AFC East: 2011 Week 14 coverage
December, 11, 2011
Here are some thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 37-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills:
What it means: The Bills continue to fall apart after suffering their sixth straight defeat. Buffalo is 5-8 and needs this season to end soon. The Bills had a chance to finish with a winning record after their fast start. But the team secured its seventh straight non-winning season with Sunday's blowout loss to San Diego.
What I liked: Buffalo receiver Steve Johnson had a big game. He caught four passes for 116 yards. It was Johnson's first 100-yard receiving game this season, but it didn't make much of an impact. Buffalo's offense was held scoreless in the first half and never had a chance in this game.
What I didn't like: Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had an awful performance. Fitzpatrick is very streaky and was 13 of 34 for 176 yards and an interception. Buffalo's franchise quarterback has failed to lift the Bills out of their funk. The defense didn't do much better. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns, and Buffalo allowed Chargers tailback Ryan Mathews to rush for 114 yards.
Road woes: Buffalo is now 1-6 on the road. The Bills' only win away from Ralph Wilson Stadium was in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
What’s next: The Bills will host the Miami Dolphins in a rematch from Week 11. Miami won the first meeting, 35-8.
December, 11, 2011
Here are some thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 26-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins:
What it means: There wasn't anything at stake in terms of playoff implications. But with the loss, the Dolphins (4-9) are guaranteed their third consecutive losing season under embattled head coach Tony Sparano. The Dolphins were playing well under Sparano for the past month. But laying an egg at home doesn't help his already slim chances of returning next season.
What I liked: Dolphins veteran defensive end Jason Taylor did have his best game of the season with a pair of sacks. Miami starting tailback Reggie Bush also rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries. Other than that, there wasn't much to like from Miami's perspective.
What I didn’t like: This looked like the 0-7 Miami team from the first half of the season. The defense suddenly lost its way against Philadelphia and the offense turned over the football. Miami was playing too well to get blown out at home by a team with a similar record. The effort just wasn't there. The Dolphins didn't show up and fell behind 24-7 at halftime. I expected more from the Dolphins, especially at home.
Injuries galore: The Dolphins suffered some big injuries. Starting quarterback Matt Moore (head), left tackle Jake Long (back) and cornerback Vontae Davis (neck) were all knocked out of the game. Miami will have a tough time winning without these players going forward. We will keep an eye on these injuries next week.
What’s next: The Dolphins will travel to play the Buffalo Bills in an AFC East battle. Miami won the first meeting convincingly, 35-8, in Week 11 at Sun Life Stadium.
December, 11, 2011
By Mike Reiss | ESPN.com
LANDOVER, Md. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 34-27 win over the Redskins:
What it means: The Patriots improve to 10-3 and keep pace in the race for the AFC's top playoff seed. It took linebacker Jerod Mayo's interception with 22 seconds left to seal the win. The Patriots looked to be in control but a Tom Brady interception in the end zone with 6:30 to play in the fourth quarter -- when the Patriots had a chance to go up by at least 10 -- gave the Redskins a chance for a late comeback. After the Redskins drove the field, Mayo came up with the big pick near the goal line. This was a long game, filled with penalties and stoppages. The third team on the field, Jeff Triplette’s officiating crew, made its presence felt.
Sideline argument with Brady and O’Brien: After Brady's interception in the fourth quarter, there was a heated exchange between Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. The two had to be separated. They later cooled down, but that sideline exchange -- not often seen in New England -- reflected some of the Patriots' frustrations on the day.
Gronkowski breaks TD record for TEs: Tight end Rob Gronkowski set the NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with his 14th. The TD came with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter, with Gronkowski on the receiving end of an 11-yard strike from Brady. After the score, Gronkowski spiked the ball with force as he does after each TD, then humorously waited for the ball to come down so he could retrieve it. Gronkowski added a 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the third quarter, shaking off one-on-one coverage from linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. After that score, he spiked the ball and leaped into the crowd.
More on Gronkowski’s big day: Gronkowski eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the season, becoming just the second tight end in team history to do so and the 29th tight end in NFL history. Expect to see the highlight of Gronkowski’s 49-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter often as Redskins were bouncing off him and he kept his balance up the right sideline. He’s a beast.
What has happened to Devin McCourty? Cornerback Devin McCourty, the team’s 2010 first-round draft choice, had a tough first half. He was beaten for a touchdown, called for pass interference to extend a drive, and was in coverage on a deep long ball to Donte Stallworth. The first-half struggles highlighted what has been a seasonlong trend with McCourty, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. McCourty did have two big pass breakups in the second half, which perhaps will be the spark he needs to turn the corner.
Defense struggles, but does enough in fourth: One week after giving up 21 points to the Colts in the fourth quarter, the Patriots' defense played a better final 15 minutes. It's a unit that struggled for most of the day, but when a final stop was needed, it delivered. This is the type of game that reinforces the thought that if the Patriots are to win a championship, they're going to have to rely mostly on their offense.
What’s next: The Patriots visit the Broncos in Denver on Sunday, Dec. 18, while the Redskins travel to face the Giants that day.
December, 11, 2011
Here are some early thoughts on the New York Jets' 37-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs:
What it means: After back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks, the Jets (8-5) finally got an easy game. New York jumped to a 28-3 lead at halftime and cruised the rest of the way. It was the third straight win for the Jets and keeps them in the thick of the AFC wild-card chase. New York played like it couldn't afford to lose this game.
Gang Greene: Jets starting running back Shonn Greene is playing his best football of the season. Greene rushed for a season-high 129 yards and a touchdown. He also added another 58 yards receiving. Greene has four touchdowns the past two weeks. Sunday also marked his second 100-yard game this season.
Defense batters Palko: As expected, New York's blitzing defense battered and confused Kansas City quarterback Tyler Palko. The Jets held Palko to just 195 yards passing and one touchdown pass. New York also registered six sacks and one pick. Palko had just 11 yards passing in the first half and picked up most of his yards in garbage time.
Leonhard hurts knee: The Jets suffered a big injury in their secondary when starting safety Jim Leonhard twisted his right knee in the second quarter. Leonhard needed help off the field and never returned. He will be further evaluated this week and could be out for an extended period.
Getting help: The Jets got the big help they needed in the wild-card chase. The Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) suffered a last-second 20-19 loss to the Houston Texans (10-3) to give up the sixth seed in the AFC. The Jets don't hold any tiebreakers among playoff hopefuls in the conference and need to continue winning.
What's next: The Jets continue their string of must-win games in the final month of the season. New York will travel to play the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.