AFC East: Saints-Bills 092709

When are hard Bills questions appropriate?

October, 5, 2009
10/05/09
9:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


There's something about Terrell Owens that brings out the defenders and apologists.

Last week, reporters were excoriated for asking Owens, who happens to be a football player, football questions after a football game. People recoiled, claiming we were badgering him and asking loaded questions.

The nerve! For shame!

But why do I have a feeling Buffalo Bills fans and Owens supporters alike don't have any problem that a 90-year-old man -- a beloved Hall of Famer! -- was asked hard questions after Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium.

Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan printed this exchange with Bills owner Ralph Wilson outside the visitors' locker room. Here it is, with the corresponding Owens quotes from last week's news conference in parenthetical notation.

It started when Wilson was asked what he thought of the performance, not unlike the first questions Owens faced during last week's news conference after losing to the New Orleans Saints.

Wilson: "You saw the game, just like I did. What do you want me to say? What do you say?"

(Owens on why the offense didn't execute last week: "We lost the game. What do you think?" And on if the Saints defense took him out of the game: "What do you think?")

Reporter: That this performance is unacceptable, like you said after the loss to the Dolphins last year in Toronto.

Wilson: "No comment."

(Owens several times in response to different questions: "I’m just going with the plays that are called.")

Reporter: But you're never lacking for comment.

Wilson: "I am today."

(Owens on the what's wrong with the offense: "Didn't execute.")

Reporter: Should Dick Jauron be worried about his job?

Wilson: "I'm worried about my job."

(Owens on Trent Edwards' decisions: "I don’t want to answer that because whatever I say you guys are turn it into however you want to say it.")

A member of the Bills' public relations staff then ushered Wilson away.

Shame, shame on the media for attacking a man when he's down.

Calls and Effect: AFC East penalty tracker

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
9:30
AM ET
While their divisional rivals were mostly disciplined in Week 3, the Buffalo Bills shot to the top of the AFC East penalty tracker with Sunday's sloppy loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The Bills committed 14 penalties. A dozen of them were accepted for 116 yards.

Through three games, they've sustained 242 yards in penalties, 82 yards more than the division's No. 2 transgressors, the New York Jets.
AFC East team-by-team penalties
Team Players Flagged Total Flags Accepted Yards
Buffalo Bills 22 33 28 242
New York Jets 17 25 21 160
New England Patriots 15 19 19 154
Miami Dolphins 12 17 15 86

The Bills aren't good enough to give away that many yards. Particularly troubling is that they've been whistled for six majors (sorry for the hockey term): two unsportsmanlike conducts, two facemasks, one roughing the passer and one unnecessary roughness. The rest of the division combined has been called for seven such penalties.

Penalties are even more costly when you're shorthanded. The Bills have suffered heavy losses because of injuries. They will go into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium minus at least four starters from their defense.

But maybe their flags will decrease without left tackle Demetrius Bell in the lineup. He's out because of a groin injury. Bell has been flagged six times, twice as often as anybody else in the AFC East.
AFC East Penalty Tracker
Player Team Pos. Flagged* Yards
Demetrius Bell Bills LT 6 20
Will Allen Dolphins CB 3 16
Tom Brady Patriots QB 3 15
Eric Wood Bills LG 3 15
Damien Woody Jets RT 3 12
Kawika Mitchell Bills LB 2 30
Jairus Byrd Bills S 2 28
D'Brickashaw Ferguson Jets LT 2 20
Mark Sanchez Jets QB 2 20
Vince Wilfork Patriots DT 2 20
Shawn Nelson Bills TE 2 16
Vernon Carey Dolphins RT 2 15
Alan Faneca Kets LG 2 15
Nic Harris Bills LB 2 15
Brian Hartline Dolphins WR 2 15
*Includes declined and offsetting penalties

The Jets deserve a commendation for last week's three-penalty performance in beating the Tennessee Titans. The Jets went into Week 3 having been flagged the most in the division.

