AFC East: Bills-Jets 101809

Most absurd AFC East result: Browns 6, Bills 3

November, 6, 2009
11/06/09
9:28
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

A few days ago, I asked readers to submit their votes for the most absurd AFC East outcome through the first half of 2009.

 
 AP Photo/Mike Groll
 The ugly Buffalo-Cleveland game in Week 5 was a tough loss for Bills fans to endure.
While the comments section beneath that blog quickly turned into a trash-talking session between New York Jets and Miami Dolphins fans, a few readers actually attempted to make cases for the game they felt was supremely ridiculous.

The most compelling cases were made for the Week 5 disaster between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

That catastrophe deserved to end in a tie, but the Browns won 6-3 thanks to a muffed punt deep in Bills territory in the final minutes. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed 2 of 17 passes for 23 yards. His 11.8 percent completion percentage was the second-worst for a winning quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger.

Coming in second was the Indianapolis Colts' 27-23 victory over the Dolphins in Week 2. The Colts became the first team since time of possession became an official stat in 1970 to win while holding the ball for less than 15 minutes. The Colts ran only 35 plays.

Here are some of the better submissions on the subject:

Jesse in Omaha wrote into the AFC East mailbag that the Browns-Bills game "was the lowest point I've had as a fan in a long time. Even if I were a Jets fan during the loss to the lowly Bills, at least I could stand by the fact that the opposing team tried to win the game. I'm not convinced Cleveland wanted to beat Buffalo that day."

In the comments section, glui8 declared the Browns-Bills was, "hands down, the most absurd result. Not only was it the worst football game I've ever seen played, whether it be Pop Warner, high school, college or pro, but the losing team (and this is the reason I'm picking it as the most absurd) got beat by a quarterback that completed two, yes, two passes for a whopping total of 23 yards. THAT IS ABSURD and, in my opinion, is way worse than any of the other games nominated."

DolflyerpacerV316 added: "Gotta be the Browns-Bills game. Seriously, they lost to the Browns? Who does that? How they only scored three on the Browns is the first mystery, but losing to them? That just defines absurd!"

Also in the comments section, mrf042579 weighed in: "I'm going to have to vote for the Colts-Dolphins game. As a Bills fan, I am tempted to vote for any of their games, but in all honesty, how do you lose a game when your opponent runs 35 plays and has the ball less than 15 minutes?"

There was no doubt in stevejdolphin's mind: "It was easily the Dolphins-Colts game. I watched that game, and the way the Dolphins completely controlled the pace of the game while their offense was on the field was incredible. This also needs to be put in perspective with all the coaching changes the Colts had in the off-season. This was the second week of the season, and the Colts had struggled the week before against the Jaguars. They didn't have their second-best receiver in Anthony Gonzalez. For Peyton Manning to pull out a win with everything stacked against him is impossible. It happened and it was without a doubt the most absurd AFC East result."

SportsFan1236 made the case for another game, going with the Dolphins frittering a 21-point first-half lead against the Saints: "They went from dominant to dominated. Sorry, but that was the most pathetic loss of the year. To lose a game in a final minutes is bad, but to lose your momentum and such a huge lead right before half is horrible. Could have beat one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the league and choked it away."

To refresh your memories, here are the thumbnails from the other runners-up:

Week 1: Patriots 25, Bills 24. The Bills don't trail for almost 59 minutes, but Leodis McKelvin fumbles a kickoff inside the final two minutes, setting up Tom Brady with a short field. Brady throws his second touchdown in a span of 1:16 to escape with a dramatic victory.

Week 4: Saints 24, Jets 10. The Jets' offense gives up more points than it scores and more points than its defense allows. The Saints score touchdowns on two of Mark Sanchez's four turnovers.

Week 6: Bills 16, Jets 13 (OT). The Bills allow 318 rushing yards, second-most in Jets history. Thomas Jones runs for the most yards of his career, setting a Jets record. His 210 yards are the fifth most in a defeat since the merger. But the Jets throw six interceptions, five of them by Sanchez.

Week 7: Saints 46, Dolphins 34. The Dolphins hold a 21-point lead for the first 29 minutes of the game but collapse the rest of the way, giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter to become the first team in 22 years to blow a 21-point lead and lose by at least a dozen.

Week 8: Dolphins 30, Jets 25. A sublime Jets defense holds the Dolphins to 104 total yards (third fewest in franchise history) and 1.9 yards per pass attempt. The Dolphins score one offensive touchdown, but two Ted Ginn kickoff returns and a Jason Taylor fumble return -- all in the third quarter -- make the difference.

Jason Taylor: Low-class Jets should shut up

November, 4, 2009
11/04/09
1:46
PM ET
Miami Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor, exultant over collecting a fumble and returning it 48 yards for a touchdown Sunday against the New York Jets, looked for the appropriate way to express himself.

Taylor greeted his trailing teammates then spun and fired the ball at the Jets logo on the wall behind the end zone.
Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
Jason Taylor's Dolphins have two wins over the Jets this season.

