Looking Back At Week Twelve: Win 27-24 vs Jacksonville
The Bills defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars despite allowing a season-high 207 yards rushing.
It's doubtful they'll be as lucky if they give up that many yards on the ground to the San Diego Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson when Buffalo tries to keep its suddenly red-hot playoff hopes alive this week at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills defense gave up an 11-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to the Jaguars that tied Sunday's game 24-24 with :28 left. Quarterback David Garrard, who converted a fourth-and-14 play with a 16-yard scramble that caught Buffalo's defense off-guard, threw a three-yard pass to Matt Jones for the tying score.
But just as he did a week ago at Houston, Bills quarterback J.P. Losman -- working with just 22 seconds -- calmly led his team to the game-winning score on the final possession of the game. This time it was a four-play rally to set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 42-yard field goal as time expired.
The big play was a 30-yard pass completion to wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, who made a dazzling tiptoe reception at the Jaguars' 24-yard line. The play withstood a replay challenge and set up Lindell's winning kick, his first walk-off field goal as a Bill. Two weeks ago, Lindell missed a fourth-quarter field goal in a 17-16 loss to then unbeaten Indianapolis.
"They're all big kicks to me," Lindell said. "To me, kicks in the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter are kind of disguised as game-winners."
The Bills (5-6) have suddenly transformed themselves into winners. They are 3-1 since their bye and have won back-to-back games for the first time under coach Dick Jauron. They have matched their win total from a year ago and find themselves among nine teams in the AFC wild-card chase with five games to play. Jacksonville (6-5) is among the teams ahead of them in the standings but now Buffalo holds a tie-breaker edge.
A win over the Chargers (9-2) would surely revive Buffalo's playoff fever. Buffalo hasn't been to the playoffs in six seasons. Despite that drought, the Jaguars game was just the second in the past 29 games not to sell out.
"You've got to think that these are our playoff games and we need to keep winning but why not talk about us?" punter Brian Moorman said. "There's no reason people shouldn't be talking about us."
The Bills have climbed out of a 2-5 hole thanks to just enough offense and some dazzling defense and special teams play.
On Sunday, Parrish also scored on an 82-yard punt return. Despite its struggles against the run, the defense collected three sacks and allowed Jacksonville to convert just one of 11 third downs.
The offense, meanwhile, got a lift with the return of Willis McGahee, who missed two games with three broken ribs. He gained 63 yards on 12 carries and scored twice on runs of four and 30 yards against the Jaguars' No. 3 defense.
"We're a really, really tight team and we don't need other players to come in here to make it work," Losman said. "It was us. We did it to ourselves (falling into a 2-5 hole), and we're pulling ourselves out of it and it feels good."
Losman has every right to feel good about his personal game.
Rolling to his left on a broken play, he fired a bullet to Price on the game-winning drive. Price's catch at the sideline against cornerback Scott Starks left players and coaches in awe, it was that good.
"That was a huge play, certainly one of the best I've ever seen," coach Dick Jauron said.
--QB J.P. Losman led his team to victory on the final drive for a second consecutive week, firing a 30-yard completion to Roscoe Parrish that set up Rian Lindell's winning field goal. For the first time this year, he was not sacked, and finished 21 of 28 for 169 yards with one interception.
--WR Lee Evans caught five passes for 58 yards but his biggest contribution was drawing a 43-yard pass interference penalty to set up a field goal.
--RB Willis McGahee, who missed two games with broken ribs, returned to the lineup and scored two touchdowns on runs of four and 30 yards. This 30-yard scoring run tied a career-long set in 2004 against Seattle. He finished with 63 yards on 12 carries.
--WR/PR Roscoe Parrish, whose 82-yard touchdown was third longest in Bills history, established a club record with 104 yards in punt returns.
--RB Anthony Thomas twisted an ankle while rushing four times for zero yards. He did catch three passes for 13.
--SS Matt Bowen, who broke his foot in training camp, made his debut for the Bills on special teams. He signed as a free agent from Washington.
