One last look back at the New York Jets' 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Picking on Harris: When a team has a rough day defending the pass, the blame usually falls on the cornerbacks. The Lions beat cornerback Antonio Allen for the biggest play of the game, a 59-yard touchdown, but they did much of their damage in the short and intermediate zones in the middle of the field. They went after linebacker David Harris, and went after him hard. Harris, not known for his pass coverage, surrendered seven completions on seven targets for 123 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Lions picked on linebacker David Harris time and again in pass coverage on Sunday.
Harris allowed 35- and 23-yard completions to wide receiver Golden Tate, missing a tackle on the first one that added to the gain. You can't blame Harris for the second play, though. He was matched against Tate in the slot, and there's no way you can expect him to cover a wide receiver. Credit the Lions, who created the mismatch by using an empty backfield against the Jets' base personnel.

At the end of the second quarter, Matthew Stafford picked on Harris again, hitting tight end Eric Ebron for a 16-yard touchdown. Rex Ryan made a conservative call on second-and-10, rushing only three and dropping eight. It was a rare Cover 2 look, with Dawan Landry and Jaiquawn Jarrett in a two-high safety formation. Harris dropped into middle coverage, picking up Ebron on a seam route. Stafford made a nice, back-shoulder pass and -- boom -- touchdown.

Double-A's hiccup: Ryan wouldn't say who messed up on Jeremy Ross' 59-yard touchdown reception, but it certainly appears that Allen was the guilty party. The Jets played "quarters" coverage, meaning four defensive backs were responsible for the deep quarters of the field. They sent Kyle Wilson on a slot blitz, but Stafford still had time. Allen covered Ross out of the slot and bit ever so slightly on a pump fake/double move, allowing the receiver to get behind him. To make it worse, Allen missed the tackle at the 15. The killer: It came on a third-and-10. The Jets' third-and-long defense was exposed by the Lions, who played with a diminished Calvin Johnson. Imagine if Johnson had been healthy.

Geno's big mistake: Geno Smith was unsettled throughout the game, overthrowing open receivers and displaying shaky ball placement on his completed passes. Under duress, he was only 3-for-11 for 51 yards and an interception, according to PFF. When he had time to throw, he was 14-for-22, 158 yards and a touchdown. A pretty stark contrast, huh?

Smith took a big hit from Ezekiel Ansah on the interception, so it's hard to blame him entirely for the turnover. The offensive line went down like bowling pins -- really. Right tackle Breno Giacomini fell into center Nick Mangold, who caused left guard Brian Winters to fall down. A few yards away, right guard Willie Colon went down while trying to block Ndamukong Suh. And, oh, yeah, running back Bilal Powell also tripped. It was Keystone Cops-like. The only blocker that stayed on his feet was left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

Under pressure, Smith forced the pass to Eric Decker, who ran an in-cut. The Lions disguised their coverage brilliantly. Cornerback Darius Slay dropped off Decker and assumed a safety position, switching places with the safety. Smith sailed his pass, as he tends to do. Sure enough, there was Slay, backing up the play to make the interception on the overthrow. Meanwhile, Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland were wide open in the left and right flats -- wide open. Smith should've checked it down to Kerley or Cumberland instead of throwing into traffic.

The strip sack: On the ensuing possession Smith lost the ball on a strip sack by ex-Jet James Ihedigbo, who was unblocked on a safety blitz. No doubt, Smith could've done a better job of seeing the blitz, but it wasn't all his fault. The Lions rushed five. Running back Chris Johnson, in pass protection, was confronted by two blitzers. Players are taught to block the inside rusher in that type of situation, and Johnson did that. That gave Ihedigbo a free shot at Smith. One of his hot reads, Kerley, tripped on his pass route. That may have caused Smith to hold the ball longer than he wanted.

The Film Don’t Lie: Jets

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the New York Jets must fix:

The Jets are into the "Missiles of October" portion of their schedule, as they face Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in an 11-day span. Unfortunately for the Jets, they're hitting this stretch with a defense that doesn't scare quarterbacks.

