Bill Belichick said summarizing his rookie's debut. "He was in there for a decent amount of plays. Some good. Some could have been better. Really it was like his first preseason game, only it's not. There are things that he learned (against the Jets) and I think that he's done better in practice, he really hasn't been practicing all that long either. The more he can stay out there, the more he can get reps, see himself do it on the field, and correct it and go up there the next day and get better and that's how you make progress."

That took a step in the right direction against the Jets and Jackson will be looking to build on that progress in this week's Sunday night matchup with the Broncos as he debuts in front of the home crowd at Gillette Stadium.

Player Notes:

--QB Tom Brady is off to a slow start, especially by his own high standards. Brady has completed exactly 50 percent of his passes (26-of-52) in New England's first two wins, well below his 61.9 career completion percentage entering the season.

--RB Laurence Maroney continues to run right with starting running back Corey Dillon, totaling 33 carries for 151 yards (4.6 average) with one score in his first two career games. By comparison, Dillon's carried 36 times for 153 yards (4.3 average) with a score.

--TE Benjamin Watson is tied for the team lead in receptions after two games, totaling six catches for 89 yards (14.8 average). Watson also has the longest pass play on the team, a 34-yard reception in the season opener against Buffalo.

--WR Troy Brown is tied with Benjamin Watson for the team lead with six receptions for 69 yards, and is one of five different Patriots to have each scored a single touchdown through the first two weeks.

--WR Reche Caldwell has been relatively consistent in the first two games of his New England career with a pair of receptions in each. On the young season, the former Charger has four catches for 47 yards.

--DT Vince Wilfork was quite active working out of New England's 4-3 front against the Jets, recording five tackles, a sack and one quarterback hit.

--DT Richard Seymour saw action at both end and tackle in the Patriots new-look 4-3 front in win over New York, finishing with five tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed.

--LB Tedy Bruschi recorded New England's first and only interception of the season on the final defensive play of the win over the Jets. Bruschi made the play in his first game back despite wearing a black cast on his surgically repaired right wrist.

--LB Tully Banta-Cain, seeing the most extensive action of his four-year career, recorded his first sack of the season in Sunday's win over the Jets. Banta-Cain now has four sacks in his career, all of them coming against AFC East opponents with one each against New York and Miami and two against Buffalo.

--CB Ellis Hobbs has taken over the role as New England's No. 1 corner in the early stages of his second season. Hobbs manned up with Buffalo's Lee Evans throughout the entire season opener against Buffalo, and spent last week on the left side of the New England secondary, finishing with two tackles, although he was one of a handful of Patriots who missed a chance to bring down Jets wideout Laveranues Coles on his electric 46-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

--P Josh Miller is off to a strong start, sporting a 48.7-yard average on seven punts on the young season, including a 61-yard long last weekend against New York.

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

Looking Back At Week Two

Since Santana Moss was traded to the Redskins in March 2005, the big passing play had been mostly absent from the Jets' offense. Of course, part of that was due to the revolving door at quarterback last season.

But the ability of the Jets' current crop of wideouts has been severely questioned. The Jets' hierarchy probably sensed that weakness as well, which is why they went very hard after disgruntled New England holdout Deion Branch, who eventually was traded to the Seahawks.

However, the big play has returned to the Jets' offense in the first two games of 2006, and all of them have been through the air. Against Tennessee, the game-winning touchdown was set up by a 38-yard reception by Laveranues Coles.

Coles again had a big catch against New England, a 46-yard catch-and-weave through the Pats' defense for a score. And Jerricho Cotchery had an even more spectacular 71-yard score, as he bounced off two New England defenders, kept his footing, and got to the end zone for the Jets' first touchdown.

"Those are some tough guys right there," coach Eric Mangini said, adding that what impressed him the most about Cotchery's play was "the presence of understanding that he wasn't down, and forcing the challenge, and forcing the officials to make the call and finishing the play. That's good football.

"Laveranues had several plays where he just wasn't going to be denied. That inherent toughness in those guys is a great quality. ... I believe in this group of receivers."

Coles seems recovered from a nagging toe injury that had limited him to being a possession receiver the last two seasons. And Justin McCareins is still contributing despite losing his starting spot to Cotchery. McCareins had a 27-yard reception in the opener and a 23-yard catch Sunday.

"Across the board, our receivers made one unbelievable play after another," Chad Pennington said, "and kept plays alive, even on scrambles. They kept trying to get open for me and did an absolutely awesome job at finding ways to get open. They made some great, tough catches."

The upcoming game could be challenging for Pennington and his receivers. Although visiting Buffalo in late September is better than going there in November or December, the winds can be gusty and tricky at any time of the NFL season there.

Player Notes:

--QB Chad Pennington went 22-for-37 for 306 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, on a desperation pass near the end of the game, against New England. It is the first time in his career he has posted back-to-back 300-yard games.

--RB Kevan Barlow had 14 carries for only 42 yards. His longest gain was merely eight yards. Still, it was much better than the seven yards on six carries from Derrick Blaylock, who started.

--TE Chris Baker had only one reception for five yards after a four-catch effort against Tennessee.

--WR Laveranues Coles had six receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown, his second straight game of 100 yards or more after not hitting the century mark in any game in 2005. It's the first time since 2003 he has had consecutive 100-yard games. That year, he had three straight to begin the season for Washington.

--WR Jerricho Cotchery contributed six receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown.

--ILB Jonathan Vilma had only seven tackles as the Patriots did a pretty good job of handling both him and NT Dewayne Robertson at the point of attack.

--OLB Eric Barton had nine tackles, second-most for the Jets in the game.

--S Kerry Rhodes played despite an ankle injury suffered the week before and had a team-high 11 tackles, including a strip sack. He also defensed one pass.

--S Erik Coleman had a tackle for loss on a run blitz. He was charged with a holding penalty that converted a third-and-20 on New England's final touchdown drive, although replays showed it may have been a questionable call. He got tangled up with RB Kevin Faulk, who appeared to be trying to block Coleman at first.

--WR-PR Tim Dwight (thigh) again sat out and was replaced on punt returns by Leon Washington, who had one return for six yards, plus a fair catch.


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


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