Looking Back At Week Twelve: Win 27-10 at Detroit
The Dolphins haven't needed Ronnie Brown to win their past two games, but that doesn't mean the injured running back's presence won't be sorely missed as Miami (5-6) tries to keep its faint playoff hopes alive.
Brown is expected to miss at least Sunday's home game against Jacksonville because of a fractured left hand suffered in last Thursday's 27-10 victory over Detroit. Brown underwent surgery the following day to repair a fracture in his second metacarpal, which is located at the base of the thumb and index finger.
"It may be several weeks before (Brown) gets back, but we don't know that and nobody knows that right now because it's a combination of two things," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said of his left-handed running back. "It's going to be a medical decision relative to him healing and how we can protect him so that he doesn't have further issues with his hand.
"Running back is not an easy position to play when you don't have use of one of your hands. It's different than some of the other positions might be. That's something we'll have to address."
The Dolphins hope Sammy Morris can serve as a short-term fix, with Travis Minor as his backup, until Brown returns. Morris is coming off a season-high 91-yard rushing effort in relief of Brown against Detroit thanks to a career-best 55-yard carry. Morris, though, has lost two fumbles in limited touches this season since missing the first four contests while serving a suspension under the NFL's steroid policy.
Saban feels positively enough about Morris that he didn't make a roster move to try and replace 2005 backup Ricky Williams, who was suspended in April for the 2006 campaign after a fourth violation of the NFL's drug policy.
"Sammy's done a nice job," Saban said. "Sammy had a very good game in this game. We have a lot of faith, trust and confidence in him. I feel the same way about Travis Minor."
Morris and Minor aren't in the same class as Brown, who leads Miami with 783 yards and five touchdowns. But Saban sounds like he will be extra cautious in his handling of Brown's return even though his team will need to mount an effective rushing attack if Miami is to legitimately contend for a postseason berth.
"If you're a running back, you use your hands every play," Saban said. You could say, 'Well, he could carry the ball in the other hand.' But how is he going to ward people off? It's just a difficult circumstance for his position and this is going to have to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis based on the healing process relative to how we can protect his hand.
"We're going to do all of the research that we can medically to see how we bring those two things together. But we're not going to put him at risk of injury just to get him on the field, that's for sure."
--RB Ronnie Brown is out for Sunday's game at Jacksonville and potentially longer after undergoing surgery Friday to repair a fractured hand. Brown was injured in the third quarter of Thursday's 27-10 victory over Detroit.
--RB Sammy Morris is expected to make his first start of the season Sunday against Jacksonville. Morris would be replacing Ronnie Brown, who suffered a fractured hand in last Thursday's 27-10 victory over Detroit.
--RB Patrick Cobbs could get promoted from the practice squad with starter Ronnie Brown (hand) sidelined for at least Sunday's game against Jacksonville. Cobbs was signed to Miami's practice squad after his release by New England.
--CB Michael Lehan underwent surgery Friday to repair a broken nose that has sidelined him for portions of the last two games. Dolphins coach Nick Saban said Lehan should be able to practice leading into Sunday's game against Jacksonville.
--LG Jeno James could return to the starting lineup Sunday against Jacksonville. James has missed the past two games following arthroscopic knee surgery.
Looking Back At Week Twelve: Win 17-13 vs Chicago
Patriots Late Season Success Continues
The New England Patriots victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday -- as ugly as it was -- continued the team's post holiday success. The Patriots have the best record in the NFL following Thanksgiving, and the win over Chicago added to that mark. While Bill Belichick won't talk about the past, it's a well-known fact that when the weather turns, Tom Brady and crew dial things up another notch.
--CB Antwain Spann was re-signed to the New England practice squad Nov. 24. The cornerback has now spent two stints on the Patriots' active roster and three tours on the team's practice squad this season.
--RB Patrick Pass was activated from PUP to the 53-man active roster for the Bears game. Pass missed the first 10 games of the year with a toe injury.
--S Eugene Wilson missed his fourth consecutive game and sixth in the last seven with a lingering hamstring injury.
--S Rodney Harrison missed his third straight game with a right shoulder injury that's expected to sideline the defensive captain until at least late December.
