Di­vi­sion foes wilt­ing again this sea­son

Buf­falo, Jets, Mi­ami strug­gling as Pa­tri­ots play for ninth straight East ti­tle

Woonsocket Call - - Sports - By MARK MASKE The Wash­ing­ton Post

BUF­FALO, N.Y. - There was some early-sea­son angst about the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, to the point that it ap­peared that the Buf­falo Bills, Mi­ami Dolphins or even the non-tank­ing New York Jets might be able to chal­lenge them in the AFC East this year. It's time to for­get about that. The Pa­tri­ots, pre­dictably, are back to be­ing the Pa­tri­ots. And the rest of the AFC East, just as pre­dictably, is back to be­ing the Bills, Dolphins and Jets.

Sun­day night's 41-16 vic­tory in Den­ver upped the Pa­tri­ots' record to 7-2. They have had their is­sues, es­pe­cially on de­fense. But the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl champs have now won five straight games, and are tied with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers for the AFC's best record as they jockey for the No. 1 seed in the con­fer­ence play­offs.

Win­ning the di­vi­sion has be­come a mere af­ter­thought for the Pa­tri­ots. It is pretty much a given.

For the sea­son's first two months, it ap­peared there might be mean­ing­ful games in the AFC East down the stretch. The Bills were pros­per­ing un­der their first-year coach, Sean McDer­mott, with a 5-2 start. The Dolphins were 4-2 at one point. The Jets, ac­cused be­fore Open­ing Day of be­ing in tank-the-sea­son mode and in pur­suit of a top pick in the NFL draft, won three of their first five games.

Those teams have re­verted, though. The Jets are now 4-6 af­ter los­ing Sun­day at Tampa Bay to their for­mer quar­ter­back, Ryan Fitz­patrick. The Dolphins will take a 4-4 record and a two-game los­ing streak into Mon­day night's game at Carolina. And the Bills are in a down­ward spi­ral, with their record drop­ping to 5-4 af­ter Sun­day's 47-10 de­feat at home to the New Or­leans Saints.

“This is not easy to take,” McDer­mott said. “[It's] not an easy pill to swal­low, es­pe­cially at home. Our fans de­serve more. And so we go back hard at work to give them more. We're build­ing and we've got to con­tinue to be hon­est with our­selves when we look at the tape. Like I said be­fore, we got out­coached. That starts with me. And we got out­played. Got to take a hard look at it.”

The Bills were com­ing off a minibye af­ter los­ing to the Jets at the Mead­ow­lands in a Thurs­day night matchup. They were at home, where they had a record of 4-0 this sea­son when Sun­day be­gan.

But they were over­run by the Saints. New Or­leans had two 100-yard rush­ers, Mark In­gram and Alvin Ka­mara. The Saints ran for 298 yards and a team­record six touch­downs. The Bills had no an­swers. Quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor passed for only 56 yards and gave way to rookie Nathan Peter­man with the game out of reach.

The Bills still can re­group and chase a wild-card berth. They haven't made a play­off ap­pear­ance since the 1999 sea­son, the league's long­est ac­tive post­sea­son drought. Get­ting back to the play­offs would make this sea­son a ma­jor suc­cess for the Bills.

But the di­vi­sion race? That seems pretty much over.

“We've got a cer­tain stan­dard,” McDer­mott said Sun­day. “That wasn't up to our stan­dard.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.