AFC East: 2013 Week 1 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Jets 18, Buccaneers 17

September, 8, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Quick takeaways on the New York Jets' 18-17 season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Jets lost the game and they won it, all in the final 76 seconds. Capitalizing on a stupid late-hit penalty on Bucs LB Lavonte David in the final seconds, the Jets stole the game with a 48-yard field goal by Nick Folk with two seconds left. David's penalty, hitting Geno Smith out of bounds, put Folk in field goal range. Moments earlier, a missed tackle by Jets S Dawan Landry set up a go-ahead field goal by the Bucs. Yes, the Jets got lucky. But lucky ain't bad in the NFL. Get ready: There will be a lot of close games this season because the Jets' defense will keep them competitive.

Stock watch: Smith was up. And down. And up. You get the picture. It was a typical rookie performance. Smith committed two turnovers in the first half (a fumble and an interception), but he kept his composure and finished 24-of-38 for 256 yards and a touchdown. He gave the Jets a 15-14 lead in the fourth quarter, executing a nice drive that included a few big screen passes, and his late scramble set up Folk's game-winning field goal. The moment wasn't too big for the rookie, who gave the Jets hope and something to build around.

No ground-and-pound: New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has instilled a pass-first mentality; that has to change. The Jets won't win many games by rushing for 90 yards on 29 carries, hardly the ideal way to support a rookie quarterback. Chris Ivory was a nonfactor in his Jets debut, and he lived down to his reputation as a poor receiver with a key drop. They tried to mix it up, using Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, but they couldn't establish much against the Bucs, who owned the league's top-ranked rush defense last season.

Defense owns Freeman, Martin: Rex Ryan predicted a top-five defense this season. If the Jets could face the Bucs every week, he'd probably turn out to be correct. Other than Landry's missed tackle, they confused QB Josh Freeman by changing fronts, showing some 4-3 looks, and they contained RB Doug Martin better than anyone could've imagined. They held Martin to 64 total yards, keeping him off the edges as a runner and receiver. The Bucs' only success came on blitz-beating slants to Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, who beat Antonio Cromartie for a couple of big plays. Rookie CB Dee Milliner settled down after a shaky start, which included a 17-yard touchdown catch by Williams. The Jets could've used ... uh, Darrelle Revis.

What's next: The Jets have a quick turnaround, as they face the Patriots on Thursday night in Foxborough. The Jets have dropped four straight in the series, including a 49-19 laugher last Thanksgiving -- the night of the Butt Fumble.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 23, Browns 10

September, 8, 2013
CLEVELAND -- Some thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 23-10 victory against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium:

What it means: The Dolphins improved to 1-0 and won their regular-season opener for the first time since 2010. This victory was key, because Miami has a brutal four-game stretch upcoming. Sunday's victory wasn't perfect by any means. But Miami left Cleveland with a win and is now tied for first place in the AFC East. The Browns fell to 1-14 in season openers since 1999.

Stock Watch: Former Brown Dimitri Patterson was motivated to play well, and he did. The Dolphins cornerback got two interceptions off Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first half. Patterson injured his groin in the second half and didn’t finish the game. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake also had four tackles and 2.5 sacks. Wake got the best of Browns second-year offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz throughout the game. Schwartz also allowed a sack to Wake’s backup, Derrick Shelby.

The arrow is pointing down for Miami running back Lamar Miller and the offensive line. In his first game as a full-time starter, Miller rushed for just 1 yard on nine carries. Part of the reason was Miami’s offensive line, which struggled. The Dolphins allowed four sacks of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and didn’t provide many rushing lanes.

Turnover battle: Miami’s defense did a solid job of forcing turnovers. The Dolphins got three interceptions in the first half off Weeden. Creating turnovers has been a huge focus for Miami’s defense this offseason, and the work showed in Week 1. Miami won the turnover battle by a 3-to-1 margin.