--DB Chad Scott missed his first game of the season with a groin injury. Fortunately for New England cornerback Asante Samuel returned to the lineup after missing a week with a knee injury. Samuel then went on to have a career day with three interceptions of Bears quarterback Rex Grossman in the 17-13 win.
--WR/DB Troy Brown continued to fill out New England's nickel back role against the Bears as injuries continue to limit the team's depth in the secondary.
--LB Junior Seau left the win over the Bears in the second quarter with a right arm injury and his arm in a brace. He did not return and it appears unlikely he'll be able to play again this season.
--RT Ryan O'Callaghan left the game against Chicago with a neck injury and did not return. His status moving forward is unknown.
Looking Back At Week Twelve: Win 26-11 vs Texans
Call this one a breathtaking victory for the Jets. And one that also assured they still have a playoff pulse.
Despite having the wind knocked out of him during a scary moment in the third quarter, Chad Pennington threw for 286 yards and one touchdown as the Jets defeated Houston, 26-11, at Giants Stadium. The Jets (6-5) stayed afloat in the wild-card race, one game behind both Kansas City and Denver, each of which are 7-4.
Both Cincinnati and Jacksonville are also 6-5, but the Jaguars hold the tie-breaker over the Jets because of a 41-0 victory over them in October.
Of course, don't expect coach Eric Mangini to bring up what he has referred to as the "P-word," as in playoffs.
When asked if he might start looking at other teams' records and schedules, he responded flatly, "No. Really, it's about what we do. The most important thing is (what) we do and not the things that other people do."
So don't expect Mangini to talk about any other game but the Jets' next game, which will be at Green Bay this week. They will have a healthy Pennington ready to start that game, although for a frightening moment in the third quarter that didn't appear to be the case.
Houston rookie defensive end Mario Williams beat fellow rookie D'Brickashaw Ferguson with a swim move, and bore in on Pennington. The quarterback was able to release the ball for a 4-yard completion to Jerricho Cotchery and a first down. But Pennington was writhing on the ground after Williams landed on him.
Of course, the 76,596 in attendance probably thought that Pennington's right shoulder had been injured again.
"That was my suspicion, to be honest," left guard Pete Kendall said.
Fortunately for the Jets, it was incorrect. Pennington only had the wind knocked out of him.
"My arm was caught up underneath me," Pennington said, "and that's what knocked the wind out of me. I thought I wasn't going to make it. ... It feels like you're going to die."
But Pennington finally caught his breath and as he walked off the field, he pumped his right fist to let the crowd know he was okay.
His arm certainly was sound, as he rebounded from a subpar day against Chicago by passing for 286 yards and one touchdown, despite the Jets being limited to 27 yards on the ground.
The Jets took a 9-3 halftime lead on three Mike Nugent field goals, including a career-long 54-yarder. Pennington then directed a 91-yard touchdown drive on the Jets' opening possession of the second half, capped by his 12-yard touchdown to Laveranues Coles on an audible.
"It's just the next step," Pennington said of the Green Bay game. "I think we realize that it's still one game at a time. ... So we've got another big-time game coming up. Really, later in the season every game is huge in this league. But that's what makes it exciting."
Exciting and breathtaking, too.
--QB Patrick Ramsey took his first regular-season snap as a Jet when he replaced Chad Pennington after the starter had the wind knocked out of him in the third quarter. Ramsey threw a long incompletion, intended for Laveranues Coles.
--K Mike Nugent connected on all four of his field-goal attempts, and his 54-yarder in the second quarter was the longest of his two-year pro career. His longest previous field goal was 49 yards. He also hit from 23, 34 and 40 yards Sunday.
--WR-RB-QB Brad Smith had one touch Sunday, a 10-yard loss on a pitchout from Chad Pennington in the second quarter.
--CB Andre Dyson made his 11th consecutive start at left corner despite being limited in practice all week because of a neck injury suffered against Chicago. He had seven solo tackles.
--CB Hank Poteat made his first start with the Jets in his fifth game with the team. He became the fourth different Jets starter at right corner this season, along with David Barrett, Justin Miller and Drew Coleman.