Oh sure, the Jets' defensive front will gets its share of sacks, but when it comes to making game-changing plays -- forcing turnovers -- its useless. Rex Ryan's defense has produced zero interceptions in four games. The only other team with an oh-fer is the New Orleans Saints, whose defense is headed by Ryan's twin brother, Rob. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

It's pretty amazing when you think about it: Opposing quarterbacks have dropped back to pass a total of 150 times against the Jets, and not one of those throws has ended up in the wrong hands. On Sunday, they travel to the San Diego Chargers and will face the hottest quarterback in the league. Rivers has a league-best 114.5 passer rating and has completed 70 percent of his attempts.

How does Ryan fix the takeaway issue? It's tough because they're undermanned at cornerback. The anticipated return of former first-round pick Dee Milliner should help -- maybe. Ryan is a man-to-man coach, but maybe he can change it up by playing more zone. Maybe he can play more two-high-safety looks instead of the usual one. He has to do something, because the Jets' bad start could turn ugly over the next 11 days.

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

It is hard to criticize the Dolphins this week following a 38-14 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders. Miami did nearly everything right and played a full 60 minutes of winning football for the first time this year. Most important, Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill (278 yards, two touchdowns) responded with his best game of the season to quiet critics about his status as the starter.

But even with the big victory, the Dolphins remain sloppy with ball security. Miami had three turnovers -- two fumbles, one interception -- and still beat the Raiders in London’s Wembley Stadium by 24 points. The Dolphins (2-2) can get away with a trio of turnovers against the awful and winless Raiders (0-4). But Miami can’t expect sustained success when turning over the football, especially against the better teams.

Miami's three turnovers came from Tannehill's fourth-quarter interception and a pair of fumbles by tailback Lamar Miller and rookie receiver Jarvis Landry on punt returns. You're not going to bench Tannehill or Miller for making errors. But one potential solution is to replace Landry at punt return after the bye week. Landry's had two fumbles on punt returns, and the Dolphins have veteran returner Marcus Thigpen back on the roster.

The Dolphins have nine turnovers in four games. Interestingly, all of Miami's games so far have been decided by 13 points or more. Turnovers were a factor in the two losses to the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, but were a non-factor in wins over the Raiders and New England Patriots.

According to data from ESPN Stats and Information, 36.2 percent of teams that start 2-2 make the playoffs. The Dolphins must reduce turnovers in order to increase that probability of getting into the postseason.

The Film Don't Lie: Patriots

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the New England Patriots must fix:

There are a lot of choices this week after an uninspiring performance Monday night, and with the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals coming to town, struggles on run defense must be rectified. It's not so much that the Bengals are a dangerous rushing offense, but they use the run effectively to limit quarterback Andy Dalton's exposure to potentially compromising situations in the passing game.

The Patriots' issues on run defense Monday night against the Chiefs mostly came with their fits, which was similar to what we saw in the season opener when the Dolphins totaled 191 rushing yards against them. By taking a slight step to one side as a reaction to either play-action or misdirection -- or simply running up the field and leaving the inside gap unaccounted for as defensive end Chandler Jones did at times -- Patriots defenders were too easily displaced Monday night. That opened wide chunks of space for Chiefs running backs to exploit.

The NFL is a copycat league and Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't implement some of the same concepts Sunday to see how the Patriots react.

Then it comes down to shedding blocks and tackling for the Patriots, and that could obviously use an upgrade, as well.

The Film Don't Lie: Bills

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the Buffalo Bills must fix:

After watching film Monday, Bills coach Doug Marrone already made the biggest change that he could make to his team, benching starting quarterback EJ Manuel. Backup Kyle Orton will start Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

However, it's still worth diving deeper into Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans and identifying where the offense struggled, because it wasn't just about Manuel.

We'll put the focus on the offensive line, which allowed 16 quarterback hits and whose suspect pass protection didn't do Manuel any favors in what became his final start of his initial run in Buffalo.