"To score a touchdown in New York against the Jets in the last time I'll be in the hellhole they call a stadium up there before they get rid of it and move to the new one," Taylor said, "it was outstanding."

Taylor delivered that quote in an interview scheduled to air Friday on Sirius NFL Radio.

Taylor's distaste for the Jets and their fans is well-known. In the spring, when he was discussing the possibilities of which team he might play for in 2009, he said, "it'd be very, very, very difficult" to play for the Jets given all of the strong opinions he'd voiced about them over the years.

Sirius host Adam Schein got Taylor going on the subject again. They discussed the Dolphins knocking off the Jets twice this year after so much trash-talking between the teams.

"The problem I have is with the Jets fans," Taylor said. "It's not really a problem; it's kind of this rivalry that has gone on, and they love to hate me, and I love to hate them, and we've had some fun over the years. They've had a lot of fun at my expense. I've had some fun at their expense at times.

"It's the times like this where you beat them and they just keep talking. They just keep going, and they just don't know when to be quiet.

"You know, I've said a lot of things about Jets fans in the past, and I’m sure at heart they're good people. Most of them are good people. The Giants fans are a different type of people. Just put it that way. There's a little more class on the Giants' side, and some Jets fans take the 'c-l' out of class."

Shein asked Taylor if the Jets talk too much for their own good and perhaps get opponents additionally jacked up to play them.

"We tried to make a concerted effort to stay out of the trash-talking, although we did engage in some, and I know it dated back to the offseason with Channing Crowder and Rex Ryan and their little spat there for a couple of weeks," Taylor said.

"Everyone's going to have a different opinion as to whether or not somebody talks too much. When you lose two games to the same team in a year it is probably time to stop talking a little bit and move on to your next opponent and get ready to play.

"After we beat them the first time here in Miami, they talked about it for a few weeks. Because our games were three weeks apart, they talked about it for a few weeks, and maybe it got in the way and tripped them up against the Buffalo Bills. They lost to the Bills up there in New York.

"So there comes a point where you’ve got to win with class, and you've got to lose with class, and we try to do that. We're not perfect. We do engage in some of the trash going back and forth, but at the end of the day we have two wins, and I think that gives us a little more reason to talk."

Take your pick: Most absurd AFC East result

November, 2, 2009
11/02/09
11:01
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Nowhere else in sports have stats been more irrelevant than in the AFC East, where illogical verdicts have been rendered on a near-weekly basis.

The Miami Dolphins have had their share but came out ahead for a change Sunday by gaining 104 yards in a victory over the New York Jets, just the latest in a growing collection of incredible results relative to the box score.

There have been enough of these crazy outcomes to put them up for a vote. Take a look at the seven candidates below and then submit your vote and your reasoning in the comments section below. I will tally them up and compile the most compelling arguments for a blog entry later in the week that reveals your pick for the most absurd game through the first half of the 2009 season.
 
 Geoff Burke/US Presswire
 There have been several outcomes in the AFC East this season, including the Jets’ Week 6 loss to the Bills, that defied statistical probability.


Not sure if this explains anything, but I attended six of the seven games.

Week 1: Patriots 25, Bills 24. The Bills don't trail for almost 59 minutes, but Leodis McKelvin fumbles a kickoff inside the final two minutes, setting up Tom Brady with a short field. Brady throws his second touchdown in a span of 1:16 to escape with a dramatic victory.

Week 2: Colts 27, Dolphins 23. The Colts run only 35 offensive plays because the Dolphins hold the ball for an amazing 45:07. But the Colts average an obnoxious 10.7 yards per snap and 12.3 yards per pass attempt, becoming the first team to win with a recorded time of possession of less than 15 minutes.

Week 4: Saints 24, Jets 10. The Jets' offense gives up more points than it scores and more points than its defense allows. The Saints score touchdowns on two of Mark Sanchez's four turnovers.

Week 5: Browns 6, Bills 3. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson starts, plays the entire game and completes two passes for 23 yards. His 11.8 completion percentage is the second-worst since the NFL-AFL merger for a winning quarterback with at least 15 attempts.

Week 6: Bills 16, Jets 13 (OT). The Bills allow 318 rushing yards, second-most in Jets history. Thomas Jones runs for the most yards of his career, setting a Jets record. His 210 yards are the fifth most in a defeat since the merger. But the Jets throw six interceptions, five of them by Sanchez.

Week 7: Saints 46, Dolphins 34. The Dolphins hold a 21-point lead for the first 29 minutes of the game but collapse the rest of the way, giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter to become the first team in 22 years to blow a 21-point lead and lose by at least a dozen.

Week 8: Dolphins 30, Jets 25. A sublime Jets defense holds the Dolphins to 104 total yards (third fewest in franchise history) and 1.9 yards per pass attempt. The Dolphins score one offensive touchdown, but two Ted Ginn kickoff returns and a Jason Taylor fumble return -- all in the third quarter -- make the difference.

