AFC East: Patriots-Bills 122009

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December, 22, 2009
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Falling

1. Rex Ryan, Jets coach: Everybody in the stadium knew Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez was the target on that fateful fourth-and-goal play with 1:38 left, but Ryan's defense still couldn't stop it. Moments later, Ryan blew up at referee Ron Winter, then walked into his postgame news conference and declared his team has been eliminated from the playoff hunt. Except they haven't been.

2. Chad Henne, Dolphins quarterback: Henne threw for a career-high 349 yards and guided the Dolphins to a 15-point, fourth-quarter rally and forced overtime in Nashville. But he threw the last of his three interceptions three plays into sudden death, frittering the hallowed first possession. The Titans kicked the winning field goal four plays later.

3. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: A game away because of a knee injury didn't seem to help Sanchez settle down. The rookie came back Sunday and threw three interceptions, his fourth game with at least three in 13 NFL starts. His 20 interceptions are second in the league. He ranks 29th in passer rating.

Rising

Moss
AP Photo/David DupreyNew England's Randy Moss rebounded with a strong game against Buffalo.
1. Randy Moss, Patriots receiver: Under fire for perceived lollygagging, Moss had a strong game against the Bills. Tom Brady threw for just 115 yards, but Moss generated 113 yards and scored a touchdown. He finished with a game-high five receptions for 70 yards and drew another 43 yards on a Bills pass interference near the goal line.

2. Patriots pass rush: Without nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive ends Ty Warren and Myron Pryor, the Patriots rung up a season-high six sacks. Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain recorded three of them. Bills quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards both suffered ankle injuries.

3. Fred Jackson, Bills running back: Jackson, the supposed backup to Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch, is 189 yards from the coveted 1,000-yard milestone. Not bad for an undrafted Division III player who came up through the arena bush leagues. Jackson rushed 15 times for 80 yards against the Patriots. He also caught four passes for 32 yards and returned four kickoffs for 108 yards.

Buffalo's Edwards, McGee done for year

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
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Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards and cornerback Terrence McGee get to turn the page on a miserable season two games early.

Edwards
Edwards
McGee
McGee
NFL sources confirm Edwards and McGee are done for the year after getting hurt in Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots. The Bills already have 16 players on injured reserve, and Buffalo Sports Daily reports safety Bryan Scott might be added to the IR with a concussion.

Edwards came off the sideline in the fourth quarter relieve an ineffective Ryan Fitzpatrick and took four snaps. Edwards was sacked twice (but was facemasked), threw a completion for minus-1 yard and an incompletion. The second sack came on third-and-11. Edwards hobbled off the field and didn't return.

The injury ends a tumultuous season for Edwards. He became a pariah among Bills fans for his unwillingness to throw downfield. He was saddled with the nickname Captain Checkdown. Edwards suffered a concussion in Week 6 and missed the next two games.

But one of interim coach Perry Fewell's first moves when taking over for the fired Dick Jauron was to replace Edwards with Fitzpatrick as the starter.

Edwards' final stat line for the year: seven starts, 60.1 completion percentage for 1,169 yards, six touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 73.8 passer rating.

McGee, the Bills' top cornerback, has shoulder surgery scheduled for Wednesday. He had minor knee surgery during the bye week and missed three games. Right cornerback Leodis McKelvin went on injured reserve after three games.

Video: Welker explains how he does it

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
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video
New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, the NFL's leading target, sits down with ESPN's Chris Berman to discuss how the undrafted overachiever does what he does.

Moss speaks little, says a lot

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
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AP Photo/ David DupreyPatriots receiver Randy Moss bounced back from criticism with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Bills Sunday.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Randy Moss breezed through a side door and began addressing reporters before he reached the microphone. So focused was he on making a statement, he tripped as he stepped onto the podium.

"I'm gonna make it real brief," Moss blurted shortly after the New England Patriots breathed in a therapeutic 17-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. "Y'all had all two weeks to do all y'all's talking. Let me do mine."

Moss, in a black stocking cap and a natty trench coat over a designer suit, leaned his right elbow on the lectern for effect, like a judge about to lecture a defendant before sentencing.

"I'd like to really thank ..." Moss paused, stroked his beard and started again. "It's been really a tough couple of weeks, but you move on. That’s the nature of the game. So I'm happy that we got this victory. I appreciate all the support from my true fans, the players, the coaches, my family and loved ones.

"I've been in this league 12 years, man, and I've been through a lot. And these shoulders that I have on my body, you can put the earth on it. So just to let you know, I bounce back. I appreciate it."

The gallery didn't ask a question. Moss bolted stage left and out the door.

In those 45 seconds, Moss didn't say much.

He didn't have to. He revealed plenty.