But the Jets must be concerned with where the penalties are occurring. Nine of their 21 accepted penalties have been committed by their veteran offensive line.

The Miami Dolphins had a disorderly week by their standards. They committed seven penalties, but only one went for 10 yards. Twelve of their 15 accepted penalties have been for 5 yards or less.

Captain Checkdown doesn't go deep for Bills

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
1:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Buffalo Bills fans have given Trent Edwards a derisive nickname.

  Edwards
"Captain Checkdown" they call him for his reluctance to throw downfield despite having a couple of deep threats in Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Owens and Evans have combined for 13 receptions through three games, while running backs and tight ends get Edwards' seemingly undivided attention.

As an old friend texted after Sunday's loss, in which Owens had his reception streak snapped at 185 games by the New Orleans Saints: "When do you think heads will roll at One Bills Drive? They didn't pay T.O. and Evans 15 mil to be decoys for Derek Fine."

Actually, Owens is getting paid $6.5 million and Evans a base salary of $4.6 million this year. But I understand the sentiment.

Running back Fred Jackson has 15 receptions. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play last week and is out for the season, yet he has caught only four fewer passes than Owens and Evans together. Fine has started one game at tight end but has as many catches as Owens -- five.

To see just how much Edwards deserved his Captain Checkdown moniker -- "Trentative Checkwards" hasn't caught on -- I broke out some situational passing numbers provided by ESPN Stats & Information, which tracks every NFL play.

Short passing games have gained popularity in recent years. Many teams employ that strategy, and I thought maybe Edwards wasn't too far off the norm.

Turns out, Captain Checkdown is quite appropriate.

Edwards' average pass travels 7.7 yards in the air. That's tied for 26th in the league among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.

As the accompanying chart shows, Edwards' stats plummet the farther his passes fly.

Trent Edwards' passing performance by distance
Distance Comp. Att. Pct. Yards TD Int. Rating Rank
Under 11 yards 49 70 70.0 424 2 1 89.2 (14)
11-20 yards 5 13 38.5 99 0 0 65.9 (23)
21-plus yards 2 8 25.0 75 2 1 66.1 (20)
All 56 91 61.5 598 4 2 86.2 (T-16)


Edwards throws 10 yards or shorter 77 percent of the time. He has thrown only 21 passes beyond 10 yards, and eight of those were longer than 20 yards downfield.

Edwards is 2 of 8 when throwing longer than 20 yards, but both completions went for touchdowns -- a 32-yarder to Evans and a 43-yarder to Owens.

Dungy on Owens: 'I felt bad for Dick Jauron'

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


One day after studio partner Rodney Harrison was a guest, NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy went on "The Dan Patrick Show" to talk about the fallout from Sunday night's comments about Terrell Owens.
 Owens


While Harrison was more blunt on Sunday, calling Owens "a clown" for the way he behaved after failing to catch a pass in a home loss to the New Orleans Saints, Dungy was more subtle. Dungy said Owens was "hard to coach."

Patrick asked the former Indianapolis Colts coach to elaborate.
"It is tough," Dungy said. "I felt bad for Dick Jauron. You're there, you lose a tough game and you go to 1-2. You've got enough problems to worry about, getting the offense back on track, getting your team [together]. Then you have a press conference that comes off like that with a player that's got to be one of your leaders.

"He's going to lead you one way or the other. I guess that would be my problem with Terrell Owens. You get a lot of productivity from him. You get 12 to 15 touchdowns a year, but you also get the other side of it. That's hard on a coach, and a lot of people don't realize that."
Dungy mentioned he has dealt with receivers who wanted more action and understands the emotions involved. But he explained why he thought Owens is going about expressing himself in the wrong way.
"You're going to have strong personalities, but you can't have the me-first attitude if you're going to be a championship team," Dungy said. "You have to have the idea that 'Hey, when we win, it's great. When we lose, we're all disappointed, and we've got to figure out ways not to lose.'