In a Bills season of aggravation, Byrd emerges

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
4:30
PM ET
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Buffalo rookie free safety Jairus Bird is determined to make receivers beat him to the ball.


The phone chirped. "Chicago Bears" scrolled across the caller ID.

The voice on the other end was buoyant, a rumble of laughter detectable underneath each syllable.

"Hello, this is Gill Byrd. Jairus Byrd used to be my son. Now I'm Jairus Byrd's father."

For all of Jairus Byrd's life, he was identified as the younger boy of Gill Byrd, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the San Diego Chargers and Bears assistant coach.

As dad acknowledged over the phone, that perception has changed over the past few weeks.

Jairus Byrd, a rookie free safety for the Buffalo Bills, has already made a name for himself. He's doing it emphatically.

Through the first seven games of his NFL career, he has been Buffalo's most valuable player.

"Clearly, he's got skills that are not ordinary even for this level," said Bills head coach Dick Jauron, "and he's using them."

Jairus Byrd ranks second in the NFL with five interceptions, one behind New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper. Byrd has snagged all of his interceptions over the past three games and has picked off a pair in two games straight.

Without his interceptions, the Bills wouldn't lead the NFL in takeaways and probably wouldn't have beaten the New York Jets or Carolina Panthers the past two Sundays. Each of his past three interceptions has set up a Bills touchdown.

In a season that has been rife with letdowns for Bills fans, Byrd has been a revelation.

"I think he can be an All-Pro consistently," said Jairus Byrd's more decorated mentor, eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Aeneas Williams, a close friend of the Byrd family. "I think he has the ability.

"What makes you an impact player is when that offensive team, going into their game plan during the week, has to account for you. I believe he's definitely one of those guys that -- if they're not already accounting for him -- they're at least acknowledging 'You need to know where 31 is.'"

Jairus Byrd's uniform number is becoming fashionable in Buffalo, and you can already project his jerseys will be popular Christmas gifts.

Buffalo storylines this season have been dominated by Terrell Owens' lack of production, disgust over Jauron's continued employment, Marshawn Lynch's suspension, two invasions of players' homes, myriad injuries and game-losing fumbles in the final minutes.

Jairus Byrd has given Bills fans a reason to cheer.

"Everything's gone so fast," he said. "I haven't really had the chance think about where I am, what's going on. I try not to focus on that. It's just getting wins and helping the team."

Injuries to safeties Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott gave him his opportunity to start. When Whitner and Scott both are healthy, it's impossible to imagine the Bills removing Jairus Byrd from the lineup.

He's the first rookie to record five interceptions in a month since Bears safety Mark Carrier in December 1990 and the first rookie with two interceptions in consecutive games since Dallas Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls in 1981.

With nine regular-season games to play, Jairus Byrd is three interceptions away from Buffalo's rookie interceptions record (Archie Matsos) and halfway to its overall season record (Billy Atkins, Tom Janik). And he's already within two interceptions of matching his father's best season.

"I'm always trying to compete with him," Jairus Byrd said. "I tell him I'm going to get him."

When informed how close Jairus was to matching him, Gill groaned in near-defeat, "Aw, man."

Few expected Jairus Byrd to make such an immediate impact when the Bills drafted him in the second round out of Oregon. He missed minicamp because of Oregon's quarterly academic schedule. He missed much of training camp while recovering from sports hernia surgery and didn't sign his contract until the end of July.

"They got a first-round talent," Williams said, conceding that his fondness for Jairus might hurt the credibility of his assessment. "The only reason maybe he didn't go in the first round is he's not a blazer as it relates to his 40 time."

Jairus Byrd has phenomenal instincts when it comes to coming up with the ball. He never has had fewer than five interceptions in a season, leaving Oregon a year early with 17 of them. He led or tied for the Pac-10 lead in interceptions his sophomore and junior seasons. He also forced two fumbles and recovered four.

Ask him to explain how he keeps coming up with the ball, and he laughs. Then he delivers a pat answer about how his teammates deserve all the credit. You can sense he has been asked the question so frequently, but he's unable to put his knack into words.

"The guys have done a nice job of getting him ready," said Jauron, himself a Pro Bowl safety for the Detroit Lions. "But nobody's making those plays except Jairus. ... He's got qualities -- and a lot of them."
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Former Chargers cornerback Gill Byrd is passing all his knowledge onto his son, Jairus.

Williams can explain the secret to Jairus Byrd's intrinsic homing skills because Williams learned it from Gill Byrd nearly two decades ago.

Bills teammates claim Jairus Byrd demonstrates advanced football maturity, and it's easy to see why. He's a superb case study in determining whether nature or nurture determines a man's potential.

Yes, he has the bloodlines. Gill Byrd played 10 seasons for the Chargers and is in their Hall of Fame.

Perhaps more importantly, Jairus Byrd's nest was the NFL locker room. His father worked in the Green Bay Packers front office and has been an assistant coach for the St. Louis Rams and Bears. Gill also credited the "discipline and encouragement" from Jairus' mother, Marilyn, and the drive to compete with Gill Byrd II, the older son by two years who became a star defensive back at New Mexico State.

