Looking Back At Week Thirteen: Loss 27-24 vs San Diego
Coach Dick Jauron is normally a mild-mannered man. And even though he never lost his cool with referee Ed Hochuli during Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Chargers at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Jauron was more animated than usual.
What was unusual was that the Bills were whistled for a season-low-tying two penalties.
"It seemed like I spent a good team of time talking to Ed (Sunday)," said Jauron after his team saw its two-game winning streak snapped and its wild-card playoff hopes all but dashed. "When you're on the losing end of it, it's hard to keep perspective. You always feel like you're getting the wrong end of the call. My experience has generally been that when you take time and review it, like most games, some of them went your way and some of them didn't. It was a long day."
The Bills' handling of timeouts and their clock management came under scrutiny after the loss, which dropped their record to 5-7 with four games to play.
With 1:04 to play in the first half, Buffalo punted from its own 11-yard line after failing to pick up a third-and-5.
But there was still 20 seconds on the play clock when punter Brian Moorman put his foot into the ball. And after Eric Parker's fair catch at the Buffalo 43-yard line, the Chargers had great field position and 54 seconds to work with. They promptly drove to a touchdown with 24 seconds to play that gave them a commanding 17-0 lead.
Why not run more time off the clock before punting or take a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty in that situation?
Jauron said it was the result of him asking Hochuli why a measurement was taken after Willis McGahee was stopped well short of the first-down marker on the previous play and the coaching staff failing to instruct Buffalo's punt team to use the whole play clock.
"They decided to measure on fourth down, and it stopped the clocked and saved them a timeout," Jauron said. "I was trying to get a reason for that because it wasn't very close. It was close to a full yard. (Meanwhile), our punt team was out there and we couldn't get to them to tell them to run that whole clock down. That's it."
Nothing said the players couldn't use their own heads in that situation.
Meanwhile, the Bills may have set some sort of team record by burning through all three of their second-half timeouts on the same series to start the fourth quarter.
At 13:19, they used one to avoid a delay-of-game call just before the play clock was set to expire.
But at 11:56, after Peerless Price caught a pass along the sidelines that was ruled incomplete because the heel of one foot was on the line, a Buffalo player called a timeout. Knowing he was risking his final timeout, Jauron then asked that the play be reviewed. When it was upheld, Buffalo lost its third and final timeout at 11:49.
Had Buffalo recovered an onside kick with 30 seconds to play, not having any timeouts in a three-point loss would have magnified the above sequence of timeout follies.
"I thought there was doubt that the toe hit and there was a pause, then the heel came down, just enough to take the chance at that point," Jauron said. "The players did it (called the second timeout) on the field and probably should have. The play clock was down to one second. If it's a continuous motion, then it's out of bounds. If the toe hits and there is a slight pause, however you want to judge it, and then the heel comes down, that's a catch."
Hochuli didn't see it that way. The Bills punted and the Chargers took the ensuing possession and drove 80 yards in 13 plays, chewing up 8:06 on what would prove to be the decisive drive.
--Despite giving up some big plays to San Diego TE Antonio Gates, Bills rookie SS Donte Whitner said he was "just glad I had the opportunity to play against him." Said Whitner: "It's a tough challenge. He's like a wide receiver out there. There are plenty of other tight ends in this league with the same skills he has, but they utilize him more on that team. He's a great player."
--Buffalo's run defense sank a little lower after giving up 178 yards and two TDs on 28 carries to MVP candidate LaDainian Tomlinson. One of his TD runs was good for 51 yards. He also had gains of 22 and 16 yards, passing the 100-yard mark with nine minutes left in the first half. It was Tomlinson's sixth consecutive 100-yard game, and he's just two shy of Shaun Alexander's single-season NFL record of 28 touchdowns. "I can't think of anybody that is playing better than him right now," Bills DT Larry Tripplett said. "He had that one big run. That was kind of the game plan: Don't give him that big run. But he's good and he was able to get it done."
--QB J.P. Losman on the loss that snapped Buffalo's two-game win streak: "The coaches, the players, this organization, we think we're headed in the right direction. It's up to us. The players are the ones who are going to have to tweak it a little bit on the field. Things aren't going to be black and white like we draw it up, so we're working on all of those little things right now. We're moving in that direction, but there are still a lot of things we need to do."
--OLB Angelo Crowell, who is second on the team in tackles, broke a bone in his lower leg against the Chargers and is likely out for the season. Coach Dick Jauron said Monday that Crowell was kicked by a player during the game's first defensive series. He likely will go on season-ending injured reserve. "It's tough for him and tough for us," Jauron said. "We're very disappointed about it, but as we know, the game is very rough. Everybody loses players, and it gives somebody else the opportunity to step up and perform." SS Coy Wire, who played linebacker in college, took Crowell's place in the lineup Sunday since normal backup Keith Ellison was coming off two missed weeks with a knee injury. Jauron left his options open on who would start Sunday against the Jets.