"Yeah, everybody wants to have their personal stats. Everyone wants to help the team, and I've had receivers that wanted to catch the ball before, but you've got to bring it to me as a coach. You've got to do it within the framework of the team so that we can get things better and not take it out in press conferences and things like that, reality shows. That just doesn't help you win."
Owens chose not to address Dungy's comments on "Football Night in America," but responded to Harrison by sending several taunting tweets about Harrison's four-game suspension in 2007 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Harrison on Wednesday replied to Owens' tweets:

"He can say whatever he wants about my career, but when it comes down to it, I'm a champion. OK? And he'll never have that on his résumé. He'll never be a champion. He'll look at his stats and say, 'I was a great football player,' but he'll never be a world champion."

Owens, Edwards among worst in hooking up

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
10:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


A good debate: Who's having the more frustrating season, Terrell Owens or Joey Galloway?

Galloway's inability to incorporate himself into the New England Patriots' offense is bewildering. But he's not as prominent to his offense as Owens is to the Buffalo Bills'.
Lowest reception percentage (Min. 10 targets*)
Player Rec-Targets Rec. Pct.
Darrius Heyward-Bey 1-12 8.3
Chris Chambers 2-14 14.3
Joey Galloway 7-20 35.0
Nate Washington 7-19 36.8
Eddie Royal 6-16 37.5
Terrell Owens 5-13 38.5
Kevin Curtis 5-13 38.5
*135 players have at least 10 targets this season

Buffalo's inability to get the ball to Owens was obvious on Sunday.

For the first time in 186 games, he failed to catch a pass.

They haven't thrown to Owens much through the first three games, and the passes that have gone his way he hasn't been able to grab.

Owens, a future Hall of Famer who once caught 20 passes in a game, has been targeted only 13 times so far. That's about half as much as he was used to with the Dallas Cowboys -- and even that wasn't enough.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo targeted Owens an average of 8.2 times last year and 8.8 times two years ago.

ESPN Stats & Information researcher Alok Pattani points out 96 players, including 20 tight ends and 11 running backs, have been targeted more often.

Owens hasn't been able to do much with the balls that are directed toward him. He has five receptions, giving him and Bills quarterback Trent Edwards a 38.5 percent success rate.

Of the 135 players who have been targeted at least 10 times this season, five have a lower reception percentage, which factors not only drops (Owens has had a few), but also errant throws (Edwards has made a few).

Galloway has the third-worst reception percentage at 35 percent. Tom Brady has targeted him 20 times.

Five Bills have been targeted at least 10 times, and all of them have a higher reception percentage than Owens.

While it might not be fair to compare Owens to tight end Derek Schouman (81.8 percent) or running back Fred Jackson (75 percent) in this regard because Edwards often goes to them with higher-percentage attempts, Owens also ranks behind receivers Josh Reed (100 percent) and Lee Evans (47.1 percent).

Owens: 'I'm in a no-win situation' with media

September, 30, 2009
9/30/09
5:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Terrell Owens had a much more productive encounter with the media Wednesday certainly than he did Sunday.

Owens chose to parry with reporters who cover the Buffalo Bills after his no-catch, 27-7 home loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Speaking with them for the first time since that controversial news conference, Owens began the interview similar to Sunday's news conference but loosened up and became more forthright. He shared some of his thoughts on the offense, his role on the team and his burgeoning feud with NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison.

Highlights from a transcript provided by the Bills:

On Sunday's game:

"We had some opportunities there to win the game. It was 10-7, and we missed some connections there, where we could have gone up on them and then probably put them in a situation where they have to pass a lot.

"I really don’t think enough credit has been given to our defense because they played a hell of a ball game. When you think about what [the Saints] have done the last two weeks prior to playing us, they have put up big numbers. [Drew] Brees has put up some big numbers as far as yardage, and we eliminated the things that they did in getting into the end zone.

