Looking Back At Week Six
The Bills Great Lakes Tour has come to an end. And none too soon for Terrence McGee.
The team's dynamic cornerback/kick return specialist had consecutive rough outings in losses at Chicago and Detroit as Buffalo lost twice.
The Bills (2-4), who come home to host the bye-rested New England Patriots (4-1) on Sunday, lost by the divergent margins of 33 and 3 points to the Bears and Lions, respectively, but both were humiliating in their own way.
The Bears were unbeaten and the Lions were winless, but both put up big offensive numbers on Buffalo's defense while harassing quarterback J.P. Losman into costly sacks and turnovers.
McGee was among the many players looking to bounce back after a long day against Chicago, where he gave up four catches for 97 yards and a touchdown to Bernard Berrian in a 40-7 loss.
But while he was able to set up a Bills field goal with a season-long 72-yard kickoff return before halftime, McGee was the main target of Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna and wide receiver Roy Williams, who teamed up for ten pass completions, 161 yards and a 28-yard touchdown in Detroit's 20-17 win at Ford Field to give rookie coach Rod Marinelli his first win.
Williams had seven catches for 99 yards in the first half alone, using his 6-3 frame to his advantage against the 5-8 McGee. McGee made his share of plays (four pass breakups, seven tackles), but it's evident that opponents want to test him more than they want to test Nate Clements on the other side.
"I can't explain it," McGee said. "They did a good job today. He hurt us, but we also had our opportunities to make plays. When we had those chances, we didn't make them and that just gave him more chances."
Williams, coming off a back injury and missing two days of practice attending to a family issue, made a startling revelation that he didn't even watch tape of the Bills.
"I knew nothing about this team," he said after setting personal highs for catches and yards. "I just came out here and did well."
So did running back Kevin Jones, who became the second individual to top 100 yards on Buffalo's weakening defense. Jones, who gained 52 yards on the game's second play, finished with 127 yards and a touchdown on a strong seven-yard carry on 23 carries overall, a tidy 5.5 average.
Run defense remained a huge problem for the Bills, despite the return of Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes from a hamstring injury that cost him four games after Achilles' tendon surgery wiped out most of last season.
"They made big plays," Spikes said. "A lot of it was giving them credit, but at times, without seeing the film, we had missed tackles. We need to find out where the breakdowns occurred and correct them."
The Bills don't have time to sulk. A loss to the Patriots could drop them into a very deep hole heading into their bye break.
Team confidence is an issue, some players admitted.
"It's a tough loss all the way around," wide receiver Lee Evans said. "It's hard to put it into words. It's one that we'll really have to dig deep to come back from and with New England coming up, the road to recovery had better be quick."
In the first half alone, the Bills were out-gained 253-57 but trailed just 17-10 thanks to a 44-yard touchdown pass from Losman to Roscoe Parrish on a broken play and McGee's kickoff return that set up Rian Lindell's 53-yard field goal.
A promising third-quarter drive by Buffalo to the Lions' 29-yard line ended with a Losman fumble after a sack by James Hall, who had 3.5 on the day. That set up another Jason Hanson field goal and a 20-10 Lions' lead.
Losman responded with a nine-play, 74-yard drive, going six for six and hitting tight end Ryan Neufeld for a four-yard touchdown. But after rookie Ko Simpson intercepted Kitna with 7:20 left, Buffalo was forced to punt after yet another sack and a hurried incompletion by Losman on third down.
Kitna and the Lions were then able to chew all but nine seconds of the final 4:04. The key play was Jones converting a third-and-five play when he took a screen pass, juked Kiwaukee Thomas to the ground, and picked up nine yards to seal it.
--QB J.P. Losman went 21 of 34 for 207 yards, two TDs and one interception in Sunday's 20-17 loss to Detroit. He was sacked five times, fumbling once. He's committed five turnovers in two games.
--RB Willis McGahee was knocked woozy in the first half and battled through sore ribs to finish with 66 yards on 17 carries against a Lions' defense that was ranked 14th against the run. His longest run was 21 yards.
--WR Lee Evans led the way again with eight catches for 82 yards but most of his work was done in the fourth quarter, too late to make a difference.
--CB/PK Terrence McGee had a season-long 72-yard kickoff return at the end of the first half to set up a field goal.
--OG Chris Villarrial returned to action after missing one game with a tendon injury in his right ankle.