Moss was hurt by the onslaught of criticism he has faced over the previous dozen days, and Sunday provided deliverance.

Moss generated 113 yards for the Patriots and scored their first touchdown, a sweet tippy-toe grab in the back of the end zone. He finished with a game-high five receptions for 70 yards and drew another 43 yards on a Bills pass interference near the goal line.

"My father always said, 'Tall trees experience high winds,'" Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's been at the top for a long time. When it doesn't go right, that's just part of the profession.

"Randy's mature enough to handle that. He's a fighter, and he came out today and really made some great catches for us. Missed him on a couple of deep ones that certainly I wish we would have hit. But he was running his butt off today."

Moss had been called a quitter, a dog, a malcontent.

With the Patriots enduring three losses in four games, Patriots coach Bill Belichick booted Moss and three other players from Gillette Stadium on Dec. 9 for showing up late for a meeting.

Four days later against the Carolina Panthers, Moss caught one pass and fumbled it away, appeared to give less than full effort on a Brady interception and committed a false start. Panthers defensive backs Chris Gamble and Chris Harris proclaimed they made him submit.

A pair of future Hall of Fame receivers, Jerry Rice and Cris Carter, publicly ripped him as a lollygagger. We should have known, the media declared. He was trouble in Minnesota and Oakland. It was bound to happen in New England too.

A cancer, this guy.

Through it all, Moss said nothing. He had no answers, no words to defend himself.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft defended him. So did head coach Bill Belichick, who uncharacteristically took shots at Gamble and Harris as guys who haven't won enough games this year to have a credible opinion.

NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell and ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge -- with access to the sacred coaches' tapes -- were unanimous in their defense of Moss. They insisted he gave a high effort against the Panthers, but those voices didn't make nearly enough noise amid the condemnation.

A productive game would be Moss' only response.

The Patriots wanted him involved right away. They went deep to him twice -- and quickly. Brady fired a long ball too far down the left sideline on their sixth play. That pass interference chunk came on the first possession of the second quarter.

Despite facing the NFL's worst run defense, the Patriots wanted to help Moss prove a point.

"He's a competitor, and he wasn't happy with his performance the week before," Patriots receiver Wes Welker said. "He came out there and showed why he's one of the best to play the game. There's no doubt in my mind or anybody else's that he was going to bounce back from last week and have a great game."

Moss caught more flak than passes over his four previous games. He made six catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns. OK numbers for Chansi Stuckey or Josh Reed, not for one of the greatest receivers there ever was.

But on Sunday he came through. His afternoon wasn't prolific, but in sub-freezing conditions and with the Patriots desperately seeking their first true road win of the year, he made his presence felt.

Brady threw for only 115 yards. Laurence Maroney averaged 3.5 yards a carry.

Moss' shoulders didn't have to carry the earth Sunday, but he carried his offense again.

Atlas shrugged off the past two weeks.

"He always wants to prove something," Brady said. "He's a very competitive guy. The way he played today, he made some tough catches in traffic, made some nice catch-and-runs. He did a great job."

Trent Edwards goes in, down and out

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The sequence nicely sums up the Buffalo Bills' year. It probably sums up the past few seasons.

Edwards
Edwards
With 13:14 left in Sunday's game and the Bills trailing the New England Patriots 17-3, a request was made of Trent Edwards to save the day.

The Bills' quarterback, banished to the sideline a month before, was going to get a shot. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't getting it done. Interim coach Perry Fewell went to the bullpen.

  • First and 10 at the Bills' 40-yard line: Edwards drops back to pass and gets mauled by Gary Guyton for a 10-yard sack. A facemask by Patriots defensive tackle Ron Brace gives the Bills a first down.
  • First and 10 at the Bills' 45-yard line: Edwards completes a pass to tight end Shawn Nelson for minus-1 yard.
  • Second and 11 at the Bills' 44-yard line: Edwards underthrows slot receiver Josh Reed.
  • Third and 11 at the Bills' 44-yard line: Edwards sacked by Tully Banta-Cain for a loss of 9 yards and suffers an ankle injury. He's done for the day.

$50k to bolt St. Louis? Fine with Incognito

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito thought $50,000 was a bargain when it came to buying his freedom from St. Louis.

Incognito
Incognito
Incognito was fined for committing two personal fouls last week in his final game for the St. Louis Rams. Repeated bad behavior forced the Rams to waive him. The Bills picked him up on Wednesday.

"With the fine of 50 grand, I would have gladly paid more to get out of that situation in St. Louis," Incognito said Sunday after the New England Patriots beat the Bills 17-10 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. "So I chalk it up to that."

Incognito started at right guard for Kendall Simmons, who on Friday became the fifth starting offensive lineman the Bills placed on injured reserve.

