AFC East: 2011 Week 11 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 34, Chiefs 3

November, 21, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 34-3 win over the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: The Patriots didn’t play their best first half, but the difference in talent between the teams -- specifically the difference between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tyler Palko -- started to show about midway through the second quarter. The Patriots improve to 7-3, tied for the best record in the AFC with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston.

Gronkowski makes case as NFL’s best tight end: Rob Gronkowski delivered a 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, and followed it up with a 19-yard touchdown in which he lunged into the end zone and landed awkwardly on his neck. The second-year tight end popped back up to deliver one of his patented spikes and remained in the game. His four-catch, 96-yard performance, which reflects the impact he’s had on a weekly basis, sparks a discussion on where he ranks among the league’s best tight ends.

Good defense or a bad Chiefs offense? That figures to be a question asked around New England after this performance. The defense continued to deliver in the red zone, and for that, the unit certainly deserves credit. At the same time, Palko provided some gifts with his shaky accuracy, with cornerback Phillip Adams' fourth-quarter end-zone interception one example, as the throw was into triple coverage. From this view, it was a mix of both -- some good defense, but shaky quarterback play also helped the cause.

Injury to Light bears watching: Starting left tackle Matt Light left the game with 5:47 remaining when he had his right leg rolled up on from behind. He needed help coming off the field. The Patriots had other players banged up, but all of them except for Light returned to the game. This is the big injury situation to watch for the Patriots.

Edelman provides a spark on defense and special teams: Third-year receiver Julian Edelman was one of the Patriots’ players of the game, dazzling with a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter, and also contributing as a defensive back in the Patriots’ dime (six defensive backs). Edelman ended up playing in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- in a Troy Brown-like performance.

Meet the NFL’s league leader in interceptions: Cornerback Kyle Arrington picked up his sixth and seventh interceptions of the season. Both came on passes that popped into the air when Chiefs pass-catchers couldn’t corral them. Arrington isn’t a big name in NFL circles, but he’s been in the right spot at the right time this season and taken advantage of his opportunities. He’s been one of the Patriots’ most consistent players on defense this season.

Quiet night for Welker: The Chiefs did a great job limiting receiver Wes Welker, who didn’t catch a pass until just less than six minutes to play in the game. This led the Patriots to their other weapons on offense, starting with Gronkowski.

Another chapter in Cannon’s comeback story: Rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon saw his first NFL action, coming onto the field for the Patriots’ final drive at right tackle. Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before April’s NFL draft and slipped to the fifth round. He writes another chapter in his inspirational story tonight.

What’s next: The Patriots travel to Philadelphia to face the 4-6 Eagles, who are coming off a Sunday night win over the Giants behind backup quarterback Vince Young. The Chiefs (4-6) return home to face the Steelers.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 35, Bills 8

November, 20, 2011

MIAMI -- Here are some initial thoughts on the Dolphins' 35-8 victory over the Buffalo Bills:

What it means: The wheels have come off for the Bills, who are sitting at .500 for the first time this season. They also lost their third consecutive game in blowout fashion. Buffalo has been outscored 109-26 the past three weeks. Despite all of their struggles, the Bills remain in the hunt for the final wild-card spot but have to get really hot down the stretch. That doesn't appear likely. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have won three in a row and are playing their best football of the season. Miami is finally playing to the potential many expected at the beginning of the season.

Moore is the man: Miami backup-turned-starting quarterback Matt Moore is playing very efficient football. Moore completed 14 of 20 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't make any mistakes and took advantage of what the defense gave him. Moore is now 3-3 as a starter for Miami. Is he the Dolphins' long-term solution at quarterback?

Questions for Fitzpatrick: Just as the Bills have gone in the dumps, so has starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had his third consecutive bad game for the Bills. He completed 20 of 39 passes for 209 yards and two interceptions. To Fitzpatrick's credit, his receivers didn't help much. Both of his interceptions were on dropped balls. But Fitzpatrick, who is the face of the franchise after signing a recent $59 million contract extension, has failed to carry his team through a tough stretch.

Injuries aplenty: Not only did Buffalo suffer an embarrassing loss, the team added injury to the insult. Starting running back Fred Jackson was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. Neither did starting receiver Donald Jones, who was carted off the field following an ankle injury.

What's next: The Bills will remain on the road and play another big division game against the New York Jets. This is most likely a playoff eliminator for the loser of that game. Miami will return to the field on a short week to play Thursday in a Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys.