AFC East: Week Three Review

Were it not for a few bumbling mistakes, the Buffalo Bills could have had a competitive game against the New York Jets. New England looked as if the clock rolled back to 2005 in their loss to the Broncos. And Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper has taken on an eerily similar look of the 2005 Daunte who had twice as many INTs as TDs.

Division Report 9/26/06

Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

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

Looking Back At Week Three

Quarterback J.P. Losman refused to believe he or his teammates took a step backwards with Sunday's 28-20 loss to the New York Jets in the home opener at rainy and windy Ralph Wilson Stadium.

He lashed back when he was asked if he felt the Bills let their rabid fans down after the city was riding high after an encouraging split of road games at New England and Miami to start the season. Buffalo defeated Miami 16-6 a week earlier.

"We don't believe the hype," Losman said. "You guys don't understand. We don't care what you are saying, what people are saying about our team, whether it's good or it's bad. We don't read it. We don't care. It doesn't matter to us. We're going to play hard every week and prepare to win every week no matter what it is. We're going to play hard. I don't care if they talk about us on TV. It doesn't matter. That's not why we're playing this game."

Losman's emotional outburst was the first of 2006. A fiery leader, he had worked to contain that side of his personality throughout the off-season and training camp and was very businesslike in winning the Bills' starting quarterback job in a competition with Kelly Holcomb and Craig Nall.

But it was difficult hiding his frustration after just throwing for 328 yards, his first career 300-yard game, in a losing cause.

Losman's second pass of the game resulted in a 51-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish. But despite rolling up 475 yards on the day, the Bills offense didn't see the end zone again until just 1:15 was left to play and Losman scored on a 12-yard scramble.

In between, a sea of mistakes and questionable play calls doomed the Bills (1-2), who were playing their third consecutive game against a division rival and who could've tied New England (2-1) for first place in the AFC East. The Jets (2-1) instead tied the Patriots as Miami (1-2) won to tie Buffalo.

Two fumbles by Losman after sacks, one that the Jets' Victor Hobson returned 32 yards for a touchdown, and an interception, proved to be Buffalo's undoing on Sunday. Jets safety Kerry Rhodes had both sacks coming at Losman's blind side. Buffalo made the adjustment after Rhodes' first hit, but on the second, running back Willis McGahee missed the block. That sack resulted in Hobson's back-breaking takeaway that gave the Jets a 21-10 lead in the third quarter.

"That's my error right there. He kept going, J.P. fumbled, and they scored a touchdown off of it," said McGahee, who left the game with a hollow feeling after rushing for a career-best 150 yards. "We come into every game feeling we can do (good things), but like Coach tells us, it's the little things -- penalties, the mistakes, the wrong assignments, taking the wrong steps -- it's just hurting us."

Coach Dick Jauron said before the year began that he was prepared to be patient with Losman, a third-year pro with just 11 starts, and live with his mistakes. But he was tough on his young signal caller after this loss.

"He played a pretty good football game," Jauron said. "The first fumble was a mistake, the ball should've come out of there fast. He knew what was happening. The throw was ill-advised on the interception, the way the wind was. But he'll learn. And the second fumble, that should've been picked up (by McGahee). He expected the blitz would be picked up, and the guy just beat one of our blockers. That happens, too. It's part of the game. But that could've been a big play for us, instead it ends up being seven points for them."

Losman said the Jets were gambling and if not for the sack, it may have been a touchdown for Buffalo.

"We had cover zero but we had a breakdown there in protection," he said. "We had a guy come who should have been picked up and he came around the backside. We had a big, big play on that. If it wasn't a touchdown it was going to be huge. We had two guys who were going to be wide open."

Losman was able to admit that the Bills did squander a golden opportunity to build some serious momentum heading into Sunday's tougher test against Minnesota (2-1) at home.

Buffalo won back-to-back games only once last season in finishing 5-11.

"Of course you want to get things rolling, but it's a long season," he said. "There's still a chance to win this division and make some noise."


--QB J.P. Losman after throwing for a career-best 328 yards in Sunday's loss to the Jets. "I'd take a 'W' with those stats any day."

--RB Willis McGahee finished with a career-high 150 yards on 26 carries, the second time in four career games against the Jets he's hit a career high. His previous best was 143 yards on 29 carries in 2005. "It was all the offensive line, they were just moving people off the ball," McGahee said. "They said, 'Stay behind me,' and I listened to them."

