AFC East: Jets-Bills

Losing Whitner staggers Bills defense further

November, 3, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' defense suffered a potentially devastating personnel blow in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets.

Safety and captain Donte Whitner has a separated right shoulder and could miss significant time.

Bills coach Dick Jauron on Monday afternoon called the injury "fairly significant" and said Whitner would be assessed on a week-by-week basis.

"It's not the best news we got," Jauron said.

Jauron sounded grim in projecting Whitner's availability for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.

"We won't rule anybody out until we have to. But we're talking week-to-week and this is the first week."

Whitner came off the field with about 6:50 left in the game. He was unavailable to comment Monday.

Many consider Whitner the man who makes the Bills defense work. Although tackles are an unofficial stat, has Whitner third in tackles among NFL defensive backs since he entered the league in 2006. The Bills list him with 232 career tackles, behind only Gibril Wilson and Lawyer Milloy.

"It's a tough loss," Bills quarterback Trent Edwards said. "Donte is a leader in this locker room, a leader on Sunday out there on the field.

"The thing about this team is we faced a lot of injuries last year. We had guys step up at those big-time positions for us. Guys who haven't played all that much because Donte's been in there need to step up and take over that role."

Sixth-year pro Bryan Scott is the backup strong safety and likely will be Whitner's replacement. Scott has 38 career NFL starts, including 29 of 32 games for the Atlanta Falcons in 2004 and 2005.

Making matters worse for Buffalo's defense, it sounds like Pro Bowl end Aaron Schobel has experienced a setback.

Jauron initially said Schobel remains day-to-day with a foot injury, but added "maybe he should be week-to-week now, too."

The Bills are 1-2 in the games Schobel has missed and didn't register a sack Sunday.

Favre short and sweet in victory over Bills

November, 3, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Brett Favre is dialing it back.

Favre throws short
Distance thrownCompAttYardsTDsINT
10 yards or less16241600
11+ yards 344100
Total 192820101

The New York Jets quarterback established the NFL's most prolific passing numbers with his rocket launcher. In Sunday's 26-17 road victory over the Buffalo Bills, he threw daggers.

Favre made quick decisions and zipped shorter throws. Of his 201 passing yards, 119 were yards after the catch.

ESPN Stats & Analysis found that through Favre's first seven games as a Jet, 29.4 percent of his passes traveled 11 yards or farther in the air beyond the line of scrimmage. Against the Bills, only 14.3 percent of his attempts were that long.

The quick decisions could help Favre cut down on costly interceptions, although the Bills did return another one for a touchdown. Since his six-touchdown game against the Arizona Cardinals he has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

"It was one of those games I am sure if you are watching you are going, 'Man, this is boring.' If you are a fan of the game you have to appreciate the way it was played on both sides," Favre said.

"I would love to throw 70-yard bombs every play, throw caution to the wind, but that's not the way you win football games. That's not the way we were going to win that game."

On passes in which the ball traveled through the air 10 yards or shorter from scrimmage, Favre completed 16 of 24 attempts for 160 yards and an interception.

He threw at least 11 yards only four times, completing three for 41 yards.

He completed only nine passes to wide receivers, Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles grabbing them all. Favre's other 10 completions were to running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington and tight end Dustin Keller.

"We tried to play the percentages game, and for me in a game like this one, this might be a game where you have high completions," Favre said. "If you have touchdowns, great. But it is moving the chains. ... It is control the clock, manage the game, whatever. But at some point you have to make plays. We made enough to win."

Bills pointless despite monopolizing possession

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills had three possessions of 10 or more plays Sunday against the New York Jets.

15 minutes of shame

Net Yards1140
First downs7 0
Points scored07*
*Elam 92-yard INT return

They didn't score on any of them.

The Jets won 26-17, with seven of the Bills' points coming off Jabari Greer's touchdown return on a Brett Favre interception.

Amazingly, Buffalo had the ball for 15:08 straight -- aside from a kickoff -- in the first half and didn't muster a point. In fact, the Bills were outscored while their defense was off the field for an eternity.

A 14-play, 54-yard Buffalo series ended on the final play of the first quarter when Trent Edwards threw an interception Abram Elam returned for a 92-yard touchdown.

"Probably one of the most critical points in the game is that we're on the field for so long, and we're keeping our defense off the field, which is what we want," Edwards said. "Then we don't have any points to show for it and let alone they score a touchdown off of us."

