Around the AFC East: Week 7 Review
By NFL Scout Staff
The Bills defense entered the season talking about becoming one of the NFL's "elite" units.
After an embarrassing 38-17 loss at Oakland on Sunday, the Bills defense will settle for merely being average. Right now, the unit isn't even that.
Buffalo's season-long inability to stop the run was not resolved against a desperate one-win Raiders team that entered the game determined to get LaMont Jordan on track and succeeded in overwhelming fashion.
Jordan, who finished with 122 yards on 28 carries, scored on runs of 1, 17 and 7 yards, and backup Zack Crockett chipped in 33 yards and a 2-yard TD run on just seven carries. Jordan became the sixth running back to top 100 yards on Buffalo in the past 10 games. The Bills had allowed only five such performances during a previous stretch of 31 games.
Most alarming for Buffalo on Sunday was how Oakland hogged the ball for 13:31 of the fourth quarter thanks to two long touchdown drives that put the game away after the Bills had drawn to within 24-17.
On the Raiders' final drive, good for 69 yards, they ran the ball on 14 of 15 plays. On the day, the Bills gave up 12 rushing first downs.
"We recognize the enemy (us) and haven't been able to do anything about it," Bills coach Mike Mularkey said of his team, which ranked 30th against the run entering the game. "We've got to get better. Whether it's looking at different personnel ... we've just got to get better because it's happened consistently against us, and we've got to stop it."
The Bills (3-4) were looking to take over first place in the AFC East over idle New England, but instead lost their third road game of the year. They now travel to New England, where the rested Patriots (3-3) have dominated Buffalo in recent seasons.
Buffalo's team is designed to control the ball on offense and rely on solid defense and special teams. But if the defense, missing Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes (torn Achilles), has indeed slipped several notches due to injury and age, the offense will have to pick up the slack.
That didn't happen at Oakland, where running back Willis McGahee was held to 50 yards on 16 carries and quarterback Kelly Holcomb never attacked downfield and seemed incapable of mounting a comeback. He threw for two short touchdowns but averaged only 8.4 yards per completion. Holcomb was sacked three times and lost a fumble.
"The line of scrimmage, we lost it (against Oakland) on both sides," Mularkey said.
A 9-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Holcomb to Josh Reed early in the fourth quarter drew the Bills to within a touchdown of the Raiders at 24-17.
But Oakland responded with two clock-killing touchdown drives consuming 6:04 and 7:27, and the Raiders finished off a 38-17 win at McAfee Coliseum.
For the seventh straight time, the Bills won the coin toss, and for the sixth time in seven games, they took the opening drive to a score. Holcomb capped that 14-play, 82-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring pass to Lee Evans in the back of the end zone.
The Raiders took a 10-7 lead on a 25-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal and a 22-yard TD pass from Kerry Collins to Randy Moss. The Bills were then denied a go-ahead touchdown when fullback Daimon Shelton was stuffed for no gain by linebacker Kirk Morrison on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Bills were able to force a Raiders punt and gain good field position to set up Rian Lindell's 41-yard field goal on their next possession.
But the Raiders closed the half with a 1-yard LaMont Jordan touchdown run and opened the second with a 17-yard Jordan TD to take a commanding lead.
--QB Kelly Holcomb lost for the first time
in three starts for the Bills when Buffalo fell 38-17 at Oakland. Holcomb was
19-for-27 and threw for two short touchdowns without an interception. But he averaged
just 8.4 yards per completion and was no threat to lead a comeback.
--RB Willis McGahee, who ran the ball a total of 60 times in Buffalo's two previous games, both victories, had just 16 carries for 50 yards in Sunday's loss at Oakland. In Buffalo's three road defeats, he has averaged 15 carries for 56 yards (3.7 average).
--KR/CB Terrence McGee, the NFL's No. 1-ranked return specialist, had a 57-yard return against Oakland and fell just 2 yards shy of his fourth 100-yard return game of the season. He injured his right leg while making a tackle on defense, but was able to return to the game.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, Buffalo's top draft pick who broke his right wrist in training camp, made his debut in Sunday's loss at Oakland. Parrish returned one punt for 10 yards and played a few downs on offense, but no passes were thrown his way.
--WR Josh Reed had four catches for 31 yards and a nifty 9-yard touchdown in Sunday's loss at Oakland. He deked two defenders along the sideline, kept his balance and crossed the goal line.
--WR Lee Evans, who led all rookies with nine TD catches a year ago, caught his first of 2005, a 5-yarder in Sunday's loss at Oakland. Evans finished with three catches for 19 yards.
--PK Rian Lindell nailed a 41-yard field goal in Sunday's loss at Oakland, making him 6-for-7 from 40 yards or longer this season. He entered the season 4-for-12 from distance in his first two seasons with Buffalo.
--RT Mike Williams, who missed three starts with an ankle injury, injured his ankle again in Sunday's loss at Oakland. He was able to return to the game but was hobbled throughout the second half. His status will be updated Wednesday.
The Dolphins don't necessarily have a full-fledged quarterback controversy, but Gus Frerotte's time as a starter may be drawing to a close if he doesn't begin to play better starting with Sunday's game against New Orleans in Baton Rouge, La.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban had the chance to give Frerotte a vote of confidence following a dismal performance in last Friday's 30-20 loss to Kansas City. Instead, Saban didn't close the door on the possibility of backup Sage Rosenfels getting the nod against the Saints.
