By Justin Paley
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 30th, 2005
While both teams have been out of the playoff picture for a while now, both teams still plan to play hard and end the season with a victory. The Jets are coming off a 31-21 loss to New England on Monday Night Football while the Bills picked up their first road win of the year, 37-27 at Cincinnati last week.
Some Jets fans may be rooting against the Jets so the Jets can finish with a chance to have the number one pick in the NFL Draft. But the Jets have no intention of losing. “That’s why they’re the fans, and we love them, and that’s why we’re the players, and we go out and try to win” Jets LB Jonathan Vilma said.
Vilma was asked earlier this week if he’s offended by fans holding banners saying, ‘We Want Bush’ as in USC RB Reggie Bush. “That’s the fans being selfish, and us being selfish by wanting to win,” Vilma said. “When we’re out there we’re not just going to lay down for anybody, we’re going to fight and give it our all.”
The Jets will also be out for revenge after losing at Buffalo, 27-17 on Oct. 16. In the game, QB Vinny Testaverde passed for 161 yards while RB Curtis Martin rushed 18 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. “We want to go out here and make a statement, we’re at home. If all else fails, win, lose or draw, we definitely want to give them a fight,” Vilma said.
But Testaverde has been replaced by QB Brooks Bollinger and Martin was placed on injured reserve Dec. 16. The offense has struggled most of the year and is last in points per game (14), second to last in total yards per game (250.9) and rushing yards per game (83.1); and 27th in passing yards per game (167.7).
There has been flashes at times and every player is auditioning to be on the roster next year. Entering this season, Bollinger never could have imagined he would be doing more than carrying a clipboard on the sidelines but injuries to QB Chad Pennington and QB Jay Fiedler forced Bollinger into action. This season, Bollinger is 139-of-246 for 1,405 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs. Bollinger has also shown he can make plays with his feet and has carried the ball 28 times for 123 yards this season.
Bills LB London Fletcher has taken notice of Bollinger. “I see him progressing as a QB,” Fletcher said in a conference call with the New York media this week. “He’s a young guy, obviously, hasn’t played a lot, but he’s gotten better each and every game. He’s a very athletic QB who can hurt you out of the pocket and also running the football.”
Martin’s season ending has also allowed the Jets to get an extended look at rookie RB Cedric Houston who has carried 65 times for 247 yards and a touchdown. The Bills defense is last in the NFL allowing 141.6 yards per game. Bills head coach Mike Mularkey talked about Houston in a conference call this week with the New York media. “I liked Cedric (Houston) coming out,” Mularkey said. “When we were doing the draft study, I really liked his style. He has a strong lower body and he is a hard nose runner. He is smart in some of his runs and what we have to do as far as stopping him having more than one guy at the ball. He is a physical runner and he will move the ball forward if we let him.”
The receiving game has certainly been a disappointment for the Jets as the team was expecting big things from WR Laveranues Coles who was traded from the Washington Redskins to the Jets for WR Santana Moss. Coles has just 69 catches for 766 yards and five touchdowns while Moss made the Pro Bowl this season. “My happiness is what’s most important,” Coles said. “ Forget the numbers. We always want to measure things by wins and losses, but for me mentally, just to be back here and be around people I really like and who truly like me and I get along with. It’s great for me. I didn’t come back and have the stellar season that I wish I could’ve had, but again, I’m just happy. I have a piece of mind here and I’m just happy to be around. They have a good coaching staff and great players.
WR Justin McCareins has battled injuries all season long and has 41 catches for 702 yards. He did have his best game of the year though against Buffalo with five catches for 116 yards. McCareins talked about what it would mean to end the season with a win. “It would be great, that’s what we play for,” McCareins said. “The guys know we’re not going to the playoffs or whatever, but we have three things to prove to ourselves. We want to play hard every chance we get.”
The offense will have to go against a Bills defense that is fast, runs around and makes a lot of plays. They are led by veteran LB London Fletcher’s 149 tackles, four sacks, and two fumble recoveries. Behind Fletcher is LB Angelo Crowell, a 2003 third-round draft pick. Crowell has mainly played on special teams the last two seasons but replaced Takeo Spikes after Spikes tore his ACL Sept. 4. Crowell has played the last 12 games and on the season has 119 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions.
