AFC East: Week 4 Review

The Bills played the Vikings tough after many experts predicted a loss. Buffalo looks more competitive. The Dolphins on the other hand, do not. They appear to be regressing. The Patriots have turned the corner with their running game, while the Jets almost managed to knock off the Colts in a bank-and-forth contest that showed the Jets are improving weekly.

Division Report 10/02/06

Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

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

Looking Back At Week Four

Coach Dick Jauron's knowledge of personnel in the NFC North Division is starting to pay dividends for the Buffalo Bills.

Jauron, former head coach in Chicago and Detroit, helped devise a masterful game plan that produced seven sacks of former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper in a 16-6 victory over Miami in Week 2.

On Sunday, Buffalo was extremely well prepared in eking out a hard-fought 17-12 win over Minnesota and current starter Brad Johnson at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills continue a swing of NFC North teams Sunday at Chicago, then travel to Detroit. Has Jauron's background been a help for the surprising Bills, who are 2-2 and tied for second place in the AFC East?

"I think so," defensive tackle Larry Tripplett said. "We had a great plan coming into this game against the Vikings and it showed. We were able to shut them down pretty good."

The Bills were able to win a sloppily played game -- one that saw the teams combine for 27 penalties -- thanks to executing the essentials: they ran the ball 33 times compared to 16 times for Minnesota, controlled the clock for a season-high 36 minutes, and won the turnover battle, 2-0.

"The turnover thing is huge -- it always is -- and we won it this week," said Jauron, whose team committed three turnovers and got none in a upset loss to the New York Jets at home a week earlier. "That was a huge factor in this game, and we stayed patient with the ball, tried to eat some clock and we overcame some penalties. There were a lot of flags flying out there."

Buffalo's run defense was suspect entering the game.

But Minnesota's Chester Taylor, who entered the game leading the league in carries, had just 10 carries for 23 yards, including just four in the second half. Meanwhile, Buffalo's Willis McGahee carried 28 times for 78 yards and one touchdown.

The Vikings tried to attack Buffalo through the air, but the Bills and their secondary, featuring two rookie safeties, weren't backing down.

Johnson, who threw 44 times for 267 yards and one touchdown, was intercepted twice and had four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Buffalo didn't register a sack, but its pressure was extremely effective.

"They play a hard-nosed brand of football and we like to think that's what we play," Jauron said of the Vikings. "It was a real test for us, and I thought our guys stood up and fought for 60 minutes."

Jauron is downplaying his return to Chicago, where he coached from 1999-2003, but emotions will be high. He returns with a young, competitive team that is showing signs it has the playmakers and poise capable of winning close games.

Buffalo held on against Minnesota with the Vikings driving. Linebacker Angelo Crowell tackled wide receiver Billy McMullen at the Bills' 16-yard line in the closing seconds and Minnesota, out of timeouts, was unable to run another play.

"Great defenses finish ball games," Crowell said. "Last week, we didn't finish, but we proved it this week. The defense played well and we got off the field."

"We're getting better," Tripplett said. "Coach is doing a great job of being patient with us, staying on top of things. That's the key to this defense; you've got to be disciplined."

Player Notes:

--QB J.P. Losman established a career-best for passing percentage in a game at 71.9 percent. He went 23 of 32 for 222 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a strong 101.3 rating.

--RB Willis McGahee, who gained 78 yards on 28 hard carries, scored his first touchdown of the season on a nice goal-line leap that broke the plane.

--WR Peerless Price, who caught five passes for 40 yards, made the play of the game, turning what would've been a 2-yard loss on a screen pass into an 8-yard touchdown when he broke a tackle and sped around end down the left sideline untouched.

--LB Angelo Crowell recorded a team-best 10 tackles and intercepted a pass, his fourth in two seasons.

--PK Rian Lindell saw his streak of consecutive field goals end at 11 when he was short and wide on a 44-yard attempt into a stiff wind. It was a personal high Lindell has recorded twice before. He later connected from 28 yards.

--OG Chris Villarrial suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the second quarter blocking on a goal-line run play and did not return. Second-year man Duke Preston replaced him at right guard.

--LB Takeo Spikes sat out his third consecutive game with a right hamstring pull. Rookie Keith Ellison started again in his place.

--SS Matt Bowen missed his seventh consecutive game going back to preseason with a lower right leg injury, which is believed to be a broken bone.

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

Looking Back At Week Four

In a span of four weeks, the Dolphins have gone from being the preseason Super Bowl pick by a host of NFL analysts to hovering near the NFL basement following last Sunday's 17-15 road loss to lowly Houston.

