AFC East: Bills-Dolphins
When the teams flipped the field at the end of the third quarter, Edwards flip-flopped on his recent history of late-game infallibility.
Among Buffalo's first eight plays of the fourth quarter, Edwards threw four incomplete passes, including a tipped interception, carelessly allowed Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter to strip him while stretching for a first down, was sacked and fumbled for a safety.
The Dolphins won 25-16 to muddle the AFC East standings.
The Bills committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"Just watching the tape, it seemed like that once one thing went wrong another thing went wrong, and it just kind of kept going and going," Edwards said Monday at the Bills' facility in Orchard Park, N.Y. "We never stopped the bleeding or could put some points on the board.
"We never could give our defense a rest, and it was just one of those games where the floodgates just opened in the fourth quarter. I've been part of those games before in the past, and it's frustrating to come in the next day to watch the film and you just have to listen to your coaches and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Edwards completed 6 of 13 passes for 83 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a 35.1 fourth-quarter passer rating.
Prior to Sunday he had a 133.5 fourth-quarter passer rating.
"I never see Trent out of sync," Bills running back Marshawn Lynch said after the game. Lynch had only 13 carries, yet gained 61 yards and scored a touchdown. "But they made some good plays. You can't take away from them playing good defense, too.
"I wouldn't put it on Trent. It's a team thing, you know? We've got to come together collectively."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
|Joel Auerbach/US Presswire|
|Miami's Joey Porter is on pace to break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.|
Porter, with an NFL-leading 10.5 sacks, is on pace to break Michael Strahan's record for most in a season. If Porter maintains his pace, he will finish with 24.
Strahan finished 2001 with 22.5 sacks for the New York Giants, a half more than Mark Gastineau had with the New York Jets in 1984. Strahan broke the record when Favre infamously fell down in the season finale.
The Dolphins visit Favre and the New York Jets in the season finale.
The season so far has been vindicating for Porter, who faced criticism after signing a five-year, $32 million contract last year and then finished with only 5.5 sacks. Former Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers couldn't figure out how to use Porter, but new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni hasn't had much trouble.
"I told you, 'If you really watch football and know football you would understand it,' " Porter said Sunday. "But y'all just pen pushers. So all y'all see is 'Joey, 5 1/2 [sacks], that's not good enough.' Now you're understanding the defense and what we're doing out there.
"I told you, you get me in a 3-4 defense, 10 sacks is a given for a good outside linebacker. If you want to consider yourself good, nine or 10 is just what you're supposed to get. It's not even a big deal."
Porter's 10.5 sacks match his career-high set in 2000 and equaled in 2005 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has been to three Pro Bowls and named All Pro once, but you wouldn't have known it by watching him last year.
"I've never really been in a system to where a lot of the defense I'm featured," Porter said. "They put me in position to make some plays. They put me in position to make plays a lot, and I put that on myself to go out and make the plays.
"It's a player-friendly defense, puts me in a lot of opportunities to have one-on-one with the back, one-on-one with the tackle. I'm isolated in a lot of situations. It's on me to win those matchups."
The Dolphins' record for sacks is 18.5 by Bill Stanfill in 1973 and Jason Taylor in 2002.
Porter lined up against Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters on Sunday. Porter beat Peters with an inside move on the sack that forced Trent Edwards to fumble, leading to a crucial fourth-quarter safety.
"He's still a good tackle," Porter said. "Take nothing way from him. He's still in the top three tackles in this game. Today, he was just put in some situations where I had the chance to make some plays on him."
MIAMI -- Reporters lowered their microphones, and the TV cameras went dark as the crowd dispersed from Langston Walker's locker.
But I wanted to ask the Buffalo Bills right tackle one more question about the tightening divisional race.
All of the AFC East teams played at 1 p.m. Sunday. The first-place Bills were the only ones to lose, beaten by the Miami Dolphins, no less, 25-16.
|Steve Mitchell/US Presswire|
|Joey Porter's Dolphins may be in last place in the AFC East, but they are far from out of the race after beating the Bills, 25-16, Sunday.|
"We're still in first place, aren't we?" Walker said as he extended the handle on his rolling suitcase and headed for the door. "End of story."
If only it were that simple.
This thing's just getting started.
The New England Patriots fended off the St. Louis Rams and are now tied with the Bills at 5-2. The New York Jets came back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the final minute to pull within a game of the division leaders.