But it was in St. Louis where Williams took Jairus Byrd, then a high school student, under his wing. The two became so close that Jairus Byrd still calls him Uncle Aeneas.

"It wouldn't just be running and talking football," Gill Byrd said. "It'd be talking life. It'd be talking about what it takes to be a man of God, life lessons. On top of that, he learned football and techniques from one of the best."

Williams' involvement has been critical to Jairus Byrd's development because the rookie has no distinct memories of his father playing and never has seen a frame of game tape. He turned six during his father's final season. Old-school programming on the NFL Network or ESPN Classic haven't presented a glimpse.

The only footage Jairus Byrd has seen of Gill in action was grainy practice film somebody burned onto a DVD for a joke.

Williams' tutelage meant "having someone he did watch play and look up to show him 'Yes, this is what it's all about,'" Gill Byrd said. "As with any child, you need multiple voices to deliver the same message to get things across. That old saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' I think it's appropriate even in the athletic arena."

Williams simply is returning the love Gill Byrd showed him for years. Long before Gill Byrd joined the Rams' coaching staff, he'd been teaching Williams everything he knew.

Williams emerged from Southern University in 1991 hungry for information that could give him an edge. He sought out top defensive backs because he wanted to soak in their insight. He flew to Houston to meet Ken Houston, tracked down Michael Haynes and reached out to Gill Byrd.

For the next few summers, Gill Byrd and Williams worked out in San Diego. Soon after they met, Gill imparted some words that changed the way Williams played the game and sent him on his way to a career highlighted by 55 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries and 12 defensive touchdowns.

Williams called it "that little, subtle change" in his attitude, and he's sure Gill ingrained it in Jairus, too.

"Most defensive backs play with a philosophy of 'I can't get beat,' or 'Nobody can beat me,' " Williams said. "Gill made me understand, no, my philosophy has to be 'They have to beat me,' which sounds like just words, but for me it really catapulted me to another level of understanding.

"Just think of all the defensive backs you see in a game that are right next to the receiver but never turn back to look for the ball. It's because all that guy's life he's been told 'Don't get beat.' "

A thirst for knowledge has splashed Jairus Byrd. He still texts Williams in search of any tip he can get on certain receivers (Williams shared one of Randy Moss' big tells) and will wheedle advice from the legends who hang around One Bills Drive. Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas already is a big fan.

"I try to absorb everything I can," Jairus Byrd said. "My father taught me how to be a pro in life, how to be man. He's always told me to be slow to speak and quick to hear. That's pretty much the biggest thing I learned from him."

Some might look at Jairus Byrd's interceptions and flick a dismissive wrist. He has been feasting on bad quarterback play -- Derek Anderson, Mark Sanchez, Jake Delhomme. Passes have been overthrown. Balls are bouncing off receivers' hands and right to him.

Skeptics would say Jairus Byrd is a lucky duck.

"Is it luck when you study your opponent and know their tendencies?" Gill Byrd asked. "Is it luck when you play hard and hustle? Is it luck when you find the ball, track the ball and have nothing else in sight? Is it luck when you have the hand-eye coordination to catch the ball?

"I would say it's a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. Not too many guys get lucky that often."

Or so quickly.

T.O.'s star might be permanently dimmed

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
11:04
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports presents a compelling piece on the precipitous downfall of Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens.

Robinson writes that while making his rounds for a story before Tuesday's trade deadline, he gathered enough feedback on Owens to paint an unfavorable picture.

Robinson quotes unnamed executives and an anonymous New York Jets defender, who don't have many nice words for Owens or Buffalo's offense. Also quoted in the article is legendary Bills coach and former general manager Marv Levy.

Owens is on pace for 40 receptions, 573 yards and fewer than three touchdowns, his worst season since he was a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers in 1996.

From Robinson's story, an unnamed AFC executive:

"He's hit the wall. I think he has. I think it's done or close to it. He'll have a couple of games here and there where he shows up, but big picture, long term, I think it's done."



An unnamed general manager:

"I hear that he’s one of the greatest of all time, but I don't buy it -- never did. He drops balls. He's not a natural catcher. He's not a great route runner, blah, blah, blah. He's big and strong and good with the run after the catch, if he catches it. I can give you 100 negatives. It’s just not worth it.

"Someone else [on another team] will say the opposite. [They'll say] ‘We'll get him to catch better. We'll get him to do what we want.' [They'll say] 'He's a threat just being on the field. He'll open up other players.' Well, when you're talking about that, you're talking about using a guy knowing he's a failure and who might shock you with a touchdown or two. But basically you're sacrificing him to free up our other good players. That's what I’ve been hearing for two years, and that's the death march right there."



An unnamed Jets player, who said Owens isn't responding well to contact:

"I don't think we doubled him once [Sunday at the Meadowlands]. Buffalo will make you hit a wall. People thought Randy Moss hit a wall, too, didn't they? How motivated is [Owens] to play in Buffalo? How excited is he about the offense? They just canned the no-huddle [stuff] because it wasn't working. They're not finding creative ways to get him the football, either."