The playoff picture for Miami (1-3) could turn even bleaker unless the franchise can rally in upcoming divisional road games against New England (3-1) and the New York Jets (2-2).

"You can't cry over spilled milk," Dolphins outside linebacker Channing Crowder said. "You just have to try not to spill it next week."

Miami, though, will enter Foxboro, Mass. with a leaky secondary and an offense that remains out of sync. The Texans entered as the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense yet managed to register five sacks of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who has gone down an NFL-high 21 times this season.

"We had problems with protection," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "That doesn't just mean the offensive line. A couple of sacks were created by other people not blocking who they're supposed to. Even though (Houston) had not pressured and blitzed that much, we very much anticipated that they would against us.

"Everybody will until we handle it and make them pay for it."

The Dolphins registered five sacks against Houston quarterback David Carr, including a strip and fumble return by defensive end Jason Taylor that led to a third-quarter Olindo Mare field goal. Carr, though, completed 22 of 29 passes and spearheaded two fourth-quarter scores with a one-yard bootleg and three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson.

The results against the Patriots will be even worse if the Dolphins give the same effort against New England quarterback Tom Brady, especially with Houston converting on nine of 16 third-down conversion attempts.

"There's too many negative plays that put us behind the eight-ball," Saban said. "We're going to need to do a better job and score more points and be able to get off the field on third downs."

But beyond the Xs and Os, Saban also has to convince a Dolphins team that has started its season 1-3 that the playoffs are still within reach. Taylor, who has yet to play in an AFC Championship game in his first nine seasons with the franchise, was particularly aggravated after the Texans loss.

"We come out here on game day and we're not doing what it takes to win," said Taylor, who had six tackles and two sacks despite a first-half rib injury. "We would've taken an ugly win like last week (a 13-10 victory against Tennessee), but we're not very good. We can be a damn good team, but we're not a good team right now."

Said coach Saban: "We're not interested in finger pointing. I'm responsible for what's happening here. We all need to do a better job... We have some great competitors, and I know how much it hurts them not to win. That's how great competitors are. But we need to turn the thing around and get it going in the right direction as well."

Player Notes:

--RB Ronnie Brown had 111 yards from scrimmage (49 rushing and 62 receiving on a career-best eight receptions) but it was a missed halfback pass on a two-point conversion that will be most remembered from Sunday's 17-15 loss to Houston. Brown had a throw to WR Marty Booker tipped away that would have tied the score with 1:39 remaining.

--CB Will Allen ended a 29-game drought without an interception by ripping away a pass from Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson in Sunday's 17-15 loss to the Texans. Allen, though, was part of a secondary that allowed Johnson and fellow WR Eric Moulds to combine for 13 catches for 177 yards and one touchdown.

--G/T Damion McIntosh made his first career start at right guard Sunday against Houston in place of the struggling Kendyl Jacox. A tackle for his first six NFL seasons, McIntosh struggled at times against Houston and drew 15 yards in penalties on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.

--RG Kendyl Jacox was benched in favor of Damion McIntosh for Sunday's 17-15 loss to Houston. Jacox, who wasn't signed until just before the regular season began, struggled in a 13-10 victory over Tennessee in Miami's previous game.

--LB Derrick Pope missed his second consecutive game Sunday against Houston because of a strained hamstring. The Dolphins are hopeful that Pope, a key special teams contributor, will be able to return for this Sunday's game at New England.

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

Looking Back At Week Two

Player Notes:

--WR Troy Brown once again saw action in a banged-up New England secondary. Brown served as the team's sixth defensive back for much of the game. He didn't record any tackles or catches on offense in his customary role as the team's No. 3 wide-out.

--RB Corey Dillon returned to Cincinnati for his first regular season game as a visitor, carrying the ball 17 times for 67 yards to light boos from his former homer crowd. Dillon also moved into 15th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list on the day, passing Ricky Watters on a 12-yard run in the third quarter. Dillon now has 10,665 yards on his career.

--RB Laurence Maroney recorded his first career 100-yard game with 125 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Maroney scored on an impressive 25-yard run in the third quarter and had another long scamper with a 41-yard carry later in the third.

--WR Doug Gabriel caught his second touchdown pass in as many weeks with a 25-yard hook up from Tom Brady in the second quarter against Cincinnati. The former Raider finished with four catches for 57 yards and the one score.

