NFL Nation: New England Patrots
December, 16, 2012
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyChris Harris' 98-yard interception for a score put the game away late in the second quarter.BALTIMORE -- The last time the Denver Broncos weren't celebrating in a postgame locker room was in Foxborough, Mass., way back in Week 5.
These focused Broncos aren’t ready to say it yet publicly, but the thought of getting a chance to avenge that loss to the New England Patriots has to be creeping into the back of their heads.
Six days after the Patriots slapped around the AFC's likely top seed, the Houston Texans, the Broncos went to Baltimore and turned one of the toughest NFL venues into their late-season playground. They pulled off a 34-17 win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens in a game that was a 31-3 frolic going into the fourth quarter. It was Denver’s first win in Baltimore against the Ravens in six tries, and it was Peyton Manning's ninth consecutive win over the Ravens.
“It was a big game for [the Ravens], and it was a big game for us,” Denver tight end Jacob Tamme said. “It was good to get this type of win.”
These Broncos are now elite and capable of beating a playoff team. Despite going into the game with an eight-game win streak, questions lingered about the Broncos because their three losses came against their best competition of the season: Atlanta, Houston and New England. Those three defeats have hung with the Broncos, even though Manning's offense was still developing at that point in the season, and Denver's young defense was still adjusting to new coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Had Denver stumbled in Baltimore, the Broncos would have heard the “they haven’t beaten anybody” dismissals all the way into January. But they avoided that discussion entirely by dismantling Baltimore in all three phases of the game.
The rest of the league tends to take notice of this kind of road performance in December. Denver now has momentum in the form of nine consecutive wins, the longest current streak in the league. It has Manning. It has a dominant defense. It has superb coaching.
A realistic case can be made for six or seven teams to win the Super Bowl. The Broncos have cemented their place in that group.
“You always want a shot,” Tamme said. “We have a shot. We just have to make sure we get there.”
Denver (11-3) has all but wrapped up the AFC's No. 3 seed in the playoffs but is still hoping to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
The Broncos know they're a good team. They know they have staying power. Yet, they have stuck to this mantra: “We just have to get better every week. We know we will be in good shape if we do that,” star cornerback Champ Bailey said.
With the steady John Fox as head coach and the no-nonsense Manning at quarterback, the Broncos don’t allow themselves to look too far ahead. That’s been a theme during this impressive winning streak. In the glow of the visitor’s locker room Sunday, the Broncos were already talking up the importance of their final two games -- at home against also-rans Cleveland and Kansas City.
As much as we might like the Broncos to celebrate the win over the Ravens with some New England-aimed bravado, it didn’t happen.
“It’s all focused on getting better,” Tamme said. “Every team probably says it, but we know that it’s important for us.”
The only time the team’s winning streak is mentioned at any point during the week is after each win in the locker room.
Sunday, Fox led his team with this chant: “What’s better than nine wins in a row? Ten wins in a row.”
That chant started in Week 6 with an incredible comeback in San Diego to even Denver’s record at 3-3.
Now the Broncos and Patriots might be on a collision course for another Manning-Tom Brady AFC playoff matchup.
“We have all three phases working,” said Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas, who took a back seat to fellow receiver Eric Decker as Manning’s favorite target Sunday. “We are playing good, solid football.”
Sunday’s game showed the rest of the NFL that the Broncos can be so much more on a big stage than just Manning. The defense was brilliant as it held the Ravens to 278 yards, much of it in garbage time. The Ravens didn’t earn a first down until their sixth drive of the game.
Denver cornerback Chris Harris ushered in the rout when he picked off a Joe Flacco pass and returned it 98 yards for a score in the final seconds of the first half, giving the Broncos a 17-0 halftime lead.
Denver’s defense has been making big plays like that one all season.
“We knew we had to come up with something big there,” Bailey said. “And Chris did.”
While the Denver defense dictated the game, the Broncos leaned on the run and the revived Knowshon Moreno. After being inactivate for eight straight games at one point, Moreno has become a force for Denver with Willis McGahee injured. Moreno had 118 yards Sunday, and the Broncos ran the ball 45 times compared to 28 Manning pass attempts.
Denver is now a complete team, and the Patriots may have to plan on meeting the Broncos again.
Will that be the night when Fox says in the locker room, “What’s better than winning the AFC Championship Game? Winning the Super Bowl”?
Time will tell. But Sunday’s win over the Ravens showed the NFL that the Broncos have arrived.