"So [the Bills defense] played a tremendous ballgame and, offensively, we didn’t help the defense out. We took some knocks all the way around with the game and with some injuries. So we just have to keep getting better, keep plugging away and I think the guys are doing that."

On his tweets in response to Harrison calling him "a clown" on TV:

"I have already responded to that. It is what it is. Those guys are going to say what they want to say and I can only take so much of being the butt of someone’s jokes. They want to try to get on there and make a name for themselves, but I’m not going to allow someone to just call me a clown and just run all over me. I have been taking enough heat as it is with the media. When you have someone who as played this game, but I have responded the way I knew how, said what I had to say and left it at that."

On claiming his comments get taken out of context:

"It is very frustrating because I think that some of the guys and the coaches want to me step up and be more vocal and say things as a leader. I feel like sometimes I try to do that, try to say things in a subtle way without being harsh, but other outlets are taking those quotes, making them headlines and making them more of an issue than they really are. I think that that is why the first couple of games I tended not to say anything after the games."

On why subtlety is important:

"That is because I have always been vocal and always spoken honestly, and I think over the years that has gotten me in trouble and created some sort of division in the locker room with some of the guys on the team, and I just try to do the right thing now. Even when I try to do the right thing, it is not the right thing. I am in a situation where I am in a no-win situation. So I just try to be the best I can be without offending someone."

Brees hasn't seen pass D like Jets yet

September, 30, 2009
9/30/09
5:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Drew Brees hasn't encountered a defense he hasn't been able to shred.

Buffalo Bills fans might want to point to Sunday's game in Ralph Wilson Stadium, where Brees and the New Orleans Saints were limited to a respectable 172 passing yards. But with Pierre Thomas maintaining a 9.0-yard rushing average and two touchdowns in the second half, Brees didn't need to cock his arm.

But Brees will meet his defensive match Sunday in the Superdome.

The New York Jets have give all three quarterbacks they've faced fits.
Both trends cannot continue Sunday
Brees (rank) Jets D (rank)
Comp. pct 69.1 (2) 47.9 (1)
Yards per att 8.7 (2) 4.7 (1)
Passer rating 118.1 (1) 50.2 (2)

As the accompanying chart shows, Brees and the Jets' passing defense rank either No. 1 or No. 2 in completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating.

"The thing about this kid -- and we've played him before -- if you run a traditional coverage against this guy, he'll carve you up," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said.

Traditional never has described Ryan's defense.

The Jets are the NFL's only team to keep opponents from completing less than half of their attempts. They've held Matt Schaub, Tom Brady and Kerry Collins to 47.9 percent, more than 21 points below Brees' completion percentage.

The last defense to have allowed fewer than 50 percent of passes completed through three games is last year's Baltimore Ravens, who were at 43.5 percent. Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

The Jets have kept opposing quarterbacks to 4.7 yards per attempt, nearly half of what Brees gains every time he throws.

"They have the best offense," Jets linebacker David Harris said. "They’ve got a lot of weapons. They spread the ball out and they’re lead by Drew Brees who is kind of lights out right now. They put up points on everybody, so we’ve got a handful this week."

Ryan still flying in approval ratings

September, 29, 2009
9/29/09
7:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Don't forget, sports fans, to take part in SportsNation's weekly NFL head coach approval ratings.

As you might expect, New York Jets rookie head coach Rex Ryan continues to generate a favorable response, while Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron is clawing to stay in the double digits.

As of early Tuesday evening, Ryan is ranked third, tied with Mike Singletary, with an approval rating of 93 percent for getting his team out to a 3-0 start. The pair in front of him: Sean Payton and John Harbaugh.

Bill Belichick was second among AFC East coaches and 14th overall at 67 percent after Sunday's significant victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

A rugged schedule has Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano at 0-3. What's worse, he just lost his starting quarterback, Chad Pennington, for the year. Sparano ranked 24th in the approval ratings at 35 percent.