Roscoe Parrish: Resume speaks for itself

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
6:25
PM ET
Parrish

The Buffalo Bills have benched Roscoe Parrish, the NFL's top punt returner the past to years and the 55th overall pick in the 2005 draft.

Parrish doesn't understand Bills head coach Dick Jauron's decision and spoke to reporters Thursday at his locker stall for the first time since he was a healthy scratch Sunday. Adam Benigni of Buffalo's NBC affiliate, WGRZ, has posted some video of Parrish's interview.

Parrish is Buffalo's career leader in punt return average. He averaged 15.3 yards last year and 16.3 yards the year before.

But Parrish had been reckless on a couple returns and muffed a punt that set up the Cleveland Browns for the winning field goal in Week 5.

"To be honest with you -- not to badmouth nobody, not to badmouth Jauron -- my resume speaks for itself," Parrish said Thursday. "When you see my resume, and then you see me not returning punts, it's kind of like 'Wow, what is going on?'

"I'm not going to sit up here and just be negative with the whole situation toward Dick Jauron, but it's a situation you look at it like 'This guy here led the league two years in a row, and the year before he didn't lead he finished third.' "

Jauron not only took the job away from Parrish and gave it Fred Jackson, but also deactivated Parrish for Sunday's overtime victory against the New York Jets. Parrish also is a receiver, but with Terrell Owens, Lee Evans and Josh Reed on the roster, Parrish was an afterthought in the offense.

Parrish spoke with me in training camp about his desire to be traded because the Bills were reluctant to use him as a receiver. He was unhappy to be limited to returning punts. Now, he's not doing that.

Parrish was asked what the Bills told him when they made the decision.

"What was said was the depth chart and me not dressing," Parrish said. "What can possibly be said, that I'm not doing a good job because of one game? It's a long season."

Can Buffalo's run D give up 3,000 yards -- again?

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
10:07
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills could become the first NFL franchise to allow 3,000 yards rushing twice.

The Bills rank dead last in rushing defense, yielding an average of 181.8 yards on the ground per game.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Thomas Jones rushed for 210 yards against the Bills on Sunday.

That puts them on pace to give up 2,909 rushing yards, an alarming number that gets even more troubling when you consider they allowed just 130 yards in their first two games combined.

Yes, the Bills' past four opponents have amassed an incredible 961 rushing yards.

Elias Sports Bureau poured over the stats and discovered the last time the Bills had allowed that many yards in a four-game stretch was in 1978, when they set the NFL record for most rushing yards allowed in a season at 3,228.

If the Bills somehow maintain the 240-yard pace they've set over their past four games, then they will break their record by allowing 3,494 yards.

Here's the week-by-week breakout of rushing yards the Bills have surrendered to date:
The Dolphins rank first, the Jets second and the Saints fourth in rushing offense with the help of their games against the Bills. The Browns rank 18th.

The Bills will visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers, propelled by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, rank eighth in rushing offense at 131.2 yards a game.

"We focus on it," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "We stress it. We walk through it. We fit it up. We run through it.

"I believe that Perry [Fewell, the defensive coordinator], and his staff are doing everything they can. We've just got to get better and we'll keep working at it."

Rex wants Cold Arm Mark to be Cool Hand Luke

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
8:48
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Several important New York Jets are hurting.
 
 Andrew Mills/US Presswire
 Mark Sanchez is hoping to rebound from Sunday’s five-interception performance.


Nose tackle Kris Jenkins (knee) is out for the year. Right cornerback Lito Sheppard (quadriceps) probably won't play Sunday in Oakland. Nickelback Donald Strickland (ankle) is looking better. Receiver Braylon Edwards (quadriceps) should be OK, but Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday.

Nowhere on the injury report was Mark Sanchez (psyche).

Jets head coach Rex Ryan suggested he's not concerned about keeping Sanchez's emotions in check after his five-interception performance in Sunday's overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills.

"I want him to be himself, and that's part of it," Ryan said. "I know he's Cool Hand Luke. He normally is. If you throw five interceptions in a game, I think all of us would be affected.

"Again, he was ready to go [in overtime], and he never wavered. He just knew he was going to lead his team down the field and we were going to kick that field goal and win the game. He knew he was.

"I don't think there is one guy on our football team that didn't believe it. That’s kind of the feeling I got on the sideline. We all felt that Mark was going to help lead us down the field and kick the field goal. I think that’s where we know we've got the right guy."

Sanchez indicated Wednesday he still was trying to shake off the worst game of his life. But he acknowledged bouncing back from a performance like that is an inevitable part of a rookie quarterback's learning curve.

"I knew there were going to be tough times," Sanchez said. "I knew that I was going to be the one to have to sit down and really think through some of these things, understand what I want to be as a quarterback and how I want to lead this team. It's one thing to think about that and then to actually have to go through it is a lot more difficult than you would imagine.

