Change in fortune helps Bills end AFC East skid

Click here for more Bills coverage from The Buffalo News EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Buffalo Bills looked like they might go down to yet another exasperating, mind-boggling defeat at about six different moments in Sunday afternoon's game. Lo and behold, after almost 73 minutes of football, the Bills turned recent history on its ear. Rian Lindell's 47-yard field goal with 2:44 left in overtime gave the Bills a reversal of fortune the team oh-so-dearly needed. "We said on the sideline we weren't going to find a way to lose this," said running back Fred Jackson after the Bills' 16-13 triumph over the New York Jets. "We were going to find a way to win, and that's what we did." There were smiles all around the Bills' locker room after the team rebounded from losses the past three weeks and snapped losing streaks of eight straight in the AFC East and 10 straight to teams that play 3-4 defenses. "I can't say enough about that group of guys," said Bills coach Dick Jauron. "They won't quit no matter what happens." "We kept fighting and grinding it out," said receiver Terrell Owens. "It showed the resiliency of this team," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We're not going to give up. We're going to continue to fight." The Bills (2-4) won despite giving up 318 rushing yards to the Jets. It was just the seventh time in NFL history that a team won despite allowing a 200-yard rusher (the Jets' Thomas Jones gained 210). The Bills won despite the fact Lindell missed from 46 yards on the final play of regulation. They won despite being outgained, 414-296. They won despite the fact starting quarterback Trent Edwards went out with a concussion after being sacked early in the second quarter. Most of those negatives were outweighed by the fact the Bills' defense intercepted six passes, five of them off Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Rookie safety Jairus Byrd got two pickoffs, both on outstanding plays downfield, while Reggie Corner, George Wilson, Continue Reading

Chad Pennington one win from redemption – AFC East title

DAVIE, Fla. - Chad Pennington had a quarterback meeting, a wide receiver meeting and even an offensive line meeting to run. He spent his usual insane number of hours in the film room, dissecting every nuance of a Jets defense that he already knew as well as an ex-girlfriend. And in the midst of quite possibly the most important week of his football life, Pennington still found time to entertain relatives for Christmas. As he maneuvered his way through a pressure-packed week that will end Sunday when he faces Brett Favre and his old Jets team with the AFC East crown on the line, Pennington has been eerily calm. “He is really relaxed this week,” says longtime friend and trainer Charles Petrone. “Which is kind of spooky. He is already prepared.” Sunday, Pennington will play what he calls “the biggest game” of his career, one he has been envisioning since the Jets cut him Aug. 7. He returns to the Meadowlands - his home for eight seasons - for the first time as a Dolphin with a chance to beat his legendary successor and former teammates. With one more win, the Dolphins (10-5) will own their first division title since 2000 and match the 1999 Colts for the biggest turnaround in NFL history with a 10-win improvement from a season ago. Pennington - Joey Porter refers to him as Miami's “savior” - claims that most of the raw emotions that come from playing against his former team subsided after Week 1 when Favre beat the Dolphins, 20-14, in Miami. One of his best friends, though, says the Jets should brace for Pennington's best. “I've watched him since high school,” says Petrone, who works in Knoxville, Tenn., and has known Pennington since 1994. “You don't bet against him. You can like Favre, but once Chad has that mojo working, you might as well forget about it. He has it working (again). The Jets didn't respect his talent.” *** It wasn't long after the ink dried on his new Continue Reading