Jauron might be back on the hot seat after his team's depressing 1-2 start. He is tied with Raheem Morris for 29th in the league approval ratings at 12 percent. They rank higher than only Jim Zorn and Eric Mangini.

T.O. wallowing in his own martyrdom

September, 29, 2009
9/29/09
2:30
PM ET
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Terrell Owens has had a love-hate relationship with the media over the years, but things have taken another nasty turn this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Poor Terrell Owens.

In 20 years of covering sports, I've never come across a media phenomenon like T.O. Nothing can compare to the drama he causes -- partially self-inflicted, partially media-driven, wholly audience-demanded.

In the six months he has been a Buffalo Bill, I've been exposed to the madness.

I was the guy who asked Owens about Michael Vick back in July. What unraveled afterward was astounding to me. I was given a glimpse at what Owens has dealt with over the years. I felt badly for what he endures.

Reaction was intense. Commentators bellowed that Owens couldn't help himself, suggesting he walked to the microphone and read from a prepared statement to rail against NFL injustice. Fans exploded on the media for badgering Owens into answering controversial questions.

Neither was the case. I simply asked a prominent football player what his opinion was on a national issue, and he graciously provided it without any animus. Owens seemed genuinely appreciative the topic had been broached. We chatted about his new cleats afterward.

Three weeks ago, I defended Owens' sense of humor when he jokingly told New England Patriots reporters on a conference call that he didn’t like Buffalo's no-huddle offense. Some outlets turned his off-handed comment into headlines that declared Owens hated the no-huddle.

On Sunday, I asked Owens questions at a news conference minutes after his streak of 185 games with at least one reception was snapped in a 27-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Now Owens is acting like a victim, and this time I don't feel one bit moved.

On Sporting News Radio, Owens told "Two Live Stews" co-hosts Doug and Ryan Stewart the media is out to get him. Owens claimed we're trying to goad him into throwing teammates under the bus.

Not nearly. With the questionable decisions being made by the Bills' front office and head coach Dick Jauron, we don't need his help to identify culprits.

What we want from Owens is his opinion. As a player who gladly acts larger than life, is cashing paychecks for $6.5 million this year, induced thousands of fans to plunk down hard-earned money for tickets to watch him perform and has so far been mostly irrelevant on the field, Owens' comments are germane.

(Read full post)

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 29, 2009
9/29/09
11:00
AM ET

» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Falling

1. Chad Pennington, Dolphins: All the guy wanted to do was stay healthy for consecutive seasons, something he hadn't done since 2002-03. Sadly, Pennington didn't get his wish. Last year's Comeback Player of the Year and runner-up to Peyton Manning for league MVP probably is done for the season because of another injury to his throwing shoulder.

Pennington faces a potentially career-threatening situation. His right shoulder has been operated on twice already and likely will need to undergo the knife again. He will be 34 years old before the start of next season.

2. Terrell Owens, Bills: For the first time in 186 games, Owens failed to catch a pass in Sunday's lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints. Fans went gaga over the Bills' decision to sign Owens. They gobbled up tickets. A crazed horde famously turned out at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where one lunatic dressed up as a popcorn box to welcome Owens.

Yet through three games, Owens ranks fifth on the team with five receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. Running back Fred Jackson has three times as many catches. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play Sunday and is out for the season, but he has almost double Owens' total.

3. Thomas Jones, Jets: In Week 1, the numbers looked appropriate for last year's AFC rushing leader. Jones ran 20 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. But 77 of those yards were gained on two fourth-quarter plays. Extract them, and he averaged 1.7 yards per attempt.

His next outings haven't been much better. Jones carried 14 times each of the past two games, gaining 54 and 20 yards.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Fred Taylor gives New England's rushing attack a much-needed jolt.