"This is everything I want to do. This is where good players either figure it out or they don't. This is a good test for me. As difficult as it is, I want to ace it."

Don't count on seeing Trent Edwards in Carolina

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
5:20
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills haven't made any announcements about Trent Edwards' availability for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

They probably don't need to. Edwards, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's victory over the New York Jets, didn't report to the team's facility Wednesday, much less practice or suit up.

Bills head coach Dick Jauron said he hasn't even spoken to or seen Edwards.

That's kind of part of the protocol, too," Jauron said. "He doesn't take calls. He doesn't return calls. He doesn't text."

Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, "I don't know what [Edwards] was doing."

Bills fans everywhere are muttering to themselves, "We've been saying that for weeks."

Fitzpatrick took all of the first-team reps and is expected to make his first start for the Bills.

"I want to help the team win," Fitzpatrick said. "That's all I'm here for. So if I get called on again, I'm going to go out there and do my best and hopefully get another victory."

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Falling

  Sanchez
1. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback. He finished the game with an 8.3, a number more suitable for Jason Taylor's average score on "Dancing With the Stars" than for a passer rating. Sanchez was horrendous in Sunday's implosion against the supposedly hapless Buffalo Bills. He completed 10 passes and threw five interceptions to overshadow a 318-yard rushing day by his backs.

Over the past three games, all losses, Sanchez has completed 45 percent of his passes for 429 yards and one touchdown with eight interceptions. That's a 26.5 passer rating since helping the Jets start the season 3-0.

2. New York Jets pass rush. Head coach Rex Ryan's reputation for running a smack-talking, fun-loving, quarterback-rattling unit isn't going to cut it anymore. The Jets haven't lived up to their billing or come close to following up on that enticing first impression from opening day, when they chased Matt Schaub like he was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

They rank sixth in average points allowed and eighth in average yards per game, but they've recorded five sacks. The Detroit Lions have three times that many. Now the Jets have to forge ahead without elite nose tackle Kris Jenkins, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday.

  Thomas
3. Adalius Thomas, Patriots linebacker. The Patriots made Thomas a healthy scratch for Sunday's 59-0 bludgeoning of the Tennessee Titans. The surprise move forced a mainstay to watch passively in street clothes. Thomas had missed games with injury before, but he had started every game he played since Week 14 of the 2003 season with the Baltimore Ravens.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Monday said a lot of factors played into the decision, including situations they expected to encounter frequently and the ability of other players to contribute on special teams. When asked about Thomas' status moving forward, Belichick said "I don't know. It was one game. We'll evaluate it this coming week against Tampa like we always do. This week is different from last week."

Rising

1. New England Patriots offense. The way the Titans folded Sunday in snowy Gillette Stadium, the game turned into a quasi-scrimmage for the Patriots. The Patriots' offense, still searching for their identity after five weeks, couldn't have been happier.

Tom Brady threw five second-quarter touchdown passes in less than 10 minutes and six for the game. He involved all of his receivers, with Randy Moss and Wes Welker combining for 18 catches, 279 yards and five touchdowns. Laurence Maroney ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

  Jones
2. Thomas Jones, Jets running back. The addition of receiver Braylon Edwards already is paying dividends for last year's AFC rushing champ. Jones set a franchise record with 210 rushing yards Sunday. Granted, he averaged 9.5 yards per attempt against an atrocious Bills run defense, but no other back has ripped off runs of 64 and 71 yards against them.

In the three games since he averaged 1.4 yards with a long run of 5 yards against the Titans in Week 3, Jones has 300 yards and five touchdowns. And the Jets have managed to lose all three of those games.

  Jauron
3. Dick Jauron's chances of being employed on Halloween. Bills fans have wanted him gone for weeks, but Jauron did just enough to justify a reprieve -- if owner Ralph Wilson was considering a pink slip. We're not sure what Wilson's thinking about his beleaguered head coach these days, but if they're into wouldas, couldas and shouldas, the Bills can rationalize a 4-2 record.

If only Leodis McKelvin hadn't fumbled to gift wrap a win for the Patriots on opening night or Roscoe Parrish hadn't fumbled in that jarring loss to the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago ... If only the Jets don't botch an overtime field-goal attempt or Sanchez throws only three interceptions, the Bills might've introduced an interim coach Monday.

Rex Ryan reminded how the other half lives

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
8:12
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Dick Jauron didn't vault up the latest SportsNation head coach approval ratings as much as he pulled Rex Ryan down with him.

Jauron, despite winning his first divisional game in nine tries with a 16-13 overtime victory over Ryan's downtrodden New York Jets at the Meadowlands, was barely beating out Jim Zorn as the NFL's least-popular coach Wednesday morning.

Jauron was at 13 percent in early balloting, a gigantic improvement over the 4 percent he received each of the past two weeks. But he was one point ahead of Zorn.