--WR Roscoe Parrish had a big day catching the ball but fielded only two punts for eight yards in returns. Jets P Ben Graham had a strong day despite the windy conditions, planting four punts inside the Bills' 20. "It was very difficult to field punts today," Parrish said. "You'd think it would land in one spot, and then it would drift over to another. You have to have good judgment back there when the wind is blowing like that."

--After notching seven sacks against Miami's Daunte Culpepper, Buffalo could manage only one on Chad Pennington, whose three-step drops and quick decisions neutralized the Bills' speed. "He did a great job getting rid of the ball," DT Larry Tripplett said. "He really didn't give us a chance to get a pass rush against him."

--The Bills were wishing Sunday's game was a Monday night affair, then there would've been the camera angles instantly available to know that Jets' LB Victor Hobson stepped out of bounds on his 32-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter. The first and apparently only replay available before the Jets kicked the PAT, rendering a challenge impossible, was from the opposite end zone. On that one, Hobson's feet were blocked from view by Bills' 328-pound offensive tackle Jason Peters who was trying to make the tackle. Coach Dick Jauron said that was the only angle the Bills had in the press box. It wasn't until later that a view from the Bills' end zone clearly showed Hobson stepping out of bounds at the 3-yard line.

--Sunday was Buffalo's annual Alumni Weekend when former players gather for good times and golf. Money is raised for the Bills Alumni Foundation, which sponsors various charities in Western New York. Honored at halftime were members of Buffalo's 1980-81 teams. The featured player was quarterback Joe Ferguson, who was given a warm, emotional cheer from the crowd of 72,067 fans. Ferguson has battled a rare form of intestinal cancer the past two years and reported he is in complete remission.

Player Notes:

--TE Robert Royal suffered a bruised wrist/hand late in the game when he banged his hand on a teammate's helmet, but other than being sore, he's OK and should be fine for Sunday's game vs. Minnesota.

--QB J.P. Losman, who threw for a career-best 328 yards in Sunday's loss to the Jets, has led the Bills to a score on seven of his 11 career opening drives. He threw his first interception in 67 passes to open the season.

--WR Roscoe Parrish is averaging a hefty 18.3 yards on his seven catches, thanks to Sunday's 51-yard pitch-and-run from J.P. Losman. Parrish split the Jets secondary with his speed and he's becoming more and more a weapon from the slot.

--RB Willis McGahee tied Joe Cribbs and Travis Henry for third most 100-yard games in franchise history with 13 each. Thurman Thomas (46) and O.J. Simpson (41) are 1-2.

--PK Rian Lindell has connected on all six of his field goals so far. He opened last season with nine a row, third-longest in team history to open a season. Steve Christie (17) holds the record and Scott Norwood (10) is second.

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

Looking Back At Week Three

The Dolphins definitely have sacks appeal. In three games, a slow-moving Daunte Culpepper has been sacked 15 times for an NFL-high minus 120 yards, including five Sunday against a Titans' defense that had just two in the previous two games.

Only the Raiders have given up as many as 15 sacks, but they've only played two games.

Unlike the Bills game, when journeyman defensive end Ryan Denney had three of their seven sacks of Culpepper, Dolphins coach Nick Saban said the Titans' sacks were all the fault of the offense line and none by his quarterback.

"We made some mistakes in protection in this game which were certainly not his fault," Saban said. "They pressured us a lot of times in the game. We picked it up and took advantage of it, threw the ball hot when we needed to make some positive plays, but we also got some missed execution and got some sacks in the game.

"He didn't have a chance and we got to do a better job in that regard, so he has a chance to do what we need to do."

The 12 sacks suffered by Culpepper in the past two games are the most allowed by the Dolphins in consecutive games since 1980.

It hasn't helped that the Dolphins have lost four right guards already this season, and veteran Kendyl Jacox was making his first start for Miami Sunday. Jacox did whiff on a blitzing linebacker Keith Bulluck, who knocked the ball from Culpepper, but the former Saints lineman atoned by pouncing on the loose ball. Four plays later Olindo Mare drilled the game-winning field goal.