The Dolphins are 3-4, but have a lot more going for them than most last-place clubs. They're merely two games out of first place. They own the AFC East's best intra-divisional record at 2-1. They were one play away from beating the Jets and the Houston Texans.
"We can be right there, man," said Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who registered two sacks (one which led to a safety), forced a fumble and recovered another. "We can't lose the games we're supposed to win. The games we're supposed to win? This is the first close game that we pulled out.
"We could easily be sitting in a different situation. But it is what it is, and we're 3-4. We could easily be a [5-2] team. We're not supposed to be where we're at at 3-4. But we can't cry over that."
Plenty of time remains. Nine games per team, no less. The Bills, in fact, still have five divisional games left.
Here is a team-by-team look at what's to come:
MIAMI -- The Buffalo Bills finally got their first taste of divisional play Sunday afternoon.
And they choked on it.
The Miami Dolphins tripped up the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills 25-16, renewing possibilities throughout the division.
The Dolphins pounced on an uncharacteristically sloppy performance from Bills quarterback Trent Edwards, who entered the game as the AFC's best fourth-quarter passer.
Buffalo's first three possessions of the fourth quarter ended thusly: Edwards interception, Edwards lost fumble, Edwards tackled for a safety. He finished without a touchdown pass.
The Bills committed four turnovers -- all in the fourth quarter.
Chad Pennington, meanwhile, had his first 300-yard passing game for Miami. He found some magic with Ted Ginn, giving the 2007 first-round draft pick his first career 100-yard game. Ginn made seven catches for 175 yards.
Edwards has been such a brilliant decision-maker all season, especially late in games. He might have cost them here.
On a third-and-one play from the Dolphins' 33-yard line and trailing by four points, Edwards attempted a quarterback sneak for the first down.
Edwards ran into a pileup and extended the ball as if he were trying to score a touchdown. As soon as the ball crosses the goal line, the play is over. Not so on the 33.
Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter merely grabbed the ball out of Edwards' hands to give his team the ball and put them that much closer to victory.But the Bills' defense forced a punt. Edwards is trotting back onto the field. The Bills have the ball on the Dolphins' 3-yard line.
The Miami Dolphins have been going after McGee, who is playing for the first time since getting hurt three weeks ago.
On the game's first play, Chad Pennington threw a gorgeous pass down the right sideline and over McGee for a 46-yard gain. Pennington threw at McGee on the next play for a 6-yard Davone Bess reception. Miami scored a touchdown on the drive.
At the start of Miami's second drive, Ted Ginn Jr. made McGee stop and start a bazillion times before making a 17-yard grab.
Ferguson didn't practice until Friday because of an oblique injury that sidelined him in the first quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, who gained 140 yards on them.
Dolphins receiver Ernest Wilford is inactive for the fourth time despite his four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million guaranteed. He has one catch this season.
As expected, Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is back after missing two games with a sprained knee and is listed as a starter. Starting center Melvin Fowler also will play after missing last week with an elbow injury.
Eight weeks into the season, the Bills finally get to play a divisional game, and the matchup is more significant than it might appear.
Buffalo has been the AFC East's most consistent team, but a loss on Sunday would disrupt the lone constant.
Sunday's outcome will come down to the run game. The Dolphins are concerned about Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, and it doesn't look like they'll have nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who suffered an oblique injury and barely practiced this week.
Miami's success has been dictated by a run-first-pass-when-convenient philosophy. The Baltimore Ravens eliminated Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams last Sunday, and the Dolphins simply don't have any gamebreakers in the passing game to compensate.
The Jets desperately need to win. They emerged from their Week 5 bye with the NFL's most enviable upcoming schedule. They kept the Cincinnati Bengals winless and then had games against the Oakland Raiders, Bills (it looked like a potential showdown for first place at the time) and St. Louis Rams.
The Jets fell to the Raiders in overtime and the Rams aren't the same team they were two weeks ago.
If the Jets want to keep pace in the division, they need to handle the Chiefs, who are having trouble at quarterback and running back and in the front office. A loss would drop the Jets below .500 with only nine games to play.
The Jets have been concentrating more on establishing a ground attack behind Thomas Jones in recent weeks, and Sunday should fall in line.
Kansas City ranks 31st in total defense, dead last in rushing defense and 13th in passing defense because opponents don't throw in the second half.
St. Louis Rams (2-4) at New England Patriots (4-2), 1 p.m. ET
Welcome to the Anybody's Guess Bowl presented by Dow Jones.