Yes, the Texans had J.J. Watt. He's arguably the NFL's best defensive player and he gave the Bills' offensive line fits all day. But the Texans were without first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and were starting 34-year-old nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who signed last week. It could have been much worse.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bills' offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on just 34.6 percent of pass plays, more than 4 percentage points lower than any other team in any game this season. Only two games -- from the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7 and the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 -- were worse last season.

Pass protection can often be a game-specific problem, so the best solution if a quarterback is under pressure is to shorten drops and add a strong dose of screen passes to keep pass-rushers honest. To some extent, the Bills did that Sunday.

But if the Bills are looking to make more of a change that carries over into Sunday, when they'll have to slow down Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' defensive line, one option is to use more play-action. The Bills ran play-action on just five of their 69 snaps Sunday.

While play-action typically keeps the ball in the quarterback's hands longer, it can also allow the offensive line to play more aggressively. That could be the right medicine for a line that was on its heels all afternoon Sunday.
video EJ Manuel's NFL career is at a crossroads.

Benched Monday after posting a 6-8 record through his first 14 starts, Manuel showed poor enough play for coach Doug Marrone to turn to veteran Kyle Orton for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. If Orton plays well, the Bills may never look back.

Manuel, who sat pensive at his locker after the Bills' loss to the Houston Texans last weekend, will now have plenty more time to think about his future.

"He'll have to have some thick skin through this and you've got to fight. That's what usually happens in life. To get what you want, you're going to have to fight for it," Marrone said Monday. "I think that he'll be able to grow. I think that he'll be able to handle it well, from my conversation with him. And he'll be able to continue to grow as a quarterback."

[+] EnlargeManuel
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsIf he wants to return as the Bills long-term starter, EJ Manuel will also have to buck a trend among recent first-round quarterbacks who were benched.
Recent history suggests that Manuel will have a steep hill to climb if he ever wants to see NFL success -- or even re-gain his starting role.

Since 2007, no quarterback selected in the first round has recovered from a benching to again become a full-time NFL starter. The closest bids have come from Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn.

It was Tebow who stormed back in 2011 to take over for Orton, coincidentally, after Tebow lost out to Orton in training camp that season. Tebow's success was short-lived, as was Quinn's brief resurgence with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.

If Manuel wants to buck a recent NFL trend, he'll have to carve a different path than the other eight first-round quarterbacks taken since 2007 who were also benched:

Brandon Weeden (22nd overall, 2012) -- Started 15 games as a rookie before missing the season finale with an injury. Started the first two games of his second season before an injury; started three more games after injuries to Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell. Now a backup for the Dallas Cowboys.

Blaine Gabbert (10th overall, 2011) -- Started the final 14 games of his rookie season and the first 10 games of his second season before a season-ending injury. Started the first game of his third season before missing two games with an injury; returned to start two more games before being benched. Was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he is currently a backup.

Christian Ponder (12th overall, 2011) -- Started the final 10 games of his rookie season and all 16 games of his second season. Started nine games his third season, missing four games with injuries, before he was benched. Remains a backup for the Minnesota Vikings.

Tim Tebow (25th overall, 2010) -- Started the final three games of his rookie season before losing his starting job to Orton at the start of his second season. He returned to start the final 11 games of that season before being traded to the New York Jets. He did not start another game as a quarterback and is currently out of the league.

Mark Sanchez (fifth overall, 2009) -- Started 62 of the first 64 games of his career (four seasons) before losing his starting job to Geno Smith. Was released after his fifth season and is currently a backup for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Josh Freeman (17th overall, 2009) -- Started the final nine games of his rookie season and his next three full seasons after that. He started the first three games of last season before being benched and later released. He signed with the Vikings, started one game, and is currently out of the league.

JaMarcus Russell (first overall, 2007) -- Started the final game of his rookie season, his entire second season, and the first nine games of his third season before being benched. Did not start another game and is currently out of the league.

Brady Quinn (22nd overall, 2007) -- Started parts of his second and third seasons for the Cleveland Browns before losing his job. Did not play for the next two seasons but returned for the Chiefs in 2012 to start eight more games. Currently out of the league.