Center Rex Hadnot said the line is just not doing the, "little things," and accepted some blame for not always getting the correct calls to his linemates.

"We can't have our quarterback get hit like that," Hadnot said. "We haven't done anything this year to have people disbelieve that they can't get to the quarterback like that. We need to execute better."

Fortunately, for the Dolphins their next opponent is the 0-3 Houston Texans, who have the 32nd-ranked defense and have just three sacks this season.


--The Dolphins now embark on their first three-game road trip since 1994 when they went 1-2 against the Vikings, Bengals and Bills, with their lone win coming against Cincinnati. "Hopefully we can build on this and go on the road. We play better on the road for some reason. ... I don't understand anyway, so we'll be all right," said LB Zach Thomas.

--The Dolphins controlled the clock for 35:29 against the Titans, their best figure at home since Sept. 21, 2003 when they held the ball for 40:50 in a 17-7 win over Buffalo. It's their best mark overall since the season finale last year, when they had it for 38:06 in a 28-26 victory at New England.

--Daunte Culpepper's 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the 30th rushing touchdown of his career during the regular season, and his first since Sept. 18 of last year when he scored from five yards out at Cincinnati.

--LB Derrick Pope was inactive for Sunday's 13-10 victory over Tennessee because of a strained hamstring but Saban said Monday that he would "probably" return to practice on Wednesday.

--CB Travis Daniels made his season debut after missing the last two months because of a sprained right ankle. He appeared rusty but did make the game-saving interception with 1:54 remaining. Saban said Daniels was no worse for wear after the game and should practice on Wednesday.
--CB Eddie Jackson sprained his right big toe during Sunday's 13-10 victory, but is expected to be "OK" for practice. He replaced Daniels in the base defense early in the fourth quarter, but mostly played in nickel situations.

--G Joe Berger, who has been out all season with a sprained foot, is ready to practice and hopes to play Sunday.

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

Looking Back At Week Three

After the first three weeks of the season, one thing appears certain: Tom Brady won't lead the NFL in passing yards again in 2006. As a matter of fact, if the Patriots' passing game doesn't start getting better in a hurry, there's a chance things could get ugly in New England.

Sure, Brady threw for 320 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos but most of those yards came late in the game. Also, the 320 yards came on a career-high 55 attempts for Brady. Last time the two teams met the Broncos blitzed Brady on virtually every play. This time, however, they had such little regard for the Patriots receivers that Denver barely blitzed at all, giving Brady time in the pocket only to find nobody open. It's hard to imagine that an opposing defense would actually want to put the game in Brady's hands, but that's exactly what the Broncos did and it worked to perfection.

"We want to stop the run every game but especially against this team," linebacker Ian Gold said. "Coming in we knew they had three good running backs and we just wanted to shut them down and force Brady to win the game for them. We were successful at doing so."

Even head coach Mike Shanahan admitted after the game that the Broncos were more worried about the Patriots rushing attack then they were Brady and the passing game.

"Coming in here, we felt like we needed to stop the running game," Shanahan said. "If we did that, we could just react to the pass. We obviously didn't blitz as much as we did the last time we played them but we I thought we did what we wanted to do on defense."

The first two weeks, the Patriots played the Bills and Jets -- teams with new coaches coming off losing seasons. In both of those games, the Patriots were able to rely heavily on their ground game with the 1-2 punch of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney and Brady making plays when he needed to. However, against a more physical and athletic Broncos defense, the Patriots weren't able to get their running game going. They ran the ball 21 times for just 50 yards. Dillon was injured early on in the game and never returned. Maroney took the majority of the carriers, averaging a measly 1.2 yards per rush.

With the running game being shut down, Brady was never able to move the ball through the air on a consistent basis. The Patriots receivers had trouble getting open and even when they did, Brady often misfired on his throws. At points during the game, the Patriots' quarterback appeared to be sulking and disinterested in what was going on. An alarming image if you are a Patriots fan.

"He didn't look like himself," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said about Brady's performance. "He just wasn't making plays, any big plays. They normally make a lot of big plays that allows them to win but they just didn't do it. You know, the receiving corps is a little different and he was missing throws he usually doesn't miss. I don't know what the reason is for that but what we saw on film is pretty much the same thing we saw out there on the field tonight."