Incognito committed three penalties for 30 yards against the Patriots -- holding twice and an illegal block above the waist.

NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reported Ray Anderson, the league's chief disciplinarian, wrote in a letter to Incognito that, "Future infractions of the types you have committed may lead to increased disciplinary action up to and including suspension."

"The way I approach the game," Incognito said, "my intensity level and the way I play on Sundays, not one thing's going to change. The foolish penalties and the selfishness, that has changed and it's going to continue to change. That's something I've been working on for a very long time.

"But coming out and flying around and being a physical presence on the field, not one bit. That's me."

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 17, Bills 10

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
3:56
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- So much for the New England Patriots being vulnerable.

At least not so vulnerable they would lose to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

With all of the problems the Patriots have dealt with in the past few weeks, and a sizable chunk of their starting lineup unable to play, their win streak over the Bills appeared to be in jeopardy.

The Bills put together a valiant opening series, marching 13 plays in 9:24 to kick a field goal. An upset vibe pulsed through Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But those would be the only points the Bills would score until their final drive. The Patriots had only nine first-quarter snaps, but took control in the second with a pair of touchdowns and went on to win 17-10. It was New England's 13th straight victory over the Bills.

The victory ensured the Patriots would remain in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The margin was increased with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets both losing on Sunday.

The Patriots notched their first true road victory of the year and have won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month.

Buffalo was generous with the penalties. In the first four games after Perry Fewell took over as interim coach, the Bills committed six, three, one and three penalties. They had eight for 104 yards -- in the first half.

Two of those penalties -- a 43-yard pass interference and a 21-yard pass interference -- led to New England's second-quarter touchdowns.

Patriots running back Laurence Maroney was the workhorse on one of Tom Brady's least-productive days. Maroney ran 23 times for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Brady completed 11 of 23 attempts for 115 yards -- 11 more than the Bills gave up in the first half on penalties alone -- and a touchdown. Randy Moss caught five passes for 70 yards and the touchdown.

The Patriots' pass rush was wonderful against the Bills' patchwork O-line. Tully Banta-Cain recorded three of their six sacks.

Buffalo couldn't capitalize on the absences of New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive ends Ty Warren and Myron Pryor. Fred Jackson rushed 15 times for 80 yards, but Buffalo increasingly had to open up their passing game.

Halftime observations in the AFC East

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
2:43
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With all three AFC East games happening simultaneously, let's take a halftime spin around the division.

If all of these scores hold up in the second half, then the AFC East picture will come into clearer focus.

Here in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the New England Patriots are taking care of the Buffalo Bills thanks to a pair of pass interference penalties that made both touchdowns easier than they should've been.

A 9:24 field goal drive for the Bills to start the game left the Patriots with only nine offensive plays in the first quarter. The Patriots have 130 yards from scrimmage, but the Bills gave them an additional 64 yards in the second quarter on those pass interference calls near the goal line. They set up a 13-yard Randy Moss touchdown catch and a 1-yard Laurence Maroney run.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has only 68 yards passing. Maroney leads them in rushing with 40 yards. Bills running back Fred Jackson, meanwhile, has 69 yards on 11 carries, but the Bills haven't been able to get into the end zone.

The Tennessee Titans are putting a damper on the Miami Dolphins' playoff hopes. The Titans lead 17-6 in Nashville.

Dolphins back Ricky Williams has 55 yards, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark. Chad Henne was having a respectable first half, completing 10 of 16 passes for 120 yards, but he threw an interception in the closing seconds of the half at the Titans' 34-yard line, squandering a field goal possibility.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown two interceptions, but one big play has them ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, 7-3. The Falcons have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, allowing quarterbacks to compile a 98.2 season passer rating against them.

The Falcons have taken away the run, holding Thomas Jones to 30 yards on a dozen attempts. But the Jets are ahead because Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards on a 65-yard bomb.

Moss making presence felt

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
2:03
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- On a day when the New England Patriots otherwise might be content to stomp the Buffalo Bills' feeble run defense, Randy Moss has made the loudest statement so far.

Moss
The Patriots didn't have a single passing yard until more than two minutes were gone in the second quarter. That's when Moss tippy-tapped his feet in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.

The Patriots have a 7-3 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter. Of their 86 total yards, Moss has 38 of them on three receptions. He also drew a 43-yard pass interference penalty to set up his touchdown.

Greetings from The Ralph

December, 20, 2009
12/20/09
12:07
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium are cold and gray for Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.

But at least the snow that has socked in the rest of the Northeast has stayed away.

In watching the doppler Saturday night, I found it amusing how this gargantuan white sheet was covering five states, but as it approached Buffalo, some mystical force field on the eastern rim of Lake Erie seemed to be batting it away with ease.