Here's the breakdown on that possession:

  • Eight passes. Edwards completed six of them for 46 yards, including a 22-yard Roscoe Parrish catch and run on third-and-16.
  • Six runs. Marshawn Lynch's attempts went for minus-3, minus-1, 2 and minus-1 yards. Fred Jackson ran twice for no gain each time.
  • Two Jets penalties for 19 yards and two Bills penalties for 10 yards.

Buffalo then had a 13-play, 58-yard possession. It concluded with a Fred Jackson run for no gain on fourth and inches at the New York 8-yard line.

Here's the breakdown for the follow-up drive:

  • Seven pass plays. Edwards completed 4 of 6 attempts for 45 yards. He was sacked once.
  • Six runs. Jackson had all of the carries with Lynch fighting nausea on the sideline. Jackson had Buffalo's longest run of the afternoon for 7 yards on the first play. He also took a direct shotgun snap for a 3-yard gain. Jackson was stopped for no gain on two of his carries.
  • No penalties.

"We have to be able to get a yard," Bills center Duke Preston said. "We didn't get that done today, and that was a big play in the game and fourth and one.

"We had four or five trips in the red zone and only got 10 points offensively, and that's not going to win games. And we know that and we just have to do a better job."

ESPN Stats & Analysis found the Jets went the second-longest amount of time without an offensive play since 2001.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the ball for 20:09 and failed to score against the Tennesee Titans with possessions that ended with a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Favre or not, Jets are a running team

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Just a few weeks ago, fans and commentators railed against the New York Jets for running the ball when it mattered most.

In Week 2, the Jets had a first down on the New England Patriots' 3-yard line and handed off to Thomas Jones three times, then kicked a field goal.

 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Favre who? Running back Thomas Jones (12 carries, 69 yards, TD) and the rest of the Jets' running game led the offense in a victory over the Bills.

Three straight runs with Brett Favre in smelling distance of the end zone? Puh-lease.

What was the use of acquiring Favre if the Jets weren't going to use him?

Funny how a few games have changed that attitude. Jets fans should beg head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to run, run, run.

Despite the connotations of what a Favre stewardship is supposed to be, the Jets further established themselves as a run-oriented football team in Sunday's 26-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"We've shown in the last couple weeks what we're capable of doing," Jets left guard Alan Faneca said. "We've been able to put a little pressure on defenses to honor that a little more."

Before the Jets' universe began to revolve around Favre, they were poised to have a running offense. They signed free agents Faneca, right tackle Damien Woody and fullback Tony Richardson to pave lanes for underrated tandem Jones and Leon Washington.

"I just feel like it hasn't become our identity yet, which I think it should be with the guys they brought in and the guys we have that can run the ball," Jets tight end Chris Baker said.

"It definitely should be a bigger part of our package. I think it will be. As you go through the season you're trying to evolve and say 'This is our bread and butter.' We'll get more to that. Or at least I hope we will because we got the guys that can do it."

The stats don't indicate it, but the Jets humbled the Bills by grinding it out and not letting Favre throw away the game.

Favre almost did anyway, tossing an interception that Jabari Greer returned 42 yards for a touchdown to cut the Jets' lead to six points with nearly 11 minutes to play.

But the Jets responded with a 14-play, 65-yard drive that drained 8:41 off the clock and ended with a Jay Feely field goal. All but 17 of those yards were on the ground. Four Jets had at least one carry on the drive. Jones had back-to-back runs of 23 and 7 yards.

"We know if we don't go out there and beat ourselves and not turn the ball over and play complementary football, we give ourselves a good chance to win," Washington said.

Favre has thrown only three touchdowns to counter eight interceptions since his epic six-touchdown afternoon against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 28. His interception on Sunday was his 300th.

Against the Bills, he threw quickly and completed 19 of 28 passes for 201 yards and zero touchdowns. In other words, he managed the game (insert your Chad Pennington one-liner here) more than he was asked to win it.

And that looks like the wise way to go for a team that could win the AFC East.

Jones finished with 12 attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown, giving the Jets at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games. He also had six catches for 38 yards. Washington carried seven times for just 13 yards but added two receptions for 42 yards.

"A win's a win, but, especially on the road, if you're able to run the football, that says a lot about your football team, a lot about the mentality of your football team," Richardson said. "Running the football is hard. It's not easy to pound and pound and pound when they know you're going to run the football.

"For a fullback or an offensive lineman, we love it. You ask us, we want to run the ball every play."

Jones is well on pace for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He went into Sunday as the AFC's third-ranked rusher. He has 601 yards and five touchdowns.

Washington's contributions have been made more as a receiving threat and return man, but his game-breaking abilities are unquestionable. He took a short Favre pass and ripped off a 40-yard gain on the second play of the game.