--OT Wesley Britt got his first career start, filling in for injured rookie Ryan O'Callaghan (head) at right tackle. The former practice squad player split time in the game with second-year tackle Nick Kazcur as the former starter continues to work back from a shoulder injury.

--CB Hank Poteat started as part of New England's nickel package to open the game, just days after re-signing with the team. Poteat saw significant action in the Patriots' defensive packages against the Bengals, finishing with two tackles and one pass defensed.

--FS Eugene Wilson missed the game with a hamstring injury suffered in the previous week's loss to the Broncos. Wilson did not make the trip to Cincinnati. Veteran Artrell Hawkins returned from a thigh injury to replace Wilson in the starting lineup.

--CB Ellis Hobbs missed his first career game with an arm injury and didn't even make the trip to Paul Brown Stadium. Veteran Chad Scott started at cornerback in place of Hobbs for New England.

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

Looking Back At Week Four

There's a disturbing trend that the Jets' defense needs to fix.

Indianapolis' eventual game-winning touchdown with 50 seconds left in its 31-28 victory over the Jets (2-2) on Sunday was the result of a nine-play, 61-yard drive. It was the Colts' second touchdown drive of the final quarter, following a 12-play, 68-yard excursion that had given them a 24-21 lead with 2:34 left.

Reserve tight end Bryan Fletcher's 2-yard touchdown reception from Peyton Manning capped that first drive, but it was immediately followed by Justin Miller's 103-yard kickoff return, which put the Jets ahead 28-24 with 2:20 to play.

No matter. Manning and the Colts simply went back down the field once more, with the payoff a 1-yard sneak by Manning.

In each of their two home games, the Jets have been unable to come up with key defensive stops in the fourth quarter. Against New England on September 17, they allowed a 63-yard drive that ate 8:15 of the clock. Although the Patriots didn't score after reaching the Jets' 7-yard line, the march effectively ended the game. Now the Jets will visit a Jacksonville team that twice rallied from fourth-quarter deficits against the Redskins before finally losing in overtime.

In 13 fourth-quarter drives, Jets' opponents have scored five touchdowns and two field goals. That does include a 1-yard "drive" by Tennessee after recovering a fumble by Chad Pennington, but those numbers still are significant and disheartening for the Jets, as was this defeat.

"The defense didn't do it and it cost us the game," third-year linebacker Jonathan Vilma said, "especially the last two drives. In my short career, the offense has been doing so well and we're not backing them up. It's frustrating.

"Peyton Manning's obviously a great quarterback, but we have to be that much sharper, mentally and physically," Vilma added. "We did a good job with holding him the first three quarters, but we had to keep doing it until we finished the game."

"Peyton scores a lot of points and is very effective in that situation," coach Eric Mangini said, referring to the fourth quarter. "We needed to play as solidly as we possibly could there. (Manning) is good at what he does. We need to execute better (and) continue to work and improve there."

The defense had other problems, as well. The Colts' running game, ranked 24th in the NFL after the first three weeks, looked as healthy as it did before Edgerrin James departed for Arizona via free agency. The Colts rushed for 160 yards at 4.4 yards per carry as Joseph Addai ran 20 times for 84 yards and one touchdown and Dominic Rhodes had 15 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown.

The game also was marked by a questionable coaching decision by Mangini, who went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line late in the third quarter. Chad Pennington's pass was intercepted in the end zone, and Indy drove 78 yards for a field goal and a 17-14 lead. The score changed hands four times after that, with the Colts and Manning having the final answer.

Player Notes:

--LG Pete Kendall (left hamstring) started and played the whole game after being inactive for two straight games.

--RB Cedric Houston had 12 carries for 49 yards, the most by a Jet in a game this season. However, he suffered what appeared to be a serious injury to his left knee when he was hit by Indianapolis DE Dwight Freeney on second-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the third quarter. He was walking under his own power after the game.

--RB Derrick Blaylock was inactive for the second consecutive game, although he is not injured. Blaylock had 43 rushing yards on 25 carries in the first two games of the season.

--CB-KR Justin Miller was not on the field for Indianapolis' final kickoff, despite the fact that he had returned the previous one 103 yards for a touchdown. He said after the game that he was "healthy."

--RB Leon Washington continues to see more action on offense. He had nine carries for 33 yards and one reception for 8 yards.

--WR-QB Brad Smith took a direct snap from the shotgun formation in the first quarter and ran for eight yards, converting a third-and-2 at the Jets' 12-yard line. QB Chad Pennington lined up at WR on the play.


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

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