So no snow here, folks. Based on the flags atop the stadium and the streamers on the goal posts, the wind seems tolerable for now.

The Patriots already announced all the surprises from their inactive list Saturday night.

Particularly noteworthy about the Bills' inactive list is that receiver Terrell Owens isn't on it. Owens missed practice Thursday and Friday with an illness.

The complete rundown of scratches reads thusly:

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Wilfork, right side of O-line out for Pats

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
8:03
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New England Patriots running Kevin Faulk readily admitted his team was vulnerable three days ago.

They're even more at risk now.

The Patriots have scratched several notable players from Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Heavy losses have been sustained on both sides of the ball. On defense, nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive ends Ty Warren and Myron Pryor will be absent.

So will the right side of the offensive line. Guard Stephen Neal and right tackle Nick Kaczur will be deactivated.Tom Brady has been banged up for a weeks, and those bones won't feel any less sore on an afternoon when the high temperature is expected to be about 26.

Running back Fred Taylor, who is itching to return, will miss his ninth straight game since ankle surgery.

Calls and Effect: AFC East penalty tracker

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
6:54
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For a considerable chunk of the season, the Buffalo Bills led the NFL in penalties.

They surrendered their status as the least-disciplined team in Week 9 only because they had a bye. When the Bills fired head coach Dick Jauron after Week 10, opponents had accepted 80 penalties, one behind the league-leading Green Bay Packers.

Amazing, then, what the Bills have done in their four weeks under interim coach Perry Fewell.

The Bills have become one of the best-behaved teams and have fallen way down the list to 13th.

The Bills committed 11 penalties in Jauron's final game. Since he was fired and Fewell was promoted, they've elicited six, three, one and three yellow flags.


Of course, Wednesday's addition of St. Louis Rams guard Richie Incognito off the waiver wire might shoot that trend all to hell over the last three games.

Incognito likely will start on the right side against the New England Patriots on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills on Friday placed Kendall Simmons on injured reserve.

Incognito is volatile. He has been flagged seven times for 75 yards. He has been cited for unnecessary roughness three times and a personal foul. The Rams waived him because he committed a pair of 15-yarders and got into a heated confrontation with head coach Steve Spagnuolo last Sunday.

Video: Belichick on 'Mike and Mike'

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
5:10
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video New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick talks about the state of his team on "Mike and Mike in the Morning."

Video: How do T.O. and Moss compare?

December, 18, 2009
12/18/09
5:49
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video ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi discuss how Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens compares to New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss in advance of Sunday's game in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Final Word: AFC East

December, 18, 2009
12/18/09
4:00
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:


Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireTerrell Owens only had two receptions for 46 yards when he faced the Patriots during Week 1.
Terrell Owens and Lee Evans have to be amped to face the Patriots secondary. Owens and Evans combined for a measly five receptions and 71 yards on opening night at Gillette Stadium. I wouldn't be surprised if each posted numbers better than that in Sunday's rematch. Trent Edwards, aka Captain Checkdown, was Buffalo's quarterback then. The relatively freewheeling Ryan Fitzpatrick is heaving it now, and the Patriots secondary has been giving up mammoth gains in recent weeks.

What is the opposite of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object? That would be Mark Sanchez facing the Atlanta Falcons' pass defense. Something has to give -- and give and give and give. Jets coach Rex Ryan announced Sanchez will return from a knee injury and start Sunday at the Meadowlands. Sanchez's interceptions have cost the Jets a legitimate shot at the playoffs, but the Falcons have the 30th-ranked pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a cumulative 98.2 passer rating, second-highest in the league.

The Dolphins haven't seen anything like Chris Johnson this year. The Dolphins' run defense did a tremendous job shutting down Maurice Jones-Drew last week, but their task on Sunday looks virtually impossible based on Johnson's weekly numbers. He is averaging 5.8 yards a carry and 147.1 yards over his past seven games with nine touchdowns. Good luck with that.

An on-field response from Randy Moss might not be forthcoming. Moss was called out by Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, and two Panthers defensive backs essentially for quitting. Moss also has been defended by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and multiple film dissectors. But Moss might not get a chance to make his statement Sunday against the Bills, who own the NFL's worst defense against the run and fifth against the pass.

If the Bills defeat the Patriots on Sunday, then interim coach Perry Fewell gets the job. The last Bills coach to beat the Patriots was Gregg Williams on opening day 2003. The Patriots have won a dozen straight games, but what better way for the Bills to mark a mostly irrelevant season by ending that drought? The Bills haven't made the playoffs in a decade. This will be their Super Bowl, and a victory would give the Bills plenty of justification to stick with Fewell.

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