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AFC East Report: Week 7

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Week 7 is in the books and it went according to the Patriots’ plan.

Entering week 7, the Buffalo Bills were only one game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East, while also holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. However, while the Patriots were able to improve to 6-1 by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, the Bills lost their third game of the year.

Consequently, Buffalo is now two games behind the Patriots and next week’s matchup between the two teams becomes a must-win for Rex Ryan’s team if it wants to stay alive in the race for the AFC East crown or even a wild card playoff spot. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and take a look at this weeks divisional happenings:

2. Buffalo Bills (4-3)

Week 7: loss (28-25 against the Miami Dolphins, in Miami Gardens FL)

The Bills’ four-game winning streak ended yesterday at the hand of their division rival from Florida. Buffalo started the contest slow on both sides of the ball. At first, the defense allowed the Dolphins to drive 64 yards in 15 plays to take a 3-0 lead, then the offense was unable to answer. It wasn’t until former Patriot Brandon Tate (101 all-purpose yards) returned a Dolphins punt 30 yards to give his team solid field position, setting up a game-tying field goal.

Special teams made another big play on Miami’s next possession: Lerentee McCray blocked a punt that the Bills recovered in Dolphins territory. Seven plays later, Buffalo scored the game’s first touchdown when Tyrod Taylor (14/28, 221 yds, 1 TD) ran the football in from 10 yards out. The defense would give up another field goal but the visitors still headed into halftime up 10-6.

Midway through the third quarter, the Bills extended their lead to 11 points. Taylor fired a deep pass to wideout Marquise Goodwin (4/93 yds, 1 TD), who took it to the endzone for a 67-yard touchdown. However, the Dolphins were able to answer on their ensuing possession, scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.

After the teams exchanged punts in the early fourth quarter, the Dolphins scored two more touchdowns to take a 28-17 lead. Buffalo was able to make it a one-score game again thanks to a Reggie Bush (1/1 yd, 1 TD) score and two-point conversion but ultimately failed to recover the subsequent onside kick. Thus, the Bills fall to 4-3 and – at least for now – out of the playoff picture.

Overall, Buffalo struggled in multiple areas of the game against Miami. The team held the football for a mere 23 minutes; partly because of struggles on 3rd down (3/13), partly because of the inability to stop the Dolphins’ ground game (256 yards on 41 carries). While special teams did its best to keep the Bills in the game, both the offense – losing Goodwin to a concussion – and defense – losing safety Aaron Williams to a neck injury – were simply too inconsistent to do the same.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (3-4)

Week 7: win (28-25 against the Buffalo Bills, in Miami Gardens FL)

One week after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins were able to steal another win from a possible AFC playoff contender: the team beat the visiting Buffalo Bills 28-25. Miami started the game with a 15-play drive consisting mostly of short passes by Ryan Tannehill (15/25, 204 yds, 1 TD) and runs by Jay Ajayi (28/214 yds, 1 TD). Overall, the opening possession took 7:32 off the clock and ended with a field goal.

However, two special teams mistakes shifted momentum to the Bills. First, the team allowed a 30-yard punt return, then a Miami punt was partially blocked. Both plays resulted in very good field position for the visitors, who took advantage and a 10-3 lead. Miami was able to kick another field goal before the half but found itself down 17-6 after the defense gave up a 67-yard touchdown midway through the third period.

At that point, the Dolphins were able to get the momentum back. Another methodical drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Ajayi, who was once again his team’s best player, as well as a two-point conversion cut the deficit to three points. While the fourth quarter started with punts by both teams, the Dolphins slowly started to win the field position battle.

Miami took advantage and was able to take a 21-17 lead with four minutes left in the game. The team’s defense then forced a three-and-out and just three plays later, Tannehill connected with receiver Kenny Stills (5/100 yds, 1 TD) on a 66-yard touchdown pass. While the Bills were able to cut the deficit to three points, it was too little too late as Miami was able to recover the final onside kick to seal its second straight win.

The Dolphins played arguably their most consistent game of the year, despite two special teams miscues. Tannehill and the offense played a mistake-free game as Ajayi became the focal point of the team’s attack, while the defense – except for one breakdown that led to a long Bills touchdown – was able to keep the opponent in check.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (2-5)

Week 7: win (24-16 against the Baltimore Ravens, in East Rutherford NJ)

The Jets were able to snap their four-game losing streak by beating the visiting Baltimore Ravens 24-16. The game started with the two teams exchanging punts but while the Ravens’ sailed 59-yards, the Jets’ was never even kicked: Punter Lachlan Edwards was unable to hold onto the snap, causing a fumble that was recovered in the endzone by the Ravens. The team added a field goal on its next possession and thus put the Jets in an early 10-0 hole.

However, late in the first quarter, New York’s new starting quarterback Geno Smith (4/8, 95 yds, 1 TD) connected with wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (2/73 yds, 1 TD) on a 69-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to three points. Baltimore added another field goal before Smith and company were back on the field again. It would be the 26-year old’s last drive of the day, as he left the game due to a knee injury he suffered on a sack.

Re-enter Ryan Fitzpatrick (9/14, 120 yds, 1 TD). On his first drive, the veteran led New York’s offense on a 7-play, 85-yard drive capped by a 13-yard scoring pass to Matt Forte (34 touches/154 yds, 2 TDs). The Ravens would add another field goal to set the halftime-score at 16-14 in favor of the visitors. The eventful quarter that followed belonged to the home team.

First, cornerback Buster Skrine was able to intercept Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (25/44, 248, 2 INTs) to set up a Jets field goal. Only three plays later, safety Marcus Gilchrist picked off another pass by Flacco. Four plays after the takeaway, the Jets turned the ball over themselves – only to take it back immediately: Forte lost a fumble inside Baltimore’s 5-yard line, that was picked up by defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan. However, Jernigan himself lost the football after a hit by wide receiver Brandon Marshall (3/39 yds), who recovered the fumble for a Jets first down. Three plays later, New York was up top by what would eventually be the final score of 24-16.

The Jets did not play a perfect game but they did enough to beat a Ravens team that could not stop shooting itself in the foot, particularly in the third quarter. In the end, a strong defensive effort – one sack, two interceptions, 6 rushing yards allowed on 12 carries – and a handful of good offensive plays made enough of a difference.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.