The Patriots have lost a lot at the receiver position. Not only are both of last year's starters no longer with the team, rookie Chad Jackson re-aggravated his hamstring injury and was inactive for Sunday's game. Brady and Deion Branch were close friends off the field and some have suggested the Patriots quarterback is having a hangover because he's without his favorite target. However, if you ask Brady, Branch's departure has nothing to do with his inconstant performance so far this season.

"Oh, man, I am just so far past that at this point," Brady said in regards to losing both Branch and Givens. "I'm just dealing with the guys we have. I think the guys we've got are playing hard and trying to do the right thing. And we are all growing in this together. So Doug (Gabriel) has been on our team basically for three weeks now, so we are trying to get him up to speed. Reche (Caldwell), it's his first season. Laurence (Maroney), we have a lot of moving parts coming together. We are trying to make improvements each week and, you know, I am proud of the fight we have."

Brady may be proud of the team's fight but they will need more than just fight out of the receiver position in the coming weeks if they want to be a serious playoff contender. The Broncos dared the Patriots to beat them through the air and they failed. With teams like the Bengals and Colts coming up on the schedule, the Patriots are going to have to score some points if they want to compete with those teams. More importantly, they need to strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses once again. If you listen to Broncos safety John Lynch, the game played out exactly how the Broncos thought it would.

"What coach Shanahan said in our team meeting played out like a script," he said. "He told us on offense we're going to pound them and when we get one-on-one coverage, we're going to go deep. On defense he said we're going to take away the run early and make them one-dimensional. I wasn't so sure about that with a guy like Tom Brady back there but he missed some throws he usually makes and we accomplished what we set out to do on both sides of the ball."


--After not playing for most of the game, WR Doug Gabriel finally got a chance to make an impression late in the second half and took advantage of it. Gabriel, who came over from Oakland in a trade, led the Patriots with 6 receptions for 65 yards and scored the team's only touchdown. With the Patriots searching for anyone to give them a boost at the receiver position, expect to see much more of Gabriel next week when New England travels to Cincinnati to play the Bengals.

"He did some good things out there and he is going to really help our offense," quarterback Tom Brady said after the game. "It was good to have him out there and have him make a play. He was fighting a few injuries the last few weeks. That shows his toughness and competitiveness to come out there and play the way he did. So it was good."

--Corey Dillon was injured for the second game in a row. He was hurt late against he Jets and left the game Sunday in the first quarter and never returned. Dillon will be 32 in October, so injuries are an obvious concern. The veteran running back has missed games in three of the last four seasons. If Dillon is out for any period of time, the Patriots running game will have to rely on rookie Laurence Maroney to carry the load.

"You would always like to have everybody out there," Brady said. "But you know, Laurence (Maroney) does pretty good when he's in there and so does Kevin (Faulk). And obviously, we would love to have Corey (Dillon) out there, but it's just part of the game."

--The Patriots game against the Broncos marked the first time the Patriots appeared on NBC since Jan. 3, 1998 -- a 7-6 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 1997 divisional playoff game. Sunday's game was the second time the Patriots and Broncos have met on Sunday Night Football. The teams also met on Oct. 8, 1995 when Denver claimed a 37-3 victory at Foxboro Stadium in a game televised by TNT.

--Tom Brady tied a career high with 55 pass attempts against the Broncos. He also attempted 55 passes in a 33-30 victory at Chicago on Nov. 10, 2002. Brady threw for 320 yards Sunday night; marking the 13th time in his career he has exceeded the 300-yard mark. New England is now 11-2 in Brady's 300-yard games, with the only other loss coming on Sept. 29, 2002 at San Diego (a 21-14 loss)

--"You feel like you are always in it. You never count yourself out. That is one thing I like about this team. We never count ourselves out and I love it. We just keep it going. We are going to do that all year and I love it. We are never out of a game." -- WR Doug Gabriel on how he felt after he scored his first touchdown as a Patriot in the fourth quarter.

--"Tom's a competitor. He lets you know if he's not happy with what is going on. That's what makes him great a great quarterback, leader and motivator." -- TE Ben Watson on Tom Brady being visibly frustrated on the field against Denver.