Tied at top of the AFC East, first-rate Jets say best is yet to come

What a difference a week makes. And a weakened division. D LEADS GANG GREEN PAST BILLSAfter enduring several days of criticism for a lackluster win over the lowly Chiefs, the Jets went to bed Sunday night with a share of first place in the AFC East - and a new outlook on a season that seemed to be fading after a nothing-special October. Their impressive victory in Buffalo, coupled with the Patriots' prime-time loss to the Colts, created a three-way tie in the Tom Brady-less division. To use one of Bill Parcells' old lines, they're stacked up like club sandwiches. The Jets, Patriots and Bills are 5-3, with the upstart Dolphins lurking at 4-4. The Jets haven't owned a share of the lead this late in the season since 2002, when they captured the title on the final day of the season. The last time they reached the midpoint in this position was 2000, under Al Groh. The best part, according to Shaun Ellis, is the belief they still haven't played their best football. SPECIAL SECTION: BUILDING A CHAMP"It seems like we haven't put it all together; we can play a whole lot better than we've played," the veteran defensive end said Monday. "It's very encouraging for us to know that once we do, it'll bring good things." They'll have to play better, because the schedule is about to turn nasty. After the Rams (2-6) at home - can you say "trap" game? - the Jets will face the Patriots and undefeated Titans, both on the road. A week ago, the Jets didn't seem capable of threatening the big boys, but after upsetting the Bills - their most complete performance of the season, according to Eric Mangini - their confidence level has soared. "If we want to be considered the top team in our division and throughout the AFC, those are the kind of games we need to win," guard Brandon Moore said. What did it do for the Jets? 1968 JETS: GAME-BY-GAME RESULTSIn the span of three hours, the interception-prone Brett Favre turned into an efficient game manager. The high-priced offensive line, Continue Reading

Jets boot Patriots 34-31 in overtime, move alone atop AFC East

FOXBOROUGH - It was billed as a now-or-never game for the Jets. "Now" won. Barely. Ending years of torment at the hands of the Patriots, the Jets rose up Thursday night in their biggest regular-season game in recent memory, holding on for a dramatic 34-31 overtime victory at a cold and damp Gillette Stadium. PHOTO GALLERY: JETS 34, PATRIOTS 31A first-half blowout turned into a 68-minute epic struggle - you didn't expect it to be easy, did you? - as the Jets, acting as if they were afraid to finish off their nemesis, blew 18- and seven-point leads. Brett Favre saved them from what would have been one of the most devastating defeats in franchise history, calmly leading a 14-play, 64-yard OT drive that ended with Jay Feely's 34-yard field goal with 7:10 on the clock. "This," Favre said, walking off the field, "is what I came back for." Winners of four straight, the Jets (7-3) seized sole possession of first place in the AFC East, moving one game ahead of the Patriots (6-4.) MYERS: WIN VALIDATES TRADE FOR FAVREIt was one not-so-small step in the standings, one giant step for Jetkind. They had lost 11 of 12 to the Patriots, but the Jets felt the Tom Brady-less version was vulnerable. And they were right, although the Patriots resembled the vampire that wouldn't die. "It's like winning a playoff game," tight end Chris Baker said in a euphoric locker room. Said guard Brandon Moore: "We weren't leaving here with a loss. That was our attitude." The Jets made it tougher than it had to be, getting tight as they squandered 24-6 and 31-24 leads, the latter on a 16-yard touchdown catch by Randy Moss with one second remaining in regulation. Moss beat newly signed Ty Law, a former Patriot, with a diving catch in the corner of the end zone. "That puts a little doubt in your mind," said Kerry Rhodes, referring to the Patriots' frantic, no-timeouts-left drive by young Matt Cassel (30-for-51, 400 yards, three TD passes). The Same Old Jets would've Continue Reading

Suddenly, Jets have edge on Patriots & AFC East

MIAMI - Brett Favre was firing his first touchdown pass for the Jets at just about the same time Tom Brady was being helped off the field in Foxborough with a left knee injury that looked serious right from the moment of impact.Now next Sunday's much-anticipated Favre vs. Brady showdown of Hall of Famers at Giants Stadium will be Favre vs. Matt Cassel, a virtual unknown. For the first time since Brady started winning Super Bowls in 2001, the Jets have the edge at quarterback. PHOTO GALLERY: FAVRE'S VICTORIOUS DEBUTOne month ago, the Jets had Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens fighting it out in a controversy that lacked any buzz and was controversial only because Eric Mangini was going to have to pick one of them. Now they have Favre. Sunday, the Patriots had Brady, winner of three Super Bowls rings and owner of a 16-0 regular season. Now they have Cassel. That's a drastic shift of power, with several reports last night saying that Brady is out for the year with a torn ACL. The Patriots not only have taken a big step back toward the Jets in the AFC East, the balance of power may be on the verge of shifting in the Border War. The Jets just became serious players in the division with Brady's streak of 111 consecutive regular-season starts about to end and with Favre extending his amazing streak to 254 in the Jets' 20-14 victory over the Dolphins. The Jets struggled against a bad Miami team, but as Favre gets more comfortable, the Jets will get better. He was saddened to hear that Brady had been injured. "That's terrible. I guess it's an ACL or something," he said, adding that he was just speculating. "They've always overcome injuries and things like that, but that's pretty difficult. It's Tom Brady." With the quarterback standing by his locker after the Jets barely survived the Dolphins, the worst team in the NFL last year, I asked Favre what life for the Patriots will be like without Brady. "I don't know if there is a better quarterback out there with him healthy," Continue Reading