“He’s gotten more comfortable this week than he was 10 weeks ago because of, for one, getting out there and getting some experiences, understanding how offenses operate and things like that, understanding defenses better,” Fletcher said. “You get so much of a better feel of defenses when you’re out there playing in the fire. Also, I think, early on making those mistakes has helped him to right now play with confidence. He has a lot of natural ability, a lot of natural instincts as well. Now he’s not doing as much thinking in terms of wondering where he’s supposed to be and things like that. He’s able to go out there and play his game and make plays for us.”
Mularkey talked about the loss of Spikes affecting his team. “Certainly the leadership part is missed on the field and in the locker room,” Mularkey said. “He just presence about him that makes guys play hard and even harder in adverse times. His play is missed because he is a great player. Fortunately we had a very good player waiting to play with Angelo Crowell. He played very well this year.”
It has been a frustrating season for Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s defense as they have wore down most games being on the field so long with the offense’s inability to move the ball. They rank 12th in the NFL allowing a little over 307 yards per game and have a goal to finish in the top 10. “I think one of the goals is to play consistent each week,” Henderson said. “You know we haven’t accomplished that but we’ve still got a chance. The other thing is to try to perform at a level where everybody is on the same page with their communication. We are still trying to put that together.”
They will have to figure out a way to stop RB Willis McGahee who is tough to bring down and rushed for 143 yards against the Jets this year. The Jets are 28th in the NFL allowing 135.1 yards per game on the ground.
However, the Jets are second in the league holding opponents to 172.2 yards through the air. That is good news as the Jets secondary goes against talented wide receivers in Eric Moulds (73 catches, 720 yards, 3 TD) and Lee Evans (46 receptions, 726 yards, 7 TD). QB Kelly Holcomb (132-of-193, 1,325 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT) will start.
One of the positives of the defense has been no sophomore slump for last year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Jonathan Vilma who leads the Jets with 179 tackles this year. Vilma talked about emerging as a leader. “The first thing about being a leader is that you have to play well,” Vilma said. “I didn’t have a problem with my performance. It would be different if we were going to the playoffs and everyone was questioning me and my play, then I couldn’t say as much, but going into next year, I’ll definitely have a voice. I can say what I want.”
“I think Vilma is one of the best LB coming up in the game. He’s very athletic, he can run,” Fletcher said.
Jets head coach Herman Edwards said it would be rewarding if the Jets could close the season with a win. “It would be .500 at home if we get a win,” Edwards said. “Obviously it’s not what you anticipated going into the season. It’s always good to end the season with a win. Obviously, if you get in the playoffs, if you don’t win out, you end up with a loss. We understood that. We lost last year in the last game in the playoffs. But we were in the playoffs, so…At home, it always helps. We played fairly well at home. It would be good to get a win at home, last game.”
THREE KEYS FOR A JETS VICTORY:
1) Contain the Bills Special Teams
The Bills special teams has been outstanding this season and young CB Terrence McGee is one of the most exciting returners in the game. McGee is averaging 31 yards per kickoff return.
2) Protect Brooks
The Bills defense does a good job getting pressure on the QB and the offensive line has allowed 49 sacks this season. Bollinger will need time to make throws and needs protection.
3) Stop McGahee <>Even though the Bills running game has been slumping lately, RB Willis McGahee is always dangerous and burned the Jets for 143 yards the last time the teams met.
-The Bills lead the all-time series 49-40 in a series that dates back to the first game for the two original AFL franchises on Sept. 11, 1960 at the Polo Grounds, a New York Titans’ 27-3 win over the Bills.
-The Jets have uncharacteristically turned the ball over 31 times (17 fumbles, 14 interceptions) this season. The Jets are minus-8 in the +/- category. They have turned the ball over the fewest amount of times of any team that has played the same number of games (78) since 2001, only 107 times.
-CB Ty Law tied Johnny Sample for single season interception leaders with his seventh interception of the season on Monday against New England.
-DE John Abraham has 9 ˝ sacks this season.
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