--WR Lee Evans, who had been on a roll with 16 catches the previous two weeks, was held to five for just 45 yards by the Chargers. With 925 yards, he's still on pace to easily top 1,000 yards for the year.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, the hero of last week's win over Jacksonville, was held to three catches for 33 yards with a fumble. The NFL's punt return leader entering the game had just one return for 6 yards in the windy conditions.
--RB Willis McGahee, who was held to 26 yards in Sunday's loss to San Diego, needs to average 83 yards per game in the season's final four games to reach 1,000 yards. He scored once, giving him four TDs on the year. Just two seasons ago, McGahee found the end zone 13 times, but he has just nine TDs combined over the past two years.
--DE Aaron Schobel has 9.5 sacks as he closes in on his third double-digit sack season. He played a strong game Sunday against San Diego with four tackles, a sack, two QB hits, a forced fumble and a tipped pass.
Looking Back At Week Thirteen: Loss 24-10 vs Jacksonville
Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga isn't happy about his team's 5-7 record, but he isn't upset at coach Nick Saban.
"It's been disappointing, let's face it," Huizenga said while attending a luncheon at which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was the guest speaker. "We all got enthused and excited for the last four games, and they really played great, but we didn't do such a good job (Sunday). It was a little disappointing. I don't think I'm speaking out of school.
"I'm completely sold on Nick Saban, and I'll be the first to admit that I made a mistake if we did make a mistake. But I firmly believe in Nick and his approach."
When Saban was told of Huizenga's comments, he agreed that he, too, was bothered by Sunday's 24-10 loss that realistically ended the Dolphins' chances of mounting a playoff run.
"I'm disappointed in the season, too," Saban said. "I feel the same way he does. I think a lot of players are probably disappointed as well. But I think the team has handled the negatives, and it says a lot about the team to come back and win the four games that we won. We stubbed our toe and lost a game, let's see how we come back and finish the season."
Saban, who on Sunday vehemently dismissed a new set of rumors that said he was going to interview for the Alabama coaching vacancy, reiterated his commitment to rebuilding the Dolphins.
"We came here because it was a challenge here to try to rebuild this franchise and rebuild this organization to being successful, a consistent winner, taking it from where it was to where it used to be," Saban said. "I think that's what everybody is trying to accomplish.
"We're going to try to make improvements as we go, in season as we play, out of season as we have an opportunity to make personnel additions or whatever. That's our commitment. That's our goal."
--DE Jason Taylor notched 1.5 sacks Sunday, giving him 10.5 on the season, marking the fifth time of his 10-year career that he's reached a double-digit sack total. He has 103 career sacks, moving him past Jim Jeffcoat (102.5) into 19th on the all-time list. "We controlled our own destiny. If we are out of the playoff race now, then that is our fault, but it doesn't mean we are going to stop going," Taylor said.
--WR Chris Chambers set season highs with eight catches for 121 yards, nearly doubling his previous season high of 66 yards. It's the 15th 100-yard game of his career but first since Dec. 11, 2005, a span of 14 games. "We had a great game plan; we knew exactly where we wanted to attack. We moved down the field and made some plays, but it wasn't enough today," Chambers said.
--DT Vonnie Holliday had half-sack Sunday, marking his fourth consecutive game with at least a part of a sack. Holliday has 6.5 sacks, his most since 2001, when he had seven with the Packers.
--QB Daunte Culpepper is on non-weight-bearing crutches for a few days this week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome right knee last Thursday. Coach Nick Saban said when a pain-free Culpepper is able to restart his rehabilitation next week, he anticipates "accelerated progress."
--DE Jason Taylor, who sustained a right forearm injury just before halftime, returned in the second half. On Monday, coach Nick Saban said he expects Taylor to play Sunday against the Patriots.--RB Sammy Morris, who sustained a sprained ankle in the first qua
rter Sunday, returned to gain 47 yards on 12 carries, including a 17-yard run. He said he'd be fine for Sunday.
--RB Ronnie Brown, who missed his first game of the season Sunday while recuperating from hand surgery, will know more about his playing status after consulting with his doctor Tuesday.
--LG Jeno James, who has missed the past three games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, is making progress.
--LB Keith Adams was coach Nick Saban's special teams player of the week. He had one tackle.
--CB Will Allen, who returned Sunday after missing one game with a groin injury, was repeatedly beaten by 6-foot-6 WR Matt Jones. Allen did recover a fumble by Jones, his second recovery of the season and the third of his five-year career.