Rising

1. Fred Taylor, Patriots: Finally, the Patriots effectively ran the ball. After a couple of weeks in which quarterback Tom Brady aired it out 100 times, the Patriots insisted upon running against the Atlanta Falcons.

Laurence Maroney, the starter in Weeks 2 and 3, left the game with a thigh injury in the second quarter. Taylor carried the load by rushing for more yards in the first half than any Patriots back had gained in each of the first two games. Taylor finished with 105 yards and a touchdown.

2. Mark Sanchez, Jets: One solid game could be happenstance. Two solid games might be coincidence. But three in a row establishes a standard. I guess Jets fans should expect the rookie to perform well every week.

In a 24-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez demonstrated some youthful exuberance that needs to be reigned in a tad, but he once again played more like a four-year pro than a 22-year-old. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Sanchez also scored on a spectacular -- albeit reckless -- 14-yard run.

3. Brandon McGowan, Patriots: When the Patriots signed him as a free agent, he appeared to be a depth player and special-teamer. McGowan not only has been starting, but he also has been a factor.

With Sunday's game tied at 10, McGowan forced Falcons back Michael Turner to cough up the ball on the Patriots' 31-yard line. It was a key play that prevented the Falcons from asserting themselves. They didn't score again. McGowan also was a significant reason why future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was limited to one catch for 16 yards.

Columns as they see 'em

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


A look back at the AFC East's first four-game weekend through the eyes of the columnists who wrote about them.

New York Jets 24, Tennessee Titans 17
New England Patriots 26, Atlanta Falcons 10
New Orleans Saints 27, Buffalo Bills 7
San Diego Chargers 23, Miami Dolphins 13

'Same ol' G' Lynch returns to Bills

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
2:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Marshawn Lynch tried to avoid fans while he slipped in and out of various gyms in the Buffalo area.

While Lynch served his three-game suspension for repeated nefarious behavior, he wasn't allowed to be around the Buffalo Bills. He couldn't be on the sidelines. He couldn't work out at the club's facility.

So he sheepishly tried to stay in football shape on his own and tried to avoid interaction.

"I tried to stay away from as many fans as possible," Lynch said.

But his plan was impractical in a small market that's so passionate about their team. He encountered fans, and they all had an opinion about his return.

"It was weird," Lynch said with a laugh on Monday, his first time back in the Bills' locker room. "I been hearing a lot of different, mixed things. Some were staying I could stay where I'm at. 'Fred's doing a wonderful job,' which I don't mind. Some are telling me they can't wait until I come back. You get mixed emotions from fans.

"I'm just glad I got these dudes on my side to let me know that I was missed."

The Bills went 1-2 without Lynch, most recently losing to the New Orleans Saints 27-7 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Their efforts were more respectable than their record.

Backup running back Fred Jackson ranks fourth in the NFL with 291 rushing yards. Jackson also had 15 receptions for 134 yards and one touchdown.

Adding Lynch can only help an offense that has been erratic and a line that's hurt and struggling to make blocks but not penalties.

Lynch rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons despite missing games. He got more involved in the passing game last year, making 47 catches for 300 yards. He went to his first Pro Bowl.

"You know what you're going to get from me, and you kind of seen what you're going to get from Fred," Lynch said. "So you can combine those two things and get two hundreds from both of us. And when I say two hundreds, I mean two hundred percents. That's what you can expect from our backfield every game."

Lynch essentially dared NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend him.

Lynch pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor gun charge stemming from an arrest last February where police searched Lynch's parked car and found a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in a backpack in the trunk along with four marijuana cigarettes (no drug charges were filed). He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and three years probation.

This wasn't his first episode of misconduct, Lynch was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Buffalo in May of 2008.

"There's only so much I can say to put into words about how I feel," Lynch said, "but it was hard."

Lynch was asked what he learned during his time away.

"Same old me," Lynch said. "Same ol' G. That's not going to change."