October, 30, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireMarcell Dareus and the Bills' D knocked John Beck around -- sacking Washington's QB nine times.TORONTO -- We are entering the month of November and guess who's in first place in the AFC East?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the surprising Buffalo Bills (5-2).
Not only that, the offensive-minded Bills are starting to get improved play from their much-maligned defense near the midpoint of the season. That is a scary proposition.
What also is scary is the way the Bills played on Sunday. The Bills exploded out of their bye week, pummeling the Washington Redskins 23-0 in one of their most complete games of the season. Buffalo is back in first place via the head-to-head tiebreaker over the New England Patriots (5-2), who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bills went against every defensive trend it had this season against Washington (3-4).
Buffalo was the 31st-ranked defense entering Week 8, but held Washington to 178 yards. The Bills allowed 24.5 points in the first six games, but pitched a shutout for the first time since Dec. 17, 2006. Buffalo was last in the NFL with four sacks but astoundingly had nine against Redskins quarterback John Beck. It was the second-most sacks for Buffalo in franchise history.
It's safe to assume the offense will be there for the Bills. Buffalo has scored at least 20 points in every game this season. But how scary can the Bills be if their defense plays this well in the second half of the season?
"We can be unstoppable," Bills defensive lineman Spencer Johnson (one sack, one blocked field goal) said. "Everybody knows what our offense is capable of. We showed what we can do as a defense when we prepare and play together."
Bills first-round pick Marcell Dareus, who had his best game as a pro with four tackles and 2.5 sacks, also felt confident about the direction of the defense.
"I think the sky is the limit," Dareus said. "A lot of people questioned us stopping the run, playing flat and [not] playing a whole game. I think this is the first complete game our team has played. I think it’s only the beginning."
The overall feeling in Buffalo's locker room was that the defense knew it had this kind of performance in them. The Bills didn't feel they were nearly as bad as their defensive numbers suggested.
Buffalo's ability to disrupt Beck with ease led to a snowball effect for Washington.
The Redskins' banged-up offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage. Washington couldn't get the running game going (26 yards) and couldn't protect Beck long enough to make plays downfield. Beck was sacked nine times by eight Buffalo defenders.
Some weeks Buffalo had been close to getting sacks but couldn't finish. This week the Bills made the most of their opportunities.
"That would be the biggest understatement of the year -- that was amazing to go get nine sacks against that team," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "They really worked hard at it during the bye week. ... I'll be honest with you, I didn't expect that."
Now, we have an interesting three-team race in the AFC East. The Bills (5-2), Patriots (5-2) and New York Jets (4-3) are all one game apart in the division. The AFC East is wide open and only two of these division teams most likely will make the playoffs.
Each team has its flaws. The Jets' weak link has been their inconsistency on offense, while New England and Buffalo have been up-and-down on defense.
That's why it was huge for Buffalo to put forth this defensive performance. The Bills at least put on film what they potentially can be on defense. It also provides much-needed momentum.
"As a group it feels like we are finally getting to the point where we’re together," Dareus said. "We've been trying to find that mold, that right fit at safety, corner, D-linemen up front. It's that good combination where we can really go out there and stop the run and get after the quarterback."
Beating a struggling Washington team was key for Buffalo. The Bills did themselves a great service by padding their record before a tough upcoming stretch.
The Bills will play three road games in November. But next week's home game against the Jets might be the biggest to date.
New York, which has won two in a row, also is playing great football. The Jets had two weeks to prepare. Therefore, expect coach Rex Ryan and Co. to throw everything they have at the Bills.
The first-place Bills put themselves in position to control their own destiny. Playing the Jets twice in November could turn out to be elimination games for one of them.
"New week is huge," Bills safety George Wilson said. "We're going back into the division, what we call 'two-fors.' By beating our division opponent, you essentially go up on them two games. So we have to continue to challenge, to be able to win our division so we're not having to depend on anybody."
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Final Indianapolis 28 Cincinnati 42 Final Atlanta 21 Green Bay 22 Final Cleveland 26 New England 27 Final Oakland 27 New York 37 Final Detroit 20 Philadelphia 34 Final Miami 34 Pittsburgh 28 Final Buffalo 6 Tampa Bay 27 Final Kansas City 45 Washington 10 Final Minnesota 26 Baltimore 29 Final Tennessee 28 Denver 51 Final St. Louis 10 Arizona 30 Final New York 14 San Diego 37 Final Seattle 17 San Francisco 19 Final Carolina 13 New Orleans 31