Rosenfels threw only one pass against the Chiefs, but it was a 77-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Chris Chambers after the game's outcome already was decided. In comparison, Frerotte completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the fourth time in the past five games in an 11-of-29 outing for 129 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
"I haven't thought about it yet," Saban said when asked about whether Rosenfels had a chance to unseat Frerotte for the Saints game. "I mean, (Rosenfels) made one pass. I'm not here to say we're disappointed in Gus. I'm not here to say we're satisfied with Gus. I'm sure Gus is not satisfied with himself. But I am here to say we're here to help both guys get better and improve, and we'll make the decisions based on what's best for our offensive team to get better.
"I don't think it's just that position. I think there are other issues that create a problem for that position in terms of how we execute together as a group. I think it would be very unfair to put it on that position when the things are not being done well enough around him."
Frerotte, though, didn't try to defend his performance against a Chiefs team that entered with the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense.
"I missed some throws, and it is just like we are out of sync," said Frerotte, who bested the now-departed A.J. Feeley for the starting spot during the preseason. "We had a great week of practice and we get in the game and for me personally, it felt like it fell apart a little bit, whether it was that they played a good defense or we have to make better throws, whatever it is. We are getting to that point."
The offense's struggles were compounded by Miami's defense turning in its worst performance of the season. The Dolphins allowed season highs in rushing (185) and passing (277) yards as Kansas City controlled time of possession for a whopping 41:40 in a 30-20 win at Miami.
Part of the problem may be the impact of injuries to several starters. Strong-side linebacker Junior Seau (calf) was declared inactive for his second consecutive game and was joined on the sideline after in-game injuries hit strong safety Tebucky Jones (pectoral muscle) and cornerback Sam Madison (hip pointer).
"They did wear us out," Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas said. "You have to give credit to the Chiefs. They have a good offense and we gave them some things, including myself. ... You could tell the energy wasn't there for us, and you can't play football without a spark. There was nothing there."
--SLB Junior Seau (calf) was declared
inactive for his second consecutive game in a 30-20 loss to Kansas City, but he
is likely to return for Sunday's matchup against New Orleans in Baton Rouge, La.
--SLB Donnie Spragan started against Kansas City in place of the injured Junior Seau (calf) for a second consecutive game and again finished with six tackles, although he was sealed by FB Tony Richardson on a 5-yard Priest Holmes touchdown run in the first quarter.
--DE Jason Taylor played against Kansas City despite a foot injury that had sidelined him for two practices. Taylor had seven tackles and one pass defensed.
--SS Tebucky Jones suffered a season-ending right pectoral injury against Kansas City. Jones, who underwent surgery Sunday to repair a tear, will be replaced by Travares Tillman.
--SS Travares Tillman is expected to enter the starting lineup after Tebucky Jones (pectoral) was injured against Kansas City. Tillman received a $600,000 signing bonus as part of a two-year contract he signed in the offseason, but he failed to hold onto a starting spot at free safety during training camp.
--WR Marty Booker suffered a sprained ankle against Kansas City. Dolphins coach Nick Saban said X-rays taken on Booker's ankle were negative but was uncertain of his availability for the Saints game.
--CB Sam Madison was sidelined for two-plus quarters against Kansas City because of a hip pointer. Madison's availability for the Saints game wasn't immediately known.
Linebacker Eric Barton, who was averaging eight tackles per game before missing three games with a high ankle sprain, is scheduled to return to the Jets after Monday's game -- a nice lift to a strong defensive unit that was coming off a rough showing against the Bills two games ago.
Not to knock Barton, but the Jets linebacking corps hadn't skipped much of a beat with third-year player Mark Brown subbing for him.
Brown, who made the Jets out of training camp in 2003 as an undrafted free agent, totaled 23 tackles in the three games Barton sat out, including a career-high 11 against Baltimore in Week 4.
"I feel decent. I feel that I went in and there wasn't a let-up when I went in," Brown said. "I feel good about it. I feel comfortable."
While Brown was victimized by the Bills' running game just like everyone else, he came though in a big way with an interception and an 18-yard return to the Buffalo 2 that led to a Jets touchdown.
"He did well," Barton said of his sub. "He made a huge play last week to get us back in the game. Mark is a good player."
Brown also started the final six games last season replacing Victor Hobson on the other side and is also listed as Jonathan Vilma's primary backup at middle linebacker.
"When we first watched him in college, we knew he was an athletic guy who could make plays. We liked his ability to play in space," coach Herman Edwards said. "We always felt that that he was getting better and better, so we liked him from the beginning. (He's) become a pretty great player for us, a good sub guy that really can play all three (linebacker) positions."
--WR Wayne Chrebet has been
missing in the Jets offense lately but says he's content in his role as the third
receiver. A few years ago, Chrebet was outspoken with his distaste for former
coordinator Paul Hackett's offense.
--C Kevin Mawae is still one of the best centers in the NFL, and certainly one of the most athletic, but because he's out for the season with a torn triceps and turns 35 next year, the team will consider parting ways with him before next season.
--QB Jay Fiedler may be less than a month away from returning from a rotator cuff injury that's kept him out the last month. There's a good chance he could be inserted as the starter, depending on how well Vinny Testaverde performs.
--S Oliver Celestin will likely miss another week with a sprained ligament in his knee.
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