Dungy: Terrell Owens' act is 'hard to coach'

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
1:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


NBC released a transcript from the portion of its "Football Night in America" pregame show that apparently got Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens riled up enough to blast studio analyst Rodney Harrison.

But Harrison wasn't the only one critical of Owens.

Another NBC analyst, the judicious Tony Dungy, also disapproved of the way Owens carried himself in his postgame news conference after failing to catch a single pass in a home loss to the New Orleans Saints.

"You really don't want that," Dungy said of Owens' snide demeanor. "But I think you know that's what you get with Terrell Owens. When things aren't going well, you're going to get stuff like that. That's hard to coach."

Then Harrison chimed in: "He's just a clown, a straight up clown. He's more concerned with individual stats as opposed to the team's success. Just a clown."

Owens responded by ridiculing Harrison's four-game suspension in 2007 for violating the performance-enhancing substances policy.

But Owens hasn't lashed out at Dungy, whose condemnation was subtle but more enlightening.

Dungy's words have gravitas. His opinion matters in the football community. Dungy vouched for Michael Vick's return to the NFL.

That Dungy finds Owens' act distasteful says something.

Owens, Evans incognito in Bills' offense

September, 27, 2009
9/27/09
10:40
PM ET
AP Photo/Mike Groll
Terrell Owens was held without a catch in Buffalo's loss to New Orleans.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills astonished us all when they signed Terrell Owens, forming a dynamic duo with Lee Evans. Fans assumed they'd be Batman and Robin.

They've turned out to be a couple of Alfreds.
Week 3 Coverage
" Sando: Singletary stays positive
" Mosley: Did Zorn seal his fate?
" Seifert: GB's bread and butter
" Graham: Owens, Evans MIA
" Kuharsky: Fisher gets some blame
" Walker: Bengals are contenders
" Williamson: Broncos have special coach
" Chadiha: Vick's modest return
" Wojciechowski: Rocky seas for Sanchez
" Clayton: Favre has magic touch
" NFL Nation: Reactions | Wrap-ups | Live

There has been no zip, bang, pow from Owens and Evans. They couldn't have been more mild mannered on Sunday, contributing essentially nothing in a 27-7 defeat to the New Orleans Saints in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Owens had zero catches for the first time in 186 games, nearly 12 years of Hall of Fame football.

His was the longest active streak in the league and third all-time behind Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison. Still, Bills offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterback Trent Edwards found a way to squander the threat.

Owens was targeted five times. He bobbled one. Had the ball swatted away. Edwards overthrew him.

"Clearly, he's a big part of the offense," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He certainly is a threat because they do pay attention to him. We've got to get him the football, obviously.

"We saw him open down the field. We just overthrew him a couple times. Underthrew him once, overthrew him once. When you get your opportunities you've got to take advantage of them."

Theoretically, defenses can't cover two game-breaking receivers on the same play. Double cover one, and the other will come open, right?

Evans was slightly more useful. He had four catches for 31 yards. His longest gain was 11 yards.

Defensive end Ryan Denney had a longer reception than that and more yards than Owens. Buffalo's only touchdown occurred on a fake field goal attempt. Brian Moorman, a punter, connected with Denney on a 25-yard pass play in the second quarter.

"We had plenty of opportunities to get the ball to us," Evans said. "We just didn't get it done. I feel like we had some opportunities and we just didn't take advantage of them."

What was supposed to be one the NFL's most formidable -- maybe the most formidable -- one-two punch has been rendered practically worthless.

Add their stats together and they have 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. One of those games was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Before Sunday night's Colts-Cardinals game, 24 individuals had more receiving yards than Owens and Evans together. Mike Sims-Walker, of all people, has 187 yards for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Bills can't figure out how to get Owens or Evans -- let alone both of them -- involved.

"I wouldn't say wasted," Bills running back Fred Jackson replied when asked if that's what was happening with Owens and Evans. "But I know we're not taking advantage of having them on the field like we're supposed to."

