AFC East: 2013 Week 9 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: New York Jets

November, 3, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 26-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Jets (5-4) stamped themselves as one of the NFL's biggest surprises, staging a monster upset one week after a 40-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. How can you explain this team? They're 5-0 in odd weeks, ranging from sensational to awful on a week-to-week basis. Now it can be said: They're a legitimate wild-card contender. Why not? In the watered-down AFC, anything is possible. As for the Ryan Bowl, Rex won for the third straight time, handing his twin brother Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator, another bitter defeat.

Stock watch: Statistically, it was a dog-ugly game for Geno Smith (8-for-19, 115 yards), but the rookie quarterback learned a valuable lesson about game management. On this day, the Jets needed him to do one thing -- protect the ball -- and he did that. He had no turnovers for only the second time in nine games. He got away with a couple of bad throws, but it was no harm, no foul. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg got too conservative late in the game, and it nearly cost them.

The ex-Saint goes marching: Jets running back Chris Ivory, traded by the Saints last offseason for a fourth-round pick, delivered a loud statement to his old team. Facing the Saints' vulnerable run defense (4.8 yards per carry before Sunday), Ivory rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts. He's known as a tenacious downhill runner, but he flashed impressive speed on the edge, breaking three long runs. Clearly, he's faster than people realize. The Jets attacked the Saints with a creative running scheme that featured read-option plays and the Wildcat, including a pass completion by Josh Cribbs out of the Wildcat.

Welcome back, defense: After a horrible outing last week, the Jets responded with perhaps their best defensive effort of the season. They sacked Drew Brees only twice, but they generated consistent pressure on him and intercepted him twice -- one by linebacker DeMario Davis and another by cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who allowed a big play and a touchdown. It helped that wide receiver Marques Colston (knee) didn't play, and running back Darren Sproles (concussion) left in the first quarter. Injuries notwithstanding, it was impressive defense.

The castoffs: The Jets played without their top receiver (Santonio Holmes) and their top two tight ends (Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow), and they lost wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (elbow) in the second quarter, leaving a patchwork group of targets. Greg Salas. Zach Sudfeld. David Nelson. Cribbs. Who are these guys? Not one of them began the season on the Jets' roster, yet they managed to combine for seven catches for 128 yards.

What's ahead: The Jets get a bye in Week 10.

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

November, 3, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: This unfolded just as expected. The Bills, starting undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel, committed two critical errors -- an interception and a fumble, both returned for touchdowns -- that were the difference in the game. The Chiefs, although outgained by the Bills 470 yards to 210, did not turn the ball over. In what was hardly a marquee quarterback matchup, veteran Alex Smith (74.5 passer rating) outplayed Tuel (52.2).

Spiller provides spark: What a difference a week off makes. Running back C.J. Spiller, after resting a high-ankle sprain, rushed 12 times for 116 yards, while adding another 39 yards on two catches. Spiller had a 29-yard run in the second quarter and a 61-yard run to open the second half, doing his part to kick-start an offense dealing with inconsistent quarterback play. He's still not 100 percent, though, so his action was limited.

Stock watch: Rising: pass protection. It wasn't enough to overcome the Bills' offensive miscues, but it's worth noting that the Bills did not allow Tuel to be sacked in this game. In their previous three games, the Bills had allowed 13 sacks, the most in the NFL. For Tuel's 39 pass attempts in this contest, zero sacks is a solid performance. The Chiefs boast two of the NFL's best pass-rushers -- Tamba Hali and Justin Houston -- and neither could get to Tuel.

Woods injured: Rookie receiver Robert Woods injured his leg diving for a deep pass in the third quarter and did not return. He appeared to land hard on his knee, and eventually limped to the locker room. Despite the injury, Woods finished as the Bills' second-leading receiver, with four catches for 44 yards.

What's next: After dropping their second straight game, falling to 3-6 and remaining in fourth place in the AFC East, the Bills travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday. The combined record of Buffalo's next six opponents entering Sunday: 12-33.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 31, 2013

MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 22-20 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

What it means: The Dolphins (4-4) climb back to .500 at the midpoint of their season. The game was won on a safety in overtime by defensive end Cameron Wake, who had three sacks in the game. Miami also snapped a four-game losing streak by beating a solid Bengals team (6-3). The Dolphins showed flashes of what they can be when everyone is on the same page. Miami suffered through a lot of issues behind the scenes during the week but held the team together to pick up its best win since Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts. This was a gritty overtime win that might be the game that can energize the Dolphins' season.

Stock watch: Besides Wake, who was the star of the game, Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes also stepped up big. Opponents often have thrown away from Grimes. But the Bengals were not afraid to test him, and they paid for it in the third quarter when Grimes returned an interception 94 yards for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown of Grimes’ career. Miami's defense picked off Dalton three times in the game.

The stock down goes to the second half and overtime for Miami’s offense, which went cold after intermission and allowed the Bengals to get back in the game and force overtime. Miami’s defense was on the field most of the third and fourth quarters. The Dolphins also couldn't get anything going offensively in overtime. Miami's defense scored a touchdown in the third quarter and the game-winning safety in overtime.

Injury wire: The Dolphins lost three key players in this game. Starting guard Richie Incognito suffered a neck injury in the first quarter and didn’t return to the game. Miami starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson also got injured late in the fourth quarter. Backup cornerback Nolan Carroll suffered a concussion in the second quarter and did not return.

What’s next: The Dolphins will host the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) on Nov. 11 on “Monday Night Football.” Miami will get 11 days to prepare for this game. This is perhaps the most winnable game of the season for the Dolphins.