Beat the Jets and tie the Patriots for first in AFC East; a good first half for Bills

A share of first place. Can you imagine that? If the Bills can defeat the New York Jets on Thursday night at the Meadowlands, they would improve to 6-2 at the midway point for the first time since 1993. You remember that year, Buffalo’s last of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.No one can possibly dare to believe the Bills are headed to that lofty place this year, but with a victory at MetLife Stadium in front of a national TV audience on NFL Network, the Bills could pull even with the New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East. The Patriots are idle this weekend. More: Are you out of luck? Bills-Jets won't be on CBS; it's only the NFL Network and will be streamed by Amazon “It’s a great opportunity,” said quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “Night games give you just a different feeling. Of course, when you know everyone’s watching you, you look forward to those moments. Even with the short week, guys are preparing hard and looking forward to this opportunity to show the other team what we can do, but as well as show the people that are going to be watching — everyone’s going to be tuned into Thursday Night Football — to show that this team is real.”Here's my preview of the game:1. Can the Bills continue to pound away on the ground? If you’re looking for instrumental reasons why the Bills were able to win back-to-back over the Bucs and Raiders, I’d start right here. Buffalo has rediscovered its running game, which in turn opens up the rest of the offense. Now the Bills come up against a Jets defense that is ranked 27th against the run, and may be minus star DE Mo Wilkerson. In the first game against the Jets, LeSean McCoy ran for 110 yards and the Bills piled up 190 rushing yards in all. The Bills controlled much of the game on the ground and it looked like another year of rushing dominance was in store. Then came that four-game stretch where the Bills couldn’t Continue Reading

Bills report card: Buffalo crushes Oakland and is a contender in the AFC East

I’m sure I’m not alone in the thought that what happened Sunday at New Era Field was a bit surprising. I thought the Raiders were going to win, so right there, the fact that Buffalo rolled to a 34-14 wipeout of Oakland caught me off guard. But this was no fluke. The Bills are impressive, there’s no other way to cut it, and the Raiders aren’t nearly as good as we thought. They’ve already surpassed last year’s loss total of four. The Bills forced four turnovers, they ran the ball well, Tyrod Taylor played another mistake-free game, and the Patriots can hear the Bills right on their AFC East doorstep.Overall Grade: AIf you can't see the report card, tap here. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE: Report card:  Buffalo crushes Oakland and is a contender in AFC East Maiorana: Time to start believing in these Bills Roth: Bills turn New Era Field into haunted house for Raiders, Mack Instant story: Bills roll past Raiders as defense has another big performance Quarter-by-quarter recap: Buffalo Bills 34, Oakland Raiders 14 More: Cookie Gilchrist joins Lou Saban on Bills Wall of Fame Continue Reading

Is Rex Ryan wrong in conceding AFC East?

ORCHARD PARK - Did Rex Ryan have a Wade Phillips moment Thursday morning when he pretty much conceded the AFC East division title to the undefeated Patriots, even though there's still seven games left to be played?Perhaps, but let's not jump overboard on this. Who among us can seriously argue Ryan's contention that it's highly likely New England — with a four-game lead in the division over the Bills and Jets — will go on and win the AFC East? In fact, it's almost a certainty that that's going to help, so the Bills should be setting their sights on winning every game, and hoping that's enough to earn a wild-card berth."Does that give us a chance to win the division (if the Bills were to pull an upset Monday night in Foxboro)?" Ryan said. "No, they're going to win the division. I don't see them losing four games. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see it happening."Bills fans surely remember Phillips' concession back in the 2000 season, his last as head coach of the Bills, when he stated the obvious about Buffalo's playoff chances. There were three games left in the season, and the 7-6 Bills not only needed to win out, but they needed a ridiculous amount of help to get in. Phillips wasn't quitting, but that sure was the perception.Phillips was just telling the truth, but the mistake that came around to burn him was that he included the 7-6 Indianapolis Colts in his doom and gloom prediction. The teams were playing a Monday night game the week Phillips made his comment, and the Colts were in a similarly unlikely playoff scenario. What happened is the Colts blew Buffalo out, went on to win their last two games to finish 10-6, got the required help they needed, and made it into the playoffs. The Bills finished 8-8, and that was the year the current 15-year playoff drought began.So, is Ryan's concession Thursday on the same level? You could argue it may be even more egregious because there is still nearly half a season to play. However, the Patriots are not the Continue Reading