ESPN.com's Jeffri Chadiha broke down the five coaches in jeopardy of losing their jobs and has Zorn first on the firing line. Jauron is fourth, behind Wade Phillips and Tom Cable, but ahead of Jeff Fisher.

Back to poll ...

Ryan had a 92 percent approval rating after pushing his team to 3-0 and maintained a respectable 76 percent last week despite back-to-back defeats. But losing to the Bills tore it for Jets fans, who had him at 38 percent Wednesday morning.

Despite a bye, Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was sixth at 88 percent.

Bill Belichick ranked 10th with an 80 percent approval rating. I guess the other 20 percent didn't think pulverizing the Tennessee Titans by 59 points was enough.

Should Sanchez have finished Sunday's game?

October, 19, 2009
10/19/09
1:52
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The New York Daily News' back-page headline captured the emotion:

Broadway Schmo.

I couldn't think of a better way to describe Mark Sanchez a morning after he threw five interceptions.

Would the New York Jets have won had they removed Sanchez from Sunday's game and replaced him with Kellen Clemens?

"The Fifth Down," a sensational blog at NYTimes.com, is maintaining an open thread that asks if the Jets should have yanked Sanchez from Sunday's rancid performance against the Buffalo Bills.

Sanchez threw five interceptions in a 16-13 overtime loss. His passer rating was 8.3, while Thomas Jones averaged 9.5 yards per carry.

The blog links a statistical analysis from Chase Stuart of ProFootballReference.com. What Stuart found:
  • Using the site's formula for adjusted yards per pass attempt, Sanchez had the fifth-worst performance since 1978 and one of the worst games from any era in NFL history for a quarterback with 25 attempts.
  • From 1932 through 2008, teams that gained more than 300 yards rushing were 142-8. Since 1978, when rules were implemented to stimulate the passing game, they were 39-0.

Here are a few more numbers from Elias Sports Bureau to illustrate Sanchez's epically awful display.
  • Sanchez is only the third first-round draft pick in 40 years to throw five interceptions in a game as a rookie. The others were Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and Heath Shuler in 1994.
  • The five interceptions allowed the Bills to become the first team in 65 years to win despite allowing 318 rushing yards. The Washington Redskins gave up 320 rushing yards but beat the Cleveland Rams 14-10 in 1944.
  • Jones' 210 rushing yards were the fifth-most in a defeat since the NFL-AFL merger. The top four: O.J. Simpson, 273 yards (for the Bills) in 1976; Ricky Williams, 228 yards in 2002 (against the Bills); Gerald Riggs, 221 yards in 1989; John Fugua, 218 yards in 1970.

Video: Jets fight to stay afloat, Bills for jobs

October, 19, 2009
10/19/09
10:02
AM ET
ESPN's Eric Allen and Alex Loeb review the key factors in the Buffalo Bills' 16-13 overtime victory over the reeling New York Jets.

Sanchez throws away Jets' hot start

October, 18, 2009
10/18/09
11:27
PM ET
Andrew Mills/US Presswire
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez blames himself for the team’s loss to the Bills.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez climbed the steps up to the podium and stopped for a moment to gather himself. He peeled a scribble of black athletic tape off the bottom of his shower sandal, buying himself a couple extra seconds. Then he drew a deep breath and emphatically exhaled before assuming his position behind the lectern.

Sanchez, the New York Jets rookie quarterback, was going to try to answer questions about Sunday's deplorable performance at the Meadowlands.
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He threw five interceptions to facilitate a 16-13 Buffalo Bills overtime victory, the Jets' third straight defeat after opening the season 3-0.

"Just an embarrassing day," were the first words Sanchez spoke into the microphone. "I just gave that team the win. Credit to them for catching all those passes."

None of the outside factors mattered, not the opposition, a missing go-to receiver or the unlucky bounces.

The weather wasn't the reason either. His arm was warm enough, the ball dry enough.

Sanchez simply wasn't good enough.

"It was just a poor day accuracy-wise, a couple misreads," Sanchez said. "I really let this team down. There's no excuse for that."

Interceptions weren't his only problems. Sanchez fumbled with nobody around him 38 seconds before halftime. He fell on it at the Buffalo 32-yard line, but the Jets had to call their final timeout and, two plays later, had to hurry Jay Feely off the sideline for a 44-yard attempt that sailed too far left.

Sanchez also took a bad sack in the fourth quarter, turning a second-and-8 into a third-and-24 with about 4:30 remaining in regulation.

Sanchez was so wretched, head coach Rex Ryan considered yanking the player who looked so smooth through the Jets' first three games, his teammates started calling him the Sanchise.

On Sunday, the offense was disenSanchised by his interceptions, which have become commonplace.

In a 14-point loss to the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago, Sanchez chucked three interceptions -- Darren Sharper took one back 99 yards -- and lost a fumble in the end zone for another touchdown. Sanchez bounced back with a decent game last Monday night, but the Miami Dolphins still beat the Jets.

"In six games, we have three losses, and I feel like two of those losses you can blame on No. 6," Sanchez said, referring to his jersey number. "It's not a good feeling. I've got to turn this thing around."