Bill Belichick: We're 'going to play better'

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
In an embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has one big takeaway: We need to do everything better.

On both offense and defense, the Patriots were outplayed and outcoached by the Chiefs.

Offensively, the Patriots were pulling and swapping linemen around and the passing game could not get going other than a few passes to wide receiver Brandon LaFell.

“We need to do everything better offensively,” Belichick said during his postgame news conference at Kansas City. “We had like five first downs in the first half or something like that. We did a lot of things wrong and we turned the ball over in the second half. So pretty much, we need to do everything better.”

All eyes have been on the Patriots’ offensive line that saw two rookies, center Bryan Stork and right guard Cameron Fleming, make their first starts in the hostile, record-setting, noisy environment of Arrowhead Stadium. Left tackle Nate Solder was benched for Marcus Cannon as well as right guard Sebastian Vollmer. The issues were endless on the line.

When asked about the Logan Mankins trade after playing two rookies and seeing the offensive line struggle at all positions once again, Belichick was not willing to talk about it.

“We can send around a lot of hypothetical questions, but we are where we are and we need to do better,” Belichick said.

Belichick also benched quarterback Tom Brady after a late-game interception that was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo saw some action in the fourth quarter.

“I think our team competed,” Belichick said. “I thought we competed there at the end. That’s what they should do.”

The Patriots have another marquee matchup on national television on Sunday night against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

“We have to have mental toughness and we are going to have to have a good week in a short amount of time,” Belichick said.

The Patriots were viewed as a top team in the AFC that could compete for a Super Bowl, but the attention on the end-of-season goals is not something Belichick dwells on. He is moving on to next week.

“I never make predictions going into the season,” Belichick said. “Never have. Never will.

“Our team is going to play better than they played tonight. Have to go to work and we have to do that.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady: 'Bad performance by everybody'

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
For Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, this was a Monday night he will want to forget. A 41-14 loss to the Chiefs on national television left the future Hall of Famer embarrassed.

“It was a bad performance by everybody and just want to make sure we never have this feeling again,” Brady said during his postgame news conference at Kansas City. “I think there’s not much we are doing well enough on a consistent basis -- run game, pass game, consistently when we have to throw it, have to run it, convert on third down, red area. It’s all a problem.”

Brady finished the game 14-of-23 for 159 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah. Brady looked out of sync especially on a pass intended for wide receiver Julian Edelman that was overthrown and picked off by cornerback Sean Smith. Whether it was miscommunication, play calling, lack of rhythm or inconsistency, Brady and the offense just didn’t have it.

[+] EnlargeBrady
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesTom Brady completed 14 of 23 passes for just 159 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
As the game went on, Brady continued to force passes, blaming himself after the game for pressing too hard on the pass that Abdullah returned for a touchdown.

Through four weeks the Patriots have shown an anemic offense that seemed to regress against the Chiefs and they have a tough road ahead of them.

“There’s no one that’s going to dig us out of this hole,” Brady said. “We kind of created it for ourselves. We are going to have to look each other in the eye, see what kind of commitment we are willing to make for each other and try to do a lot better.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Patriots next week as they take on the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals, who are coming off of a bye week. Meanwhile, the Patriots have a short week, which Brady said he was glad to have so that the team can move forward.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Brady said. “We’ve got a great football team coming in this week that is undefeated. We have to play our best game certainly to beat them.”

Brady is more than aware of the team’s struggles and a brutal loss on Monday night puts the Patriots in the spotlight.

“There’s going to be a lot of negativities,” Brady said. “Everyone is going to tell us how terrible we are. That’s just the way it goes in the NFL. But we have a lot of character in our locker room.

“I know we are not going to quit. If there’s one thing, I can assure you of that. There’s not a guy in that locker room that’s going to quit. We stick together. We work on the things that we need to work on. We all feel we have a good football team. We just didn’t play like a good football team tonight. We will see what we are made of this week.”