Looking Back At Week Thirteen: Win 28-21 vs Lions
The Patriots were supposed to easily tame the toothless Lions on Sunday, but after an emotional win against the Bears the previous week, New England struggled early on in this game. Luckily for the Patriots, they woke up in time to stage a fourth-quarter comeback and move to 9-3 on the season after a 28-21 win.
The difference in this game, as it is in most games, was Tom Brady. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 305 yards. Most important, the Pro Bowl quarterback was flawless in the fourth quarter while leading New England to 15 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes of the game.
"Did we always feel we could (come back)? Yes," Brady said. "Anytime there is time left on the clock, we think we can. For so much of that game, we just didn't play with much energy or enthusiasm. That's why it was so close. We fought through it. The defense stepped up when we needed them to. We were just fortunate to make some plays there at the end."
The majority of Brady's completions went to Reche Caldwell and Kevin Faulk, who had eight catches each. Caldwell racked up 112 yards and once again made crucial receptions to keep drives alive. It's obvious that the former Charger is not only on his way to having a career year, but that he's Brady's No. 1 target.
"I think I'm getting more comfortable and Tom is getting a little bit more comfortable in me," Caldwell said. "He is throwing me a lot of passes, and I'm catching them. We are out there making plays."
The offense didn't do it all by itself, however. The Patriots defense bent, but when it came to crunch time, it didn't break. New England caused five turnovers -- three in the fourth quarter -- and had five sacks on Lions quarterback Jon Kitna. The Patriots have now caused nine turnovers in the past two weeks and have 27 takeaways on the season. They only had 18 all of last year. The Lions had success moving the ball on New England for most of the day, but the defense really stepped up in the fourth quarter when it had to.
"There wasn't a lot of emotion all day long," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "It felt like at times we were picking each other up and had to get going, but there are going to be games like that. We were able to play smart at the right times. We're fortunate (Mike) Vrabel came up with two interceptions at the end there and our offense got in the end zone when it needed to and also got the two-point conversion. Overall, we made the plays when we needed to make them, and that's the most important thing."
After surviving against Detroit, the Patriots will now head down to Miami. The Dolphins are just 5-7 on the season, but New England has had its troubles in the Sunshine State over the years. The Patriots are just 10-30 all-time there and will need to play much better than they did this Sunday if they plan on improving that record this week.
--The Patriots forced five Detroit turnovers, raising their season total to 27 takeaways. Last season the Patriots only totaled 18 takeaways all year. New England has now recorded nine takeaways in the past two weeks.
"That was a point of emphasis to get the ball out during the week of practice and even out there on the field," DE Ty Warren said. "Even if we didn't get it out, guys were trying to strip it out or whatever the case may be. We came up with something when we needed it, so that was a good thing."
--"Anytime you go on the road and into a hostile environment, it's difficult. Anytime we line up to play another team, we feel that they are going to bring their 'A' game, and that's what they did today. They came out there and tried to give their best effort, and I think they did. We were fortunate to make some plays here and there, but it's unacceptable for us to go out there and play like we did." -- LB Rosevelt Colvin on struggling to beat the 2-10 Lions.
--"Anyone who has seen them play realizes it is a no-brainer. Florida is not very good. I watched that game last night, and that other quarterback completed like three passes the week before. They have 18 guys out there throwing passes out there for Arkansas." -- QB Tom Brady on why Michigan should be in the national championship game against Ohio State.
--WR Reche Caldwell totaled 112 yards on eight receptions against the Lions, setting a single-game career high for receiving yards. His previous career high was 110 yards, achieved with San Diego in a game against Tennessee on Oct. 3, 2004. Caldwell became the first Patriots player to exceed the 100-yard receiving mark this season. The 100-yard game was the second of Caldwell's career. Caldwell ranks second on the team with a career-high 46 receptions and a career-high 574 receiving yards this season.
"Yes, I think I am getting more confident each week and Tom is having confidence in me because he is throwing me a lot of passes," Caldwell said. "It develops in practice and in the meeting room. It is being on the same page, running good routes, catching the football and knowing that he can depend on me. I just go out and work hard and I try to be the best I can be for this team."
--With his 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, RB Corey Dillon became the 15th player in NFL history to exceed 11,000 career rushing yards. Following that run, Dillon had recorded exactly 11,000 career yards. Dillon's 11,004 career yards rank 15th on the NFL's all-time list. He needs 232 more yards to catch O.J. Simpson (11,236) for 14th place and needs 350 more yards to catch John Riggins (11,352) for 13th place.