Tannehill to Hartline: Tannehill and receiver Brian Hartline had solid chemistry dating back to last season. Hartline led Miami in receiving last season and did so again in Week 1 against Cleveland. Hartline recorded nine receptions for 114 yards and a 34-yard touchdown that put Miami ahead for good in the second half.

What's next: The Dolphins will have their second consecutive road game next Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Miami has three of its first four games on the road.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Bills 21

September, 8, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Rapid reaction from the Buffalo Bills' season-opening loss to the New England Patriots:

What it means: The Bills were one defensive stop from coming away with just their second win against the Patriots since 2004. After making some key stops on defense early in the game, the Bills' defense couldn't hold on in the last minute, allowing the Patriots to gain a first down on third-and-8. That set up Stephen Gostkowski's winning field goal. It was an encouraging performance by Buffalo, which was able to capitalize on two key turnovers by the Patriots to put itself in a position to win, but it ultimately wasn't enough.

Stock watch: Rising -- EJ Manuel. Against a division opponent that has had his team's number in recent seasons, Manuel never seemed overwhelmed by the pressure of the game. It wasn't the prettiest performance by Manuel in his NFL debut, but it was nearly enough to get the Bills the win. Manuel was nearly intercepted twice in the first half and had other throws come in off-target. He was most effective against the Patriots in the red zone, lofting touchdown passes to Robert Woods and then Steve Johnson. He finished 18-for-27 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Spiller shut down: After praising Bills running back C.J. Spiller all week, the Patriots appeared to make stopping Spiller their priority. The Bills turned to Spiller as both a runner and receiver early in the game, but New England did not allow him to be a factor. Spiller finished with 41 yards on 17 carries. As the game progressed, the Bills turned to Fred Jackson, who was more effective against the Patriots' defense. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry.

Penalties problematic: Penalties were a major problem in the preseason for the Bills -- they led the NFL in flags through the first two preseason games -- and they cropped up again at key moments Sunday. Buffalo was called for 10 accepted penalties yet was still able to put itself in a position to win. The Bills won't be so lucky in future games if the penalty problems continue.

What's next: The Bills (0-1) remain at home for Week 2, squaring off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Sept. 15. They do not face the Patriots again until the final week of the regular season.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Bills 21

September, 8, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- My thoughts on the New England Patriots' 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

What it means: The Patriots escape. In a game that was much tougher than many anticipated, Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal with five seconds left was the game winner. It was a struggle for the Patriots, but when they needed it most, they came through with a clutch final drive. The Patriots have now won 10 straight season openers.

Amendola sensational; his groin injury in focus: Fair or not, if there is a knock on receiver Danny Amendola, it’s his availability. So when he left the game late in the second quarter with a groin injury, some might have been quick to say, “Told you so.” But Amendola returned at the start of the third quarter and turned in a sensational overall performance; much like Wes Welker in his time with the Patriots, when the Patriots needed a first down, he was on the receiving end. Amendola was part of the two-receiver package before his injury, and only the three-receiver package after the injury. So his status bears watching.

Stock watch: Falling: running back Stevan Ridley. His fumble in the second quarter, which was recovered and returned 74 yards for a touchdown by safety Da'Norris Searcy, was a game-changing play. The Patriots led 10-0 at the time. Ridley didn’t play an offensive snap the rest of the game, with LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen assuming the duties at running back.

Growing pains for offense: This was not the explosive offense we have come to expect from the Patriots. One of the biggest offseason questions facing the team was how all the new faces would impact the offense, and this was a tough start for the unit. Some growing pains were expected, and they came to life.

Defense does its part: Outside of a breakdown at the end of the second quarter on a Robert Woods' touchdown catch, the Patriots’ defense mostly did its part. With seven of the Bills’ points coming on a 74-yard fumble return, and another seven coming after the Bills had a short field following an interception, the unit mostly did its part.

What’s next: The Patriots have a quick turnaround by hosting the New York Jets on Thursday night. Patriots Hall of Famer and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi will be honored at halftime.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22