'Unfamiliar territory' for Patriots

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
Observed and heard in the locker room after the New England Patriots' 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

A different type of loss: Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, one of the team's captains, said simply: "They beat us like we stole something." Players talked about how this was the type of loss they aren't used to absorbing. "A little bit of unfamiliar territory, especially for myself since I've been here we haven't had quite a loss like this," captain Matthew Slater said, before pointing out that the team was still tied for first place in the division.

Support for Brady: This was one of quarterback Tom Brady's worst games, with two interceptions right into the hands of Chiefs defenders. "The great ones find a way to respond to situations like this, and I have 100 percent confidence that he'll get us going in the right direction," Slater said.

Weakside runs part of the problem: The Chiefs totaled 207 rushing yards and Bill Belichick said some weakside runs specifically hurt the Patriots. "They got some good yardage on the weak side," agreed linebacker Jerod Mayo. "Obviously they were moving some people. ... it's not just one person, or a side, it was all of us. At the end of the day, you have to tackle the guy with the football. Let's not over-complicate it."

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the New England Patriots' 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: The Patriots were embarrassed. Credit to the Chiefs, who played mistake-free football and took it to New England in all facets, while at the same time acknowledging that the Patriots were outclassed from the sideline to the field. New England drops to 2-2.

Starts with the coaching staff. There is a lot of blame to go around after this one for the Patriots, and we'd start with the coaching staff. There was very little attempt to establish the run. They are trying to play a style they haven't proven equipped to execute. Defensively, they couldn't stem the tide against a running attack that manipulated players out of their gaps while taking advantage of specific matchups. Andy Reid and his staff were at another level compared to Bill Belichick and his staff. This is not the brand of Patriots football we've grown accustomed to seeing in Belichick's 15 years as coach.

First look at Garoppolo as Brady is replaced. There is no quarterback controversy in New England. Some might go there after Tom Brady wasn't at his best and Jimmy Garoppolo led a touchdown drive upon entering the game with just over 10 minutes remaining. We aren't.

Gronkowski's playing time. Tight end Rob Gronkowski continues to work himself into the mix. After playing 38, 28 and 42 snaps in the first three weeks, he was on for 31 of 49 snaps in this one.

Game ball: Special teams captain Matthew Slater was one of the few brights spots for the Patriots.

Stat of note: The Patriots are now 22-24 all time on "Monday Night Football," with this marking their first loss to the Chiefs in four Monday night games.

What's next: The Patriots host the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. The Bengals are coming off their bye.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If a head coach wants to change his quarterback, as Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone did Monday, he should be allowed to make the move without having to call an organizational meeting to discuss, debate and vote. It shouldn't be as complicated as getting a bill passed by Congress; it should be a one-man, executive decision. That's how Marrone did it in Buffalo, replacing EJ Manuel with Kyle Orton.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan and John Idzik
Bill Kostroun/AP PhotoIf Jets coach Rex Ryan wants to make a change at quarterback, what sort of role would general manager John Idzik play in that decision-making?
With Geno Smith slumping, the New York Jets could approaching a quarterback decision in the coming weeks, except in their case it's fair to wonder if coach Rex Ryan truly has the power to make that call. He was asked the question twice Monday, and each time he gave a cryptic answer that suggested he doesn't have the ultimate authority. If he doesn't -- if general manager John Idzik is pulling the strings from his bunker at One Jets Drive -- Ryan is just a puppet coach. And that would be troubling.

"To say who's going to outright make that call or whatever, I'd rather not say those things, but it would be a team decision," Ryan said at his news conference.

A short time later, Ryan was asked the same question during his weekly radio spot on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. This time, it was presented in the context of an in-game decision. Once again, Ryan dodged.

"You know what? I'd rather not get into this," he said. "It's always a Jet decision and I'm going to leave it at that, no matter how many times you ask me."

That response triggered images of Ryan calling up to Idzik's booth at halftime, asking if he's cool with the idea of bringing in Michael Vick. Idzik isn't that demanding, is he? All I know is the man monitors Ryan's news conferences and likes to stay involved in all aspects of the organization, staying abreast of seemingly trivial matters that could be handled by underlings. Yeah, he's hands-on.