--QB Tom Brady recorded his 23rd career game-winning performance to lead his team to a victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie in a regular-season or playoff game. Against the Lions, New England trailed 21-13 following a Jason Hanson field goal with 13:07 left in the game. Brady proceeded to direct two touchdown drives (which included one two-point conversion) in the game's final 13:07. Brady has now produced two comebacks this season and has achieved the feat in back-to-back weeks, having led New England to a 17-13 victory over Chicago after the game was tied at 10 with 14:46 left in the contest.
--LB Mike Vrabel recorded a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions, marking his first career multiple-interception game. Vrabel's two picks give him a total of 10 career interceptions, including three thefts this season, a career high. Vrabel ranks second on the team to Asante Samuel, who has seven interceptions. Including a pair of forced fumbles, Vrabel now has five takeaways on the season.
Looking Back At Week Twelve: Win 38-10 at Green Bay
The Jets could be embarking on a playoff run over the next few weeks, although coach Eric Mangini certainly won't talk about it.
Although he did offer this observation Monday.
"It's something that's out there, and when you're playing football in December, it's always an issue," Mangini said. "When you're in that (post-season) mix, it's difficult. You're aware of it, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't win the games that you have to play, and that's what I've seen over and over again.
"The second you lose sight of what's important, that's when suddenly the playoffs are no longer an issue," Mangini added. "The important thing is the next game, the next opponent, the consistency, and to me it's all about the Buffalo Bills."
The Bills, of course, are the Jets' next opponent.
But although he doesn't usually acknowledge the big picture to reporters, consider that Mangini has taken some steps to make sure the Jets are fresh down the stretch.
He admitted to reporters Monday that he has changed his practice methods recently.
"We've done some different things," Mangini said. "We've pulled off the pads a little bit. We have definitely taken them off a little bit more than we had been."
Mangini's first training camp was generally acknowledged as the toughest one run by a Jets head coach since Al Groh's first-and only-training camp in 2000. From 2001-05, the Jets were treated to what critics called "Club Ed," the somewhat laissez-faire training camps of Herm Edwards.
But while the Jets got off to a 9-4 start in Groh's only year as coach before he bolted for Virginia, they collapsed with an 0-3 finish, costing themselves a playoff berth. Could this season be a repeat? Maybe not, considering that the demanding Mangini has backed off just a bit.
"I think it's important to be able to practice without pads effectively, and that's a learning process just like anything else," Mangini said. "We even talked about that in training camp, where we'd have some days without pads. You need to understand how to get the work done without the pads on.
"And as you do a better job with that the more you can take the pads off, so that you have the balance of being fresh but also still be able to get the fits that you need and the running game and the blitz pickup and those things that usually require more contact."
--RB Kevan Barlow made the trip but was deactivated. It was the first time this season Barlow had been inactive.
"I've never played special teams in my career. Cedric (Houston) had a better opportunity to do both," Barlow said. "It was very frustrating to watch my teammates go out and I couldn't go out there with them."
The Jets were a bit short-handed on special teams with the absence of Tim Dwight, out for the season. Dwight is believed to have suffered a broken foot in practice last week, probably Friday. Cedric Houston got the start at running back. When coach Eric Mangini was asked Monday if Houston would start against Buffalo, he responded, "No, it will be exactly the same this week. All three (running backs) will have a chance, and whoever practices the best will play."
--WR Justin McCareins may have a chance to get more playing time as a wide receiver now that Tim Dwight is on injured reserve with a broken foot.
Brad Smith "has actually been playing between 15 to 20 snaps a game at receiver and Justin has been (getting) maybe a little bit more than that and Tim had been somewhere in that range," Mangini said, "so Tim's snaps will probably go to those two guys. They'll definitely have to get a few more snaps, which is a nice opportunity for them. I think that Wallace (Wright) now has an opportunity, as well. It's right there for him. Whatever he does, he does well. He'll get in the game, too."
Wright was moved up from the practice squad when Dwight was placed on injured reserve.
"It was neat to see him. That's probably the first time since June," Mangold said. "Obviously, the player that A.J. is, he was upset about the game. But he was very complimentary of what we were doing."
--K Mike Nugent, also a Centerville and Ohio State product, made his only field-goal attempt, from 24 yards.
--RB Cedric Houston made his first start of the season, and had 105 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. RB Kevan Barlow was deactivated.
--K Mike Nugent connected on his only field-goal attempt, a 24-yarder on the Jets' opening drive.
--WR Justin McCareins had one reception for 17 yards. McCareins, who volunteered for special-teams duty before the Houston because of his lack of use, has had only seven receptions in the last 10 games but should get more opportunities now that Tim Dwight is out for the season.
--KR-CB Justin Miller had two kickoff returns for 60 yards, including a 45-yarder.
--P Ben Graham had one punt for 51 yards and a 42-yard net.