After losing to the Saints, Owens was one of the first players off the field. He didn't mingle or shake hands like many do after a game. He trotted to the locker room, and by the time reporters had enough time to get down there, Owens already was out of his uniform and nattily dressed.

He spoke at the podium, but the only insight you could elicit is between the lines.

Reporter: "Do you think you and Evans are being wasted?"

T.O.: "We're just going with the plays that are called."

Reporter: "You could say no, that you're not being wasted."

T.O.: "I'm just going with the plays that are called."

Reporter: "Do you like the plays that are called?"

T.O.: "Whether I like them or don't, just going with the plays that are called."

Reporter: "What about the decisions that are made [by Edwards] after the plays are called?"

T.O.: "I don't know. You have to ask him."

Reporter: "No, I'm asking you what you think."

T.O.: "Nah. I don't want to answer that."

Reporter: "I'll ask him when I'm done with you."

T.O.: "I don't want to answer that because whatever I say, you guys are going to turn it to however you want to say it."

Reporter: "We'll print exactly."

T.O.: "Well, I just answered you, sir."

Edwards completed 20 of 35 passes for 156 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, a ricochet when he tried to force a third-quarter pass to Owens in Saints' territory.

Edwards' longest completion was for 18 yards. Saints quarterback Drew Brees had completions of 32 yards and 20 yards on his opening drive.

The comparison might seem unfair, but should it be? Edwards has a future Hall of Famer getting paid $6.5 million, and a speed demon the club rewarded last year with a contract extension that, at the time, placed him among the league's 10 highest-paid players.

Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, making his first return to The Ralph since the Bills fired him as head coach, turned the Bills' offense into a mess.

The Bills converted only 2 of 14 third downs, failed to get into the red zone, surrendered eight tackles for losses and four sacks. The Saints were credited with 14 quarterback hits.

"Our offense as a whole just wasn't in a rhythm today," said Jackson, who ran 18 times for 71 yards. "We have to go back to the drawing board."

The offensive line began the season incredibly inexperienced and has gotten younger. Right tackle Brad Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, but rather than sign a veteran to replace Butler, the Bills plucked a developmental player off the Green Bay Packers' practice squad and deactivated him Sunday.

The line committed six penalties. The Saints accepted five of them for 35 yards.

Would a veteran free-agent tackle such as Jon Runyan, Damion McIntosh or Langston Walker have made a difference Sunday? Probably not, but Edwards might have had that much more time to feed Owens or Evans the ball.

As for the streak, Owens shrugged it off. A receiver who once had 20 catches in a single game couldn't make one grab, even in garbage time.

Edwards claimed he had no idea about the streak, not even when the Bills had zero shot of scoring three times inside the final two minutes. The Bills certainly ran plays -- a Jackson run for no gain, Edwards to Josh Reed for no gain, Edwards incomplete -- before punting away so the Saints could kneel out the clock.

Whammo.

Terrell Owens fires back at Rodney Harrison

September, 27, 2009
9/27/09
10:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


I'm working in the Ralph Wilson Stadium press box, so I didn't see what NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison had to say about Terrell Owens' no-catch performance here Sunday.

But I can share Owens' responses.

Owens, not long after his streak of 185 games with at least one reception was snapped by the New Orleans Saints, fired off three tweets in response to Harrison's review.
  1. "I could less about Rodney Harrison! Anybody tht using steroids, yes STEROIDS rodney, is a cheater & cheated the game!"
  2. "Is tht Y u used steroids b/c u were worried about ur stats or ws it b/c u were losing it? Lol! U're a loser & a cheater? Got any steroid ..."
  3. "Hey rodney! Send me sum steroids 2 the Bills facility next week!"

Owens is referring to Harrison's four-game suspension to start 2007 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The former San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots safety admitted to obtaining HGH, but insisted he never took steroids.

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