There could be two explanations for Ryan's wishy-washy response. Maybe he did it to appease Idzik, allowing his boss -- the man who could determine his fate at the end of the season -- to be a part of the process.

Or maybe Ryan really doesn't have the power to make a quarterback change. That would be unusual because most head coaches have the contractual right to choose who plays and who sits.

Either way, it's bad form because of the perception it creates: A head coach with diminished power.

In Buffalo, Marrone made the decision and informed his general manager, Doug Whaley.

"I went to Doug, I said look, 'This gives us the best opportunity to win,'" Marrone told reporters. "We talked about it. We looked at some things, and we were in full agreement on it."

The key words: Best opportunity to win. Every decision should be based on what gives the team the best chance to win now. If Ryan decides at some point Vick gives the Jets the best chance, he should be allowed to make the call without having to convene a special session of the Woody Johnson cabinet. If Ryan is over-ruled, it's a bad situation because that's no way to run a team.

If Ryan is forced to play Smith longer than he wants -- and we're not suggesting he wants to dump him right now -- it would signal another rebuilding year, another year devoted to developing Smith. Ryan, his players and the fans deserve the chance to be better than that.

Defensive starters for Patriots

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29

Benching Manuel takes burden off Marrone

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. –- Doug Marrone hasn't just been the Buffalo Bills' head coach since last season; he's been their goalie, too.

Slap shot after slap shot, the tough questions about quarterback EJ Manuel and his underwhelming play in 14 NFL starts have come screaming in. Marrone might as well have been wearing a hockey glove and mask, because he's been forced to deflect each and every criticism of his front office's 2013 first-round pick.

After Marrone decided to bench Manuel on Monday in favor of veteran Kyle Orton, those questions will now stop. No more pad saves will be necessary.

It's a significant weight off the shoulders of Marrone, a second-year head coach whose team has lost its past two games and whose job future could be subject to the whim of new owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

With Orton at the helm, it's full speed ahead for a Bills team that has playoff-caliber talent across its roster but has been held back by Manuel, a young quarterback whose development was far too spotty to justify Marrone continuing to defend his role as starter.

"You like for things to pan out for you. You'd like for things to go on this merry road, but you have to endure," Marrone said Monday. "This league is going to throw you a lot of different bumps in the road, whether it be productivity by position, whether it be injuries. Whatever it may be, you just need to endure it, you need to fight through it, and you need to go."

It's not to say winning hasn't been a priority for the Bills this season, but before Monday they've had to balance Manuel's growth and the progress of the entire team. At times -- especially over the past two games -- it was a juggling act that threatened the Bills' chances of snapping a 14-season playoff drought.

That problem has been swatted aside. What resulted was a noticeably more relaxed Marrone when he announced his decision Monday.

"As a head coach you have to evaluate everything and, at the end of the day, you've got to make the right decisions with your mind, with your heart and things like that," he said. "The one thing is that when you go to bed at night you have to make sure that you're making the best decisions to help our football team win."

Marrone didn't seem Monday like a coach who agonized over this decision. There was almost a sense a relief, as if he could move on from the first 20 games of his tenure in Buffalo -- a period defined mostly by shoddy quarterback play.

The decision, the Bills say, was made entirely by Marrone, who delivered the news Monday afternoon to general manager Doug Whaley.

"I didn't ask for an agreement," Marrone explained. "I just went in there and said, 'This is the direction that I'm going.'"

For the Bills, that direction must be forward. Orton gives Marrone his best chance at the playoffs, and in the process Marrone's best shot of saving his job when the Pegulas settle into their new offices later this season.

As for Manuel, he'll now have an opportunity to reflect on his first experience as an NFL starter.

"[This] gives him a chance to just step back for a moment and look at things that we can work on and correct. Again, he'll have to have some thick skin through this and you've got to fight," Marrone said. "That's what usually happens in life. To get what you want, you're going to have to fight for it. I think that he'll be able to grow."