--LB Takeo Spikes, who missed four games with a hamstring injury, return to the lineup at Detroit and finished with four tackles. He said he felt fine afterwards but lacked the explosiveness he said he should get back in time.
--C Melvin Fowler suffered a thigh injury. His status will be updated on Wednesday.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, who caught a pretty 44-yard TD pass, injured his hamstring and sat out most of the second half.
--LB Josh Stamer, a key special teams player, sprained his knee.
Looking Back At Week Six
Before the season, it wasn't a stretch to guess that one of the teams in Sunday's Miami-Green Bay game will have only one victory.
Only everyone expected that team would be the Packers.
Instead, both Miami and Green Bay enter with just one win apiece after the Dolphins dropped to 1-5 following Sunday's 20-17 road loss to the New York Jets.
"It's embarrassing to be in the position we're in now," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said.
The Dolphins may remain stuck in the AFC East basement unless they are able to correct ongoing mistakes against a Packers team that enters Sunday's game 1-4 following a bye.
Among Miami mistakes against the Jets were three turnovers, including a fumble by backup running back Sammy Morris that led to a New York touchdown, and at least a half-dozen dropped passes. And even though the Dolphins almost rallied from a 20-3 deficit, the game ended in fitting fashion when kicker Olindo Mare's 51-yard field goal attempt fell short with 33 seconds remaining.
"We've got to be responsible for the holes we dig along the way," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "Our emphasis going into this game was execution. For the first three quarters of the game, we didn't get the kind of execution we needed. And I'm not just talking on offense. We gave up two big plays on defense in the second half. We didn't get any turnovers. We turned it over three times. We had numerous penalties that affected field position in the game, especially on special teams. We had some dropped balls. We did our share of mis-executing, which was a real focus in trying to get the probable result we all want, which is to win."
The Dolphins are hoping to carry the momentum generated for much of the fourth quarter against the Jets into the Packers game. Joey Harrington passed for 199 fourth-quarter yards with one touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Chambers, while running back Ronnie Brown had a one-yard touchdown plunge as part of a 127-yard rushing effort.
"The first three quarters, we made mistakes to stop ourselves," said Harrington, who is expected to make his third start of the season against Green Bay in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper (knee). "Whether it was drops, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, the same things we have done all year to ourselves ... In the fourth quarter, we didn't do that. We moved the ball."
Universally projected as a playoff team during the preseason, the Dolphins may now need other motivation with the postseason a pipe dream, especially considering the second part of Miami's schedule is considered more difficult than the first.
"It's going to be hard, but that's our reality right now," Dolphins center Rex Hadnot said. "We can't look at 1-5 right now. We have to look at our next opponent."
Said Chambers: "We just have to get over the hump and get a win. That's the most important thing. We have a game next week and then a bye after that, so hopefully we can fix something."
--RG L.J. Shelton made his first start at the position Sunday against the New York Jets after switching starting spots with new LT Damion McIntosh. Shelton was signed to a four-year, $15 million contract in the offseason to replace McIntosh but wasn't overly impressive in Miami's first five games.
--LT Damion McIntosh is back starting at his former position after switching spots with new RG L.J. Shelton for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. A starter in 2004 and 2005, McIntosh entered the preseason as a backup but was pushed into action at right guard the previous two games.
--CB Andre' Goodman, who started in place of the injured Travis Daniels (knee), suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of Sunday's 20-17 loss to the New York Jets and didn't return. Dolphins coach Nick Saban said he wasn't immediately aware of Goodman's medical status after the game.
--CB Eddie Jackson received extensive second-half playing time after Andre' Goodman (shoulder) was injured during Sunday's 20-17 loss to the New York Jets. Jackson was beaten on a 58-yard touchdown catch by Jets WR Laveranues Coles and dropped an interception that he easily could have returned for a touchdown.
--WR Derek Hagan received the most extensive playing time of his rookie season in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the New York Jets with Marty Booker (chest) sidelined. Hagan had six catches for 66 yards but dropped three passes, including a would-be touchdown.
Looking Back At Week Six
--CB Ellis Hobbs played in the slot against Miami after returning from wrist surgery. It's going to be interesting to see if the Patriots keep him there in the coming weeks because Chad Scott has done very well on the outside since replacing Hobbs in the starting lineup.
