AFC East: rapid reaction 15

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 49, Raiders 26

December, 14, 2008
 AP Photo/George Nikitin
  Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel was exceptional in a 49-26 win over the Raiders less than a week after his father passed away.

Posted by's Tim Graham

Two days before his father's funeral, Matt Cassel staged a wonderful performance to propel the New England Patriots past the Oakland Raiders 49-26 in the rain at McAfee Coliseum.

Cassel had four touchdown passes by the opening drive of the second half. He finished with 218 yards on 18 completions to help the Patriots remain tied with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins atop the AFC East.

All three teams won Sunday and are 9-5 with two games left.

With the Patriots' postseason hopes on the line, many were concerned if Cassel could cope. The alternative would've been to insert rookie Kevin O'Connell. But Cassel insisted on playing, a decision that inspired his teammates.

Five years ago this month and on the same field, Brett Favre threw four first-half touchdown passes to beat the Raiders the day after his dad died.

Cassel's father, Greg, was found dead early Tuesday morning in his Southern California home. Cassel left the team Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday at San Jose State, where the team worked out in between games against the Seattle Seahawks and Raiders.

The Patriots' offense amassed 487 yards. Sammy Morris ran 14 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. LaMont Jordan ran a dozen times for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Randy Moss, playing in Oakland for the first time since he was traded from there, caught five of Cassel's passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 31, Bills 27

December, 14, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets are in trouble. Or are they?

The Jets went into Sunday in charge of their own destiny, but oh-so nearly forfeited control with an unbelievable 31-27 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Meadowlands.

The Bills were protecting a three-point lead with about two minutes to play, but J.P. Losman was sacked and fumbled. Jets defensive lineman Shaun Ellis picked it up and scored a touchdown to help the Jets remain tied for first place in the AFC East.

The Jets were desperate for a victory after dropping two in a row against opponents they were favored against. Maybe beating the Bills will inject some confidence, but how they escaped must be disconcerting to their fans.

That the Jets needed such a miraculous defensive play should be disturbing because the Bills went into the game having scored zero touchdowns on their past 22 possessions.

Bills running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson and even Losman gashed the Jets' run defense, which might not deserve its elite reputation anymore.

But the Jets always seemed to come up with the big play. With the Bills about to take a 17-14 lead into halftime, Leon Washington ripped off a 47-yard touchdown run to put the Bills back in their place.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 14, 49ers 9

December, 14, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

As funny as it might sound to the casual NFL fan, the Miami Dolphins got past a tough opponent, beating the 49ers, 14-9, on Sunday afternoon.

Even funnier sounding: Miami remains in control of the AFC East with two games to play.

The Dolphins went into Sunday in a three-way tie for first place with the New York Jets and New England Patriots. The Jets barely defeated the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots have a 4:05 p.m. kickoff against the Oakland Raiders.

In what's shaping up as a season-finale showdown for the division title, the Dolphins will visit the Jets on Dec. 28.

The 49ers went into Dolphin Stadium having won two straight games -- both against AFC East teams -- in which they surrendered just 17 combined points.

Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was 12 of 19 for 156 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He connected on his first six attempts to break Dan Marino's 16-year-old club record for consecutive completions with 17.

The Dolphins committed zero turnovers to break the 14-game NFL record for fewest giveaways with 10.