- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are four things we learned about the AFC East during Sunday's games:
No. 1: Patriots' tempo is lightning fast
The New England Patriots are playing at a very quick pace on offense. After scoring 52 points last week, the Patriots' high-powered offense was stellar again in a 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos. New England (3-2) has thrown caution to the wind the past two weeks and gone up-tempo on offense for a majority of the game. Denver's defense didn’t have an answer. The Broncos were on their heels the entire game and quarterback Peyton Manning couldn't keep pace. New England registered 444 yards and 35 first downs. Is this a permanent fixture for the Patriots? With New England, you never know. This could be game specific or something we see the rest of the year. Either way, opponents must prepare for New England’s no-huddle. The Patriots have shown they are capable of using it for parts or all of the game.
No. 2: Patriots' running game is legit
Last week's two 100-yard rushers was not a fluke for New England. The Patriots put together another tremendous rushing performance against Denver. Starting running back Stevan Ridley rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown. Backups Brandon Bolden (54 yards) and Danny Woodhead (47 yards) also ran well. New England's up-tempo style is contributing to the improved rushing lanes. But New England’s three-headed monster at tailback deserves a lot of credit for taking advantage of its opportunities. Ridley needs to hold onto the football, though. Ridley had fumble issues last season and put the ball on the ground again in the fourth quarter against Denver.
No. 3: Dolphins are a headache to play
The Miami Dolphins are rebuilding this year. But they are playing very hard every week and it finally resulted in a victory Sunday. The Dolphins beat the Cincinnati Bengals 17-13 on the road to improve to 2-3. Miami is below .500 but proving to be a tough team to play. The Dolphins are the type of team no one likes to face. They have a physical defense, an improving offense and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is getting better. Two overtime losses may have Dolphins fans wondering what could have been. But it appears the Dolphins are learning from their late-game mistakes. Miami has a chance to get to .500 when they it hosts the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 14.
No. 4: Bills are in a dangerous spot
Bills coach Chan Gailey challenged his team’s toughness leading into Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Buffalo did not respond, dropping a 45-3 decision to San Francisco. It was the second consecutive blowout for Buffalo. Now, the Bills (2-3) are in a dangerous spot. Buffalo will play the Cardinals (3-1), Tennessee Titans (1-4), Houston Texans (4-0) and Patriots (3-2) over the next four games. The Bills look like a defeated team right now. This is gut-check time for Buffalo to determine which direction its 2012 season will go, and right now it doesn't look good.