--RB Corey Dillon played sparingly against the Dolphins after having some success early on in the game. A sore shoulder has bothered Dillon this season, so hopefully he'll be able to take on a bigger load after getting a week of rest.
--P Josh Miller limped to the locker just before kickoff in Cincinnati, accompanied by a trainer. He returned and punted against the Bengals and Dolphins but had his two worst performances of the year. After the Miami game, the Patriots signed P Dan Baugher to the practice squad. There's a possibility that if Miller is still injured after the bye week, Baugher could be the Patriots' punter in Buffalo.
--The team needs more production from OLBs Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin. So far this season, the two have combined for only 1.5 sacks. After Vrabel played inside linebacker last year, the Patriots wanted to move him back outside this season because they believe that's where he's the most productive. Neither Vrabel nor Colvin has played particularly well this season, and the team could really use their pass rush coming off the edge.
--WR Chad Jackson got his first start against the Dolphins, although he didn't record a reception. If Jackson's hamstring is finally healthy, look for him and Doug Gabriel to emerge as the starting receivers as the season goes on, with Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney also contributing when the team goes to multiple receiver sets.
Looking Back At Week Six
By the end of the game, it had been overshadowed by the Jets' second-half offensive fireworks. It also had been pushed into the background by the Miami comeback that fell short, as did Olindo Mare's attempted game-tying 51-yard field goal with 28 seconds left. That miss sealed the Jets' 20-17 victory over Miami.
But the fact remains that the Jets now have failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first quarter in their last 20 games. Quarterbacks have changed, running backs have changed, heck, the head coach and the general manager have changed, but this problem remains. They'll try once again to solve it when they host Detroit (1-5) on Sunday.
At least against the Dolphins (1-5), the Jets (3-3) did manage a nine-play, 36-yard drive for a 33-yard field goal by Mike Nugent and a 3-0 lead 5:27 into the game. But that's not what they're really looking for, and they know it.
In fact, the Jets had only 86 of their 272 yards of total offense before halftime.
"We didn't execute very well on first and second downs," quarterback Chad Pennington said, "and when you do that you find yourself in third-and-long situations. With (Miami's) pass rush and their defense, you're not going to be very successful with third-and-longs. You have to be in more third-and-medium, third-and-short situations to have a better chance. Then you can catch it and run for the first down, (or) you've got the running game. You've got all kinds of options."
The Jets were 1-for-7 (14.3 percent) on third downs in the first half, and improved somewhat to 3-for-6 (50 percent) in the second half. Pennington's point was correct, as the shortest third-down situation the Jets faced in the first half was a third-and-5, which they converted on Pennington's 16-yard pass to tight end Chris Baker. That was part of the field-goal drive.
Because of that three-pointer, the Jets now have been outscored 35-3 in the first quarter in 2006. Detroit has been outscored 40-30 in opening periods in its six games, so maybe the Jets will finally get that elusive touchdown.
They got two in the second half against Miami, both on great individual efforts by wide receiver Laveranues Coles. First, his fake to the inside caused defender Eddie Jackson to stumble, freeing a wide-open Coles for a 58-yard scoring reception from Pennington, giving the Jets a 13-3 third-quarter lead.
Coles added a 22-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, this time out-leaping Travares Tillman for a jump ball in the right side of the end zone. That gave the Jets a 20-3 lead with 13:15 to go.
Miami then scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives of 81 and 74 yards, and Ronnie Brown's 1-yard run with 2:56 to go closed the Dolphins' deficit to 20-17. The Jets then went three-and-out, and Miami drove from its 11 to the New York 32. But Joey Harrington threw incomplete to Derek Hagan on third-and-2, and Mare's 51-yard field-goal attempt landed in the middle of the end zone.
--RB Leon Washington got his first start after his 101-yard game against Jacksonville. He rushed for 58 yards on 11 carries overall, and had 55 yards on nine carries in the second half.
--RB Kevan Barlow didn't start, but had 13 carries for 45 yards. He got the bulk of the work in the first half, while Washington got most of it in the second half.
--RB Cedric Houston (knee) was inactive for the second straight game after being limited in practice during the week.
--RB Derrick Blaylock was active, but had no touches and played exclusively on special teams for the second consecutive game.
--WR Laveranues Coles had five receptions for 106 yards, his first 100-yard game since having back-to-back ones the first two weeks of the season.