"They're good, man," Faneca said. "You put them back there, it's a 1-2 punch. T.J. hits it hard, and Leon's got some speed. We got confidence in both of them.

"When we started out and got behind we didn't really utilize them because the way the game played out. As we start to play better, we've played more to our strengths, and people have been able to see what [Jones and Washington] are capable of."

The headline writers and punsters should stop calling them the New York Bretts.

Favre might be the most visible player on the roster from a celebrity standpoint, but for the Jets to win down the homestretch it would be better if he can fade into the background.

Bills ground game nauseating

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch was absent from part of the first half against the New York Jets because he was nauseous, a frequent condition, head coach Dick Jauron said.

"He gets worked up for games, and he's been nauseous before and he gets a little lightheaded," Jauron explained. "So he just kind of had to wait for it to pass. This was probably the worst it's been."

Truly putrid was Buffalo's running game in a 26-17 loss at home.

The Bills rushed for 30 yards against the stout Jets defense. Lynch carried nine times for 16 yards. Fred Jackson ran seven times for 15 yards.

For the first time in eight games, Buffalo failed to score a rushing touchdown. The Bills went into Sunday the only NFL team with at least one rushing touchdown in every game.

With Lynch out of the game midway through the second quarter, the Bills opted to run on fourth down at the Jets' 8-yard line. Jackson was stopped for no gain.

"That what we pride ourselves in," Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins said. "We had some big tests. We watched Lynch run around on film, and we knew it would be a fight."

With the Bills abandoning the run in the second half, the Jets teed off on quarterback Trent Edwards, sacking him four times. The Jets recorded five sacks total.

"It wasn't very productive for us," Jauron said of the running game. "It was very disappointing."

Rapid Reaction: Jets 26, Bills 17

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- That outstanding lead the Buffalo Bills built up by starting the year 5-1?


The Bills have plummeted from their lofty status as the best AFC East team to merely one of four. The New York Jets defeated them, 26-17, Sunday afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills will tumble out of first place if the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

In back-to-back games the Bills have lost to the two teams that were below them in the division standings. Now they're snugly among them.

Buffalo couldn't overcome a rough first quarter in which Trent Edwards lost a fumble and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, terminating a possession that lasted 7:57.

Jets quarterback Brett Favre tried to keep the Bills in it with an interception of his own that Jabari Greer brought back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But a time-consuming drive gave the Jets a late Jay Feely field goal with 2:12 left to put the game away.

Favre gives up another pick 6 to enliven Bills

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- NFL Network reporter Kara Henderson told me to go ahead and admit that I had written off the Buffalo Bills off as the first paragraph for this entry.

So here it is ...

I was, in fact, in the middle of writing my story about the Bills losing to the New York Jets -- and that still might happen -- when I was reminded of how one Brett Favre pass can swing a game.

The Jets were up 13 points in the fourth quarter and had the ball after an unsuccessful Rian Lindell field-goal attempt. I started typing away. A Jets victory appeared inevitable.

Then Favre threw the ball to Bills cornerback Jabari Greer, who electrified the dormant Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd by running it back 42 yards for a touchdown. The Jets now lead, 23-17, midway through the fourth quarter.

Just as Favre opened to door for the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Bills are back in it.

Since Favre's six-touchdown game against the Arizona Cardinals, he has thrown three touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

Buffalo squanders another scoring chance

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills keep leaving points on the field.

On third-and-inches from the New York Jets' 8-yard line, the Bills chose to pass. Trent Edwards fired the ball out of the end zone.

Bills coach Dick Jauron went for it on fourth down even though Marshawn Lynch is out of the game with an undisclosed injury or illness and the Jets own the NFL's No. 4 run defense.

Reserve running back Fred Jackson ran left and failed to get the first down, giving New York possession.

The Jets lead 13-7 midway through the second quarter.

Edwards keeps coughing it up and costing Bills

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ralph Wilson Stadium is awfully quiet.

The Buffalo Bills were about to put a few points on the board -- at least three of them -- after defensive back Drew Coleman fell down to let Roscoe Parrish make a third-and-16 conversion.

But Trent Edwards, under pressure, threw an interception that safety Abram Elam returned 92 yards for a touchdown, giving the Jets a 13-7 lead at the start of the second quarter.

Edwards also fumbled in the first quarter to set up a Jets field goal and has committed four turnovers -- two interceptions, two fumbles -- in a two-quarter span, including last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The Bills also recovered an Edwards fumble in the fourth quarter against Miami for what turned out to be a safety.