That growth, if it occurs, will now take place behind the scenes. Manuel will be out of the spotlight, and Marrone can go back to playing offense without having to defend his own net.

Jets cut Jalen Saunders

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets released fourth-round wide receiver Jalen Saunders on Monday, the fourth of 12 draft picks the team had this year. The Jets then signed WR T.J. Graham.

The Jets also cut cornerback LeQuan Lewis, who had two penalties in the Lions' game.

Saunders was briefly the team’s punt returner, but after dropping two punts in two weeks, Saunders was inactive Sunday and replaced by Walt Powell for a 24-17 loss to the Lions at Metlife Stadium.

Saunders has a medical emergency situation in August, when he had a seizure in his car near the Jets' training facility. After doctors evaluated him, he was back at practice 10 days later.

He was the only one of three wide receivers drafted who was on the 53-man roster.

Also, the Jets signed wide receiver Chris Owusu, who played in 17 games for the Tampa Bay. For the Bucs, Owusu had 16 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown. He scored in the Bucs' season-opening loss.

The Jets drafted 12 players in the spring, and the team is already dealing with attrition. First-rounder S Calvin Pryor and second round pick TE Jace Amaro are rostered and contributing, while third-round pick CB Dexter McDougle rehabs a knee injury on the reserved/injured list.

Three of the others are on the roster; OT Dakota Dozier, DE IK Enemkpali and LB Trevor Reilly. WR Shaq Evans is on reserved/injured and WR Quincy Enunwa is on the practice squad.

Three others are no longer with the team; LB Jeremiah George, CB Brandon Dixon and QB Tajh Boyd.

Graham, 25, was initially drafted by the Bills in 2012. He has caught three touchdowns in the NFL, and his career stats include 54 catches for 683 yards.

Slumping Jets hold players-only meeting

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With a three-game losing streak and an escalating quarterback controversy, the New York Jets' offense held a players-only meeting Monday -- a sure sign the team has reached a pressure point in its season.

"The meeting was for us to kind of vent to one another about some of the things we can do better, and some of the ways we can get better as an offense," embattled quarterback Geno Smith told reporters.

Smith said he was among a few players who spoke at the meeting. The idea to have the meeting, he said, was a "collective group decision." Smith bristled when it was suggested the session was designed to air grievances.

"No grievances," Smith said. "I understand semantics are a huge thing in this market, but there were no grievances. I don't want you guys to get that misunderstood. No one is hanging their head around here and no one is sad. No one is down on themselves."

There is no doubt that Smith's recent performances came up in the meeting. He committed two turnovers in Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, bringing his total to seven -- five interceptions and two lost fumbles.

After the game, Rex Ryan gave Smith a vote of confidence, saying he will remain the starter. Several of Smith's teammates backed him publicly, some of them -- mainly Eric Decker and Sheldon Richardson -- denouncing the fans for chanting for Michael Vick during the game.

But on Monday, only a handful of Smith's teammates appeared in the locker room during the media period, perhaps trying to avoid sensitive questions about their confidence level in Smith.

Tackle Breno Giacomini said a players-only meeting "isn't a bad thing. We need to, individually, have more accountability." At the same time, Giacomini lauded the team's character, claiming it will find a way to dig out of the 1-3 hole.

"It comes down to accountability, and every man has to be accountable for his actions," Smith said. "I spoke to the guys earlier and told them just how disappointed I was with myself for the turnovers we've had. I know how hard I've worked on straightening those things out. We've emphasized those things, but I've allowed some of those things [to] happen that I can't let happen."

Smith, who said he expects to be fined by the league for cursing at a fan after the game, was in a snippy mood with reporters. He received intense criticism for his uncharacteristic outburst after the game, when he yelled at a heckler, "F--- you!"

When asked about the reason for his turnovers, Smith bristled, "It's football, man. You guys try to make it about something else, but it's football."

Smith acknowledged the Jets' season is on the brink.

"You can obviously go in the tank and say the season is done with, or you can do what we're going to do -- get back to practice Wednesday and pick ourselves up," he said.