Another week in the AFC East, another reminder that the New England Patriots are clearly the division's top team. While New England defeated the Oakland Raiders in impressive fashion, the rest of their rivals struggled once again: For the second straight week, neither the Buffalo Bills nor the Miami Dolphins were able to win (with the New York Jets on a bye).
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Here is this week's AFC East report:
2. Buffalo Bills (5-5)
Week 11: loss (54-24 against the Los Angeles Chargers, in Carson CA)
Following their 47-10 home loss against the Saints, the Bills opted to make a change at quarterback prior to Sunday's game in Los Angeles. The result: Newly inserted Nathan Peterman (6/14, 66 yds, 5 INTs) threw five interceptions – all in the first half – in his first NFL start and laid the groundwork for his team's second straight blowout defeat; a 30-point disaster against the previously 3-6 Chargers.
The opening series of the game was a sign of things to come. Buffalo received the kickoff but turned the football over on a tipped pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The ensuing Bills possession also ended with an interception, which was followed by a missed Chargers field goal. The visitors took advantage of the solid field position and tied the game thanks to a 27-yard scoring run by LeSean McCoy (13/114 yds, 1 TD).
However, the momentum shifted back to Los Angeles quick. A field goal by the home team was answered by Peterman's third interception of the day; the subsequent touchdown was answered by his fourth. The rest of the second quarter perfectly encapsulates just how bad the Bills played: After another Chargers touchdown, the Bills went three-and-out, followed by a Chargers field goal another Buffalo three-and-out, another field goal, Peterman's fifth giveaway and another field goal by the Chargers.
Down 37-7 at the half, head coach Sean McDermott benched Peterman and inserted ex-starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (15/25, 158 yds, 1 TD). With Taylor at the helm, the offense suddenly began moving the football again – at least temporarily. Buffalo answered a Los Angeles field goal with a field goal of its own before turning the football over again on its next possession: Taylor was sacked, fumbled, and watched the home team scoop up the loose ball and return it for a score.
Taylor did lead the offense to two consecutive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter but, combined with another Chargers touchdown, it was too little too late. While the Bills did have some positive plays in both the first and the second half, the negative ones were too many to overcome. As a result, Buffalo has now fallen to .500 for the first time since week two. The team will play in Kansas City – another struggling team – on Sunday.
To watch highlights of the game, click here.
3. Miami Dolphins (4-6)
Week 11: loss (30-20 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Miami Gardens FL)
The Dolphins, after starting the season with a 4-2 record, now lost four games in a row. And while their latest defeat – a 30-20 home loss against the Buccaneers – was not as bad as two of the team's previous three contests, it was still reflective of a team that has major flaws in all three phases of the game and is currently losing ground in the race for one of the AFC's playoff spots.
After forcing a punt to open the game, the offense moved the football quickly to Tampa Bay's red zone. However, a promising first series ended when quarterback Jay Cutler (6/12, 83 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs) threw his first interception of the day. Seven plays after the giveaway, the Dolphins found themselves down 7-0 but answered with a 90-yard touchdown drive of their own, capped by a scoring pass from Cutler to Jarvis Landry (6/95 yds, 1 TD).
Things started to go downhill for the Dolphins at that point. After giving up a field goal, the team's next possession ended in another interception which set up Tampa Bay's second touchdown of the day. Cutler threw his third pick of the first half on the next drive but luckily for the home team, the Buccaneers missed a field goal on the ensuing drive. However, the momentum remained firmly in the visitors' grasp who, after Landry lost a fumble on a punt return, went up 20-7.
Miami entered the second half with a new quarterback: Matt Moore (17/28, 282 yds, 1 TD) replaced Cutler and led the Dolphins to a field goal drive. After the defense forced a quick punt, Moore and the offense added three more points to the scoreboard. The score remained at 20-13 until late in the fourth quarter, when the backup quarterback connected with Kenny Stills (7/180 yds, 1 TD) on a 61-yard touchdown that tied the game with three minutes left to go.
Now, it was the Dolphins' defense that needed to hold – and it failed to do so. The Buccaneers drove 58 yards in nine plays to take a 23-20 lead with a mere four seconds left in the game. The ensuing kickoff ended with Miami trying multiple laterals only to see Tampa Bay fall onto the loose football in the end zone to end the game with a special teams touchdown. The Dolphins thus find themselves at 4-6 heading into their week 12 game versus the Patriots.
To watch highlights of the game, click here.
4. New York Jets (4-6)
Week 11: bye