Over his past three games, Sanchez has completed 36 of 80 passes for 429 yards and one touchdown with eight interceptions. He has a 26.5 passer rating for those games. He also was sacked seven times.

"Mark is going through a learning curve," Jets right tackle Damien Woody said. "We just have to ride it out. We are going to have a tough stretch, but he is still our quarterback."

Jets fans frequently booed him Sunday. If his struggles resume, fans will begin to wonder if Kellen Clemens would provide an offensive spark.

The Jets' defense is playing well enough to win. The Jets' running game is holding its own, especially Sunday. Thomas Jones ripped off runs of 64 and 71 yards on his way to a 210-yard day, the best of his career. The Jets amassed 318 rushing yards, second-most in franchise history.

But their blue-chip quarterback has been throwing it away. The Jets became only the seventh team in NFL history to have a 200-yard rusher and lose the game. What's worse, the Bills won their first AFC East game since 2007, and they pulled it off with their backup quarterback.

"You're not going to win too many games throwing five picks," Ryan said. "I thought about pulling him, but I still believe in him.

"He gives us the best chance to win, and he will remain our quarterback."

Those weren't acrobatic interceptions by the Bills (2-4), who picked off six passes total. Sanchez hung passes up for grabs or sent them right into their receptacles. Rookie safety Jairus Byrd came down with two interceptions. Linebacker Paul Posluszny absorbed one with his torso. Reserve defensive backs Reggie Corner, George Wilson and John Wendling had one apiece. In fairness, Sanchez did not throw the pass Wendling intercepted: Punter Steve Weatherford, who bobbled a snap on Jay Feeley's 50-yard field-goal attempt early in overtime, tossed a prayer that Wendling snatched.

"We had their quarterback under stress all day long," Posluszny said. "Our defensive line really put a lot of pressure on Mark Sanchez, forcing him to move around a lot and make him uncomfortable. Any time you can do that to a quarterback, it usually works out for your back seven."

The golden boy from Southern California never had bestowed five interceptions in a game at any level. He threw four his entire senior season at Mission Viejo High, five his entire sophomore season at USC. He tossed 10 as a junior at USC, but three was the most he ever threw in a game, a 28-0 laugher over Arizona State.

Sunday was Sanchez's first game in the type of weather a New York quarterback has to cope with on a regular basis. The wind was gusty, the air frigid, the sky gray.

"I don’t think it affected me at all," Sanchez said. "To be totally honest, I don't know if I could have played any worse. The ball wasn't slipping out of my hands. The weather isn't a factor when you're making all the wrong reads. The weather isn't a factor when you're missing Dustin [Keller] wide open over the middle.

"There's no way I can blame it on the weather. The wind didn't blow the ball to the defenders."

True enough. Sanchez went into Sunday with five interceptions. Three of them were thrown in the Superdome, another in Reliant Stadium with the retractable roof closed.

The dazzling first impression Sanchez made in his NFL debut against the Houston Texans has been nullified. He threw for 272 yards and a touchdown, becoming just the fourth rookie to win his NFL debut on the road on opening day.

Despite being composed in managing the Jets to a 3-0 start, Sanchez hasn't eclipsed 175 yards passing since his debut. He has fumbled at least once in four of his six games.

After the game, Sanchez's teammates gave him encouraging nods, slapped him on the pads, offered words of support.

As he stood behind the podium at his news conference, Sanchez was self-deprecatingly confused.

"I don't know how they do it," Sanchez said. "It says a lot about how they feel about me and the kind of faith they have in me. So I have to perform.

"It's the first time something like this has happened to me, and hopefully it's the last."

Jenkins injury leaves mammoth void in Jets' D

October, 18, 2009
10/18/09
11:19
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As much as Mark Sanchez's display gave New York Jets fans indigestion, the loss of nose tackle Kris Jenkins should make them sick to their stomachs.
Jenkins

Jenkins, whose greatness often goes overlooked by causal football observers, suffered a knee injury in Sunday's 16-13 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Jenkins left in the second quarter and didn't return.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan didn't have specifics after the game but said, "I think it's probably severe." Sione Pouha replaced Jenkins. There was a noticeable drop-off.

Jenkins, perhaps the best nose tackle in the game, is the centerpiece of the Jets' 3-4 defense. He's an elite run-stopper who draws multiple blockers every play.

"I am very concerned about Jenkins," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "He is the anchor of our defense.

"It's huge. He is a great part of what we do. Someone is going to have to step up, and it can't be just one man. It's going to have to be a couple individuals that step up. We got our work cut out for us."

In other injury news, the Bills didn't have an update on quarterback Trent Edwards other than to confirm he suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Edwards also had a concussion last year, but it occurred one week before Buffalo's bye, and he didn't miss a game.

Bills safety Donte Whitner, who missed two games because of thumb surgery, left early with an ankle injury. Tight end Shawn Nelson had a concussion and defensive tackle Kyle Williams injured a shoulder.

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