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AFC East Report: Half of the division collapses in spectacular fashion in Week 1

The first week of the NFL season is in the books, let’s find out what happened in the Patriots’ division.

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The first week of the NFL’s 2019 regular season is in the books, and it was quite an interesting one for the AFC East. We saw a comeback win, a blowout loss, and a blowout victory. Along the way, two of the division’s teams collapsed in spectacular fashion at home while the ten-time defending champions are already off to a promising start. With all that in mind, let’s kick off another season of the AFC East Report.

1. Buffalo Bills (1-0)

Week 1: 17-16 win against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford NJ

It started to look like the Buffalo Bills would open their new season in the worst possible fashion, but the team of head coach Sean McDermott showed tremendous resilience to fight its way back from a 16-0 third quarter deficit — one that was built by playing mistake-filled football in all three phases and never finding a rhythm against a Jets team that played strong defense but failed to take advantage of its opportunities.

Buffalo opened the contest by initially moving the football well: it took the Bills just seven plays to reach the Jets’ 33-yard line. The series ended with a turnover, however, as quarterback Josh Allen was strip-sacked. The miscues did not stop there. After the team’s defense forced a three-and-out following the giveaway, Allen turned the ball over a second time when he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Down 6-0, the Bills nearly suffered a third turnover in the first quarter but another Allen interception was overturned due to a defensive penalty. Instead, it took the second-year passer until late in the second period to give the football away again: on a 4th and 1 attempt, he was unable to secure the snap which led to a Jets recovery. While the defense again forced a stop to keep Buffalo in the game, Allen once more gave the ball away when he threw his second pick later during the first half.

Despite four first-half giveaways, however, the Bills were only down 6-0 at halftime. On the team’s very first offensive play of the half — following another forced punt by the defense — Buffalo once more gifted the Jets points: running back Frank Gore was tackled for a 2-yard loss on a rushing attempt, resulting in a safety. On the subsequent drive, New York added to its lead as the Bills defense gave up a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

At that point, the team’s offense finally came to life. First, Stephen Hauschka kicked a 43-yard field goal to put Buffalo on the board. The team’s next two drives also ended with scores: a 3-yard scramble from Allen brought it within six points; a 38-yard pass from Allen to John Brown gave the club its first lead of the day. Up one point late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo’s defense forced two turnovers to close the game — one on downs, another a fumble recovery by defensive edge Trent Murphy.

The team did play a sloppy game on offense, but ultimately came through in the clutch. This in combination with a terrific defensive performance allows Buffalo to head into Week 2’s game against the New York Giants with a 1-0 record.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

2. New England Patriots (1-0)

Week 1: 33-3 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Foxborough MA

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To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (0-1)

Week 1: 59-10 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, in Miami Gardens FL

Brian Flores’ last game as play caller of the Patriots’ defense was one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history. His first game as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, was a disaster: opening the regular season at home, the Dolphins were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens to the tune of a 59-10 beatdown. Flores’ team never stood a chance and was effectively out of the contest by the end of the first quarter.

The game’s first play from scrimmage already was a sign of things to come, as Ravens running back Mark Ingram was able to carry the football 49 yards into Dolphins territory. Seven plays later, Ingram found the end zone to give Baltimore a 7-0 lead. Miami responded with a four-play drive that ended with an interception by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. On the very next play, Ravens rookie receiver Marquise Brown broke free for a 47-yard touchdown catch.

Not even eight minutes into the game, the onslaught was fully underway — and it only got worse. After the Dolphins’ next possession ended with a punt, it took the visitors just three plays to reach the end zone again: quarterback Lamar Jackson found Brown for a second touchdown; this time from 83 yards out. Another Dolphins punt followed, leading to another Ravens touchdown. With almost 14 minutes to go in the second quarter, Flores’ team was down 28-0.

While Miami responded with a field goal and followed it up with a defensive three-and-out, momentum swung back to Baltimore rather quickly: Jakeem Grant muffed the ensuing punt, setting up the Ravens with a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line. Three plays later, the score was 35-3. Before the half, another touchdown followed after which the Dolphins finally found the end zone for the first time themselves when Fitzpatrick connected with rookie receiver Preston Williams from 6 yards out.

The second half was more of the same. A Dolphins punt led to another Ravens touchdown, which led to another Dolphins punt that led to a Ravens field goal. After that, backup quarterbacks for both teams entered the field. But while Miami’s Josh Rosen threw an interception on just his second play, Baltimore’s Robert Griffin III led his team on another touchdown drive to finalize the score of 59-10.

All in all, the game was a blowout of epic proportions. Baltimore out-gained the home team by 443 yards (643 to 200), held the football for 40 minutes, and had 31 first downs compared to Miami’s 12. Needless to say that Brian Flores and company have a lot of work to do to right this ship, especially now that the Patriots are coming to town.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (0-1)

Week 1: 17-16 loss against the Buffalo Bills, in East Rutherford NJ

Adam Gase’s first game as head coach of the New York Jets went just like his last three as head coach of the Dolphins. However, the loss against the visiting Buffalo Bills may have hurt a bit more considering that his squad came close to winning only to blow a 16-0 lead late in the third period. That’s what a bad performance in two of the game’s three phases — offense and special teams — can do for you.

New York opened the game by forcing its first of four takeaways: linebacker Jordan Jenkins sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen, knocking the football loose and allowing defensive tackle Steve McLendon to recover. While the team could not capitalize on the turnover, the second of the first quarter was turned into points immediately: linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was signed in free agency, undercut a pass from Allen and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

The Jets’ defense continued its dominant first half performance by forcing two more takeaways. Late in the second quarter, Mosley was able to recover an aborted snap; on the next series, Neville Hewitt came away with another interception. While the Mosley recovery did not lead to a scoring opportunity, Hewitt’s pick did. However, kicker Kaare Vedvik missed a 45-yard attempt to close out the half wide right — his second miss of the day after he had already shanked an extra point attempt.

The second half was more of the same for the Jets, at least early on. The team’s offense did not really get going, while the defense made a big play: Bills running back Frank Gore was tackled in the end zone by Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins for a safety. At that point, the offense finally started to click as well. After the free kick following the safety, the unit went on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Le’Veon Bell. The pair also connected on a two-point connection.

At that point, and with Gang Green up 16-0, the tide began to turn. While the home team went back to punting, the Bills scored on their next three possessions to take a 17-16 lead. With three minutes remaining in the game, the Jets failed to re-take the lead they held for the game’s first 57 minutes. Their first drive ended with a turnover on downs, the second with Darnold losing a fumble as time expired.

As a result, the club will start the 2019 season 0-1. The offense simply was not efficient enough and failed to take advantage of Buffalo’s first half miscues. The defense, meanwhile, seemed to run out of gas last in the game. All in all, a disappointing start for the club.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.