Ndamukong Suh joining Dolphins is latest move in AFC East shakeup

Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum couldn’t compete with the Patriots when they were together, now they’re making major moves to catch them on their own. Their DNA is all over the hyperactive AFC East, as the Jets, Dolphins and Bills frantically try to overtake the defending champs. Ryan, who would be happy never to throw the ball, trades for running back LeSean McCoy from the Eagles. Tannebaum, a dealmaker who loves to make a splash, gives Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 1 free agent, a bloated contract with $60 million guaranteed from the Dolphins. Brandon Marshall, a Plaxico Burress type receiver, gets traded from the Bears to the Jets, a result of the Jets being unable to find a true No. 1 wideout in the Ryan-Tannenbaum years. Darrelle Revis, the best draft pick in Tannenbaum’s seven years as the Jets GM, could be the subject of an intense AFC East bidding war as Bill Belichick wants to prevent a return to the Jets or a reunion with Ryan. The Patriots will be the favorites in the division simply because their quarterback is Tom Brady and at the moment the other starters are Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehilll and E.J. Manuel. Even so, the Jets, Bills and Dolphins have improved and the Patriots are just a bit worse since they didn’t pick up the option on Vince Wilfork, the heart and bulk of their defense. If a team can steal Revis, it will weaken the Pats, although I think he will return. Ryan, the new pride and joy of Buffalo, and Tannenbaum, who holds the lofty title of executive vice president of football operations — pretty much the same job his mentor Bill Parcells once had in Miami — have been true to their past as they get rolling in their new jobs. Ryan loves to ground and pound, which is what coaches do when they don’t have a quarterback. Buffalo might have been the only team that offered Ryan a job, but he pulled off two nearly impossible feats when he decided to coach in the Continue Reading

Rex Ryan and Bills in position to take AFC East after Tom Brady suspension

Rex Ryan was probably somewhere in Orchard Park, N.Y., doing celebratory chest bumps around 5:30 p.m. Monday after the NFL delivered the news thatTom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of 2015 for his shenanigans in the DeflateGate scandal. The Patriots’ golden boy quarterback has been Ryan’s eternal nemesis, a persistent pain in the formerly portly man’s posterior, and an annoyance that has prompted many sleepless nights and fueled much anger. Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the door for Ryan’s new team by rocking the defending Super Bowl champions with a $1 million fine, the loss of two draft picks and a quarter-season suspension for their most indispensable player. Brady’s reprimand makes the Buffalo Bills the new favorite to win what has become an intriguing AFC East. It’s Ryan’s division to lose now, which will surely ratchet up his chatter to familiar ear-splitting levels. Ryan might have changed teams this offseason, but the Patriots are never far from his thoughts. He hates those dudes. “I’ll be honest,” Ryan said at his introductory news conference in January. “It’s still the Patriots that I want the most.” Ryan’s defense should send Patriots interim starter Jimmy Garoppolo into the fetal position when Bill Belichick’s team travels to Buffalo in Week 2 without its star signal caller. RELATED: BRADY SUSPENSION GIVES JIMMY GAROPPOLO HIS BIG SHOT Ryan knows full well that playing with underinflated footballs didn’t enhance Brady’s greatness, leaving some people on his staff to express disappointment in the league’s ruling to take Brady off the field. “I don’t want to beat New England without Brady,” one Bills coach told the Daily News. “Let him play.” New England has won 12 of the last 14 AFC East titles, including all six when Ryan was the Continue Reading