--"We didn't make any plays on offense. We know we can't do that if we plan to get wins out of this league. It's frustrating not being able to run the ball. We have been doing that the last couple of games and been running pretty well. We have to go back to the drawing board and see what we did wrong here and move on." -- TE Daniel Graham on the problems the offense had against the Broncos.

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

Looking Back At Week Three

Although the Jets had their best rushing game of the season Sunday, 3.1 yards per carry still isn't usually a winning formula in the NFL. And coach Eric Mangini knows that.

"We need to continue to improve in the running game," he said. "That's something we consistently work on. We made some progress this week, but each week we want to get better in that area, and need to continue to improve at the beginning of the game, not have the three and outs there early. We need to get some drives going early, and that's something we will focus on and work on this week."

One way to add some juice to the running game might be to give speedy rookie Leon Washington more carries. In his most extensive action on offense since the preseason, Washington had seven carries for 25 yards (a 3.6 yard-average) and he also turned a short pass into a 47-yard reception, setting up a touchdown.

The 5-foot-7, 202-pound Washington isn't necessarily built for heavy duty, but he certainly can provide a change of pace, and not just on third down.

"His role will be determined by the game plan each week and the way he takes advantage of his opportunities," Mangini said. "In preseason he did a nice job on special teams with some of those opportunities, and then (Sunday) getting the ball there on the screen and a couple of the runs that he had, I think all that helps. The more that he takes advantage of the opportunities, the more they'll come to him."

"I just try to use the ability that I've been blessed with and go out there and try to have fun and just try to make plays with my legs," Washington said. "That's what I'm blessed with. That's what I've done to the best of my ability. It's one of those things where you get a chance to make a play, you go out there and make the play, whatever it may end up being."

Mangini said that Curtis Martin, currently on the PUP list with a knee injury, has been working with all the running backs in meetings.

"I know Curtis is lending his ear quite a bit, and you can't ask for a better mentor than that," the coach said.

Washington said, "Curtis is one of the guys that has helped me a lot, helped me establish my role on this team, helped me practice harder. He's given me those small points that I need as a young running back. Instead of being so instinctive with all my runs, he's helped me learn to read defenses and how to pick up blocks. When you read defenses when you run the ball, it helps you out a lot more. He's been very helpful."


--Coach Eric Mangini named RG Brandon Moore the team's offensive player of the week. Chad Pennington was sacked only once by a Bills' team that recorded seven takedowns versus Miami's Daunte Culpepper the week before.

Mangini said he noticed Moore's "consistency, consistency in the passing game and consistency in the running game. I thought he had some nice physical blocks, played with really good toughness, and it carried over. I think the group fed off that."

--Another offensive lineman who did a good job was RT Anthony Clement, who had been struggling, allowing three sacks in the first two games. He allowed none against Buffalo. Clement used a two-point stance against Buffalo, which appeared to help him.

"We like to change up the stances pretty consistently," Mangini said, "so every time you're in a two-point it's not a pass, every time you're in a three-point it's not a run. Some guys feel more comfortable blocking speed rushers from a two-point. Sometimes it's just purely a decoy if you are going to run the ball to try to get the anticipation of a pass, so a little bit of that was just changing up for the edge pass rush and also changing up for a different look."

--Mangini made several lineup changes. Not only did Kevan Barlow start at RB instead of Derrick Blaylock, but Blaylock wasn't even active as Cedric Houston suited up for the first time this season.

"It's not just one player, it's also the other players that are in competition and their roles on special teams," Mangini said. "There's more than just that one factor that goes into it. Cedric had done a really good job over the first two weeks, and I thought it was important for him to have a chance to be at the game."

At safety, Derrick Strait started over Erik Coleman.

Mangini said, "It was similar to Cedric's situation. Derrick had had a good week of practice." David Barrett also made his first start at corner this season.

Player Notes:

--LG Pete Kendall (left hamstring) was inactive again Sunday after being limited in practice all week.

--RB Cedric Houston was active for the first time this season, and contributed a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

--P Ben Graham had an excellent game despite the usual knifing winds of Ralph Wilson Stadium. He had a net average of 44.3 yards on his seven punts, one of which was a 54-yarder to the Buffalo 12.

--CB David Barrett started over Justin Miller for the first time this season and recorded his second interception in two weeks.

--WR Justin McCareins was shut out as the third wide receiver for the first time this season. He had six receptions in the first two games.

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


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