The Patriots have experienced wild swings. They haven't won or lost consecutive games since Weeks 1 and 2. They have either scored or surrendered at least 30 points their past four games.
While the Rams are pulling themselves together under new coach Jim Haslett, the Patriots are losing players left and right.
In the past week, they've placed running back Laurence Maroney and safety Rodney Harrison on season-ending injured reserve. Running back Sammy Morris probably won't play because he hurt his knee after rolling up 138 yards in the first half of Monday night's victory over the Denver Broncos. Several other injuries dot the roster.
But the Patriots are coming off their most dominant overall game of the season -- most points scored and fewest allowed. They ran for 257 yards and looked equally devastating with Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis once Morris was out of the game.
The Rams rank 30th in run defense, giving up an average of 5.0 yards per attempt, 161.5 yards a game and 10 juicy touchdowns.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
|Lee Evans has enjoyed success playing against the Miami Dolphins.|
Evans on Sunday will play his ninth game against Dolphins. He has 25 catches for 554 yards and eight touchdowns. He's scored on plays of 70, 69 and 56 yards.
Evans is 7-1 against Miami.
"He's had success against the Cowboys, too," said Sparano, a Dallas assistant the past five seasons. "When I'm in one place and I see him run by us, and then I come here and turn the film on and see him run by us, then I think you're pretty good."
This season, Evans has 24 catches for 521 yards and three touchdowns. He has at least 88 receiving yards in his past three games and has scored one touchdown in each.
The Dolphins' secondary is in flux. Opponents have been able to pass on them. The Cardinals threw for 361 yards in Week 2, and the Houston Texans threw for 371 yards two games ago.
"This guy can really, flat-out, out-and-out run," Sparano said. "He can change the game that way. He's a big-play receiver, and I've been on the other end of that thing.
"In this game, with what's happened to us recently, and the amount of big plays ... I can imagine them taking their shots with him."
Trent Edwards is making a lot of teams regret not drafting him.
The Miami Dolphins surely are among them. Yes, the front office infrastructure has dramatically changed since Bill Parcells was brought in 10 months ago. The scouting department and coaching staff have been overhauled.
But John Beck remains. Former Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller, with input from former head coach Cam Cameron, made Brigham Young quarterback John Beck the 40th selection of last year's draft.
When the Buffalo Bills visit Dolphin Stadium on Sunday, Beck will be on the sideline. All season he has been the third-string quarterback behind Chad Pennington and rookie Chad Henne.
Edwards, meanwhile, is on his way to becoming a star with the 5-1 Bills, who snagged him out of Stanford with last year's 92nd selection.
All 31 other teams passed on Edwards, but only a few needed a quarterback. The Dolphins were among the most needy.
"We thought he was pretty good, obviously, because we drafted him in the third round," Bills coach Dick Jauron said Wednesday on a conference call. "We had a better grade on him. So it was a value pick for us. We couldn't go by at the point where he was still available.
"When he came in and we started out [organized team activities], he was everything we thought he would be and probably more. So we did give him more reps and we did spend more time with him. He picked it up. He picks it up very fast."
Like Edwards, Beck became the Dolphins starter last year because of injuries. Unlike Edwards, Beck didn't show much in his rookie opportunity.
|Stew Milne/US Presswire|
|John Beck failed to drive the Dolphins to a touchdown in any of his four starts last season.|
Beck played in five games, starting four straight in November and December. Beck failed to drive the Dolphins to a touchdown in any of his starts, the lowlight coming on a bitter Buffalo afternoon. Beck was pulled after eight snap
s -- two three-and-outs and a comical fumble that went for a Bills touchdown.
Afterward, Beck's Mormon values wouldn't allow him to say what most players would've about that performance.
"Crap's going to happen," Beck told me, "and today crap happened."
In that same game, Edwards completed 11 of 23 passes for 165 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
That game was the last time Beck has started. He did make a relief appearance in the season finale and threw his first career touchdown pass.
Edwards has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks.
His 98.8 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL. He has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,209 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He came back from a wicked, concussive hit in Week 5 to complete 25 of 30 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown."He is the kind of guy you want as a quarterback," said Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo, who played with Edwards at Stanford. "He's not going to show his frustrations. He's well-poised, a good leader and a strong leader. He's a student of the game, and he's going to put everything he has on the field. That's the kind of guy you want in the huddle."