Jets defense clueless on Bills' opening drive

November, 2, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills on their first possession made the New York Jets look clueless.

Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton better make some quick adjustments. The Bills exploited the Jets on two big plays to score a touchdown and take a 7-3 lead in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

On the Bills' first offensive play, Marshawn Lynch slipped out of the backfield unnoticed to catch a Trent Edwards dump-off. Lynch turned around to find not a soul within 20 yards of him, and he lumbered for a career-long 42-yard gain to the Jets' 15.

Two plays later, tight end Derek Fine slipped into the end zone and practically did jumping jacks until Edwards spotted him for the 9-yard touchdown, the first of his career in his second NFL game.

Audibles: AFC East Week 9 preview

October, 31, 2008

Posted by ESPN Research's Jeremy Lundblad

New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-2), 1 p.m. ET

The Jets travel to Buffalo for what will be the Bills' first division home game of the season. The Bills haven't waited this long to host a divisional foe since 1998.

So while the Bills are sitting pretty at 5-2, they have lost their only AFC East game (Week 8 at Miami). While certainly not a must-win game, avoiding an 0-2 division record could be key to the Bills' playoff hopes.

The Bills have won their last three meetings with the Jets, and are 2-0 with Trent Edwards at the helm. Edwards will be without his second-favorite target wide receiver Josh Reed (Achilles/ankle injury) who is out indefinitely.

Brett Favre, Since 6-TD-Pass
Game vs. Cardinals
Comp. pct.66.7
Pass yards676
TD-INT ratio3-7

The Jets faced weak opponents in their previous three games, but struggled to beat the Bengals and Chiefs, while losing to the Raiders.

Brett Favre needs a turnaround game. He has thrown seven interceptions in his past three games against teams with a combined record of 3-19. Considering the Jets won 2 of 3 games in spite of those turnovers is a tribute to Favre's ability in the clutch.

Statistically, the Bills are one of the best pass defenses Favre has seen all season. However, Buffalo was torched by Ted Ginn Jr. (career-high 175 yards) and the Dolphins last week.

The Jets' fourth-ranked run defense will likely be without linebacker David Harris, who is battling a pulled groin.

Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Denver Broncos (4-3), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Dolphins are in last place. The Broncos are in first. Yet their records are only one game apart.

For all of the hype surrounding Miami's "Wildcat" formation, the Dolphins rank 21st in the NFL in rushing. Since unveiling it against the Patriots in Week 3, the Dolphins rushing totals have decreased every week, as opponents became better prepared. Last week against the Bills, Miami netted only 52 rushing yards.

Enter the Broncos defense, which ranks near the bottom of the NFL in almost everything. Denver's run defense is particularly bad, ranking 31st out of 32 teams and coming off a Week 7 debacle against the Patriots. In other words, look for the Dolphins running back tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to come out strong.

Dolphins' Net Rushing Yards, Last 5 Games
DateOpponentNet Yards
9/21*at New England216
10/5San Diego167
10/12at Houston96
* Unveiled Wildcat formation

If the Dolphins defense can slow the Broncos' air attack - no easy task - Miami can win this. Chad Pennington has proven that he can keep the Dolphins in any game. He garnered AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 300-plus yard performance against the Bills last week.

At 3-4, the Dolphins are only two games back of the division lead, and they are the only AFC East team with a winning divisional record. The Broncos are the second straight division leader that the Dolphins have faced.

New England Patriots (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-4), 8:15 p.m. ET

Of the AFC's "final four" from last year's playoffs, only one team has a winning record. Who'd have thought it would be the team that lost the NFL MVP in Week 1?

Tied for the division lead at 5-2, the Patriots have to be content with their position given all of the setbacks they have endured. Contrast that with the Colts, who sit at 3-4 after consecutive road losses.

With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots were 3-0 in regular-season games in Indianapolis. But now it's Matt Cassel's turn to duel with Peyton Manning.

Coming off his first career fourth-quarter comeback in a Week 8 victory over the visiting Rams, Cassel still needs to prove himself on the road. In three games away from Foxborough, Mass., Cassel has a 74.1 passer rating with only one touchdown pass and three interceptions. His job won't get any easier against a Colts pass defense that ranks second in the NFL.

The game might come down to the effectiveness of the Patriots running back corps. Despite all of the injuries, the New England ground game has been a key to its success. LaMont Jordan (calf) is expected back, while it appears Sammy Morris (knee) will not be ready to go. The Colts allow an average of 144.1 rushing yards per game, tied for 26th in the NFL.