The Jets Are Determined to Get Road Show in Gear Against the Bills

The Bills have always played hard, Ryan said, flying around the field kind of like the gusts of wind that always seem to be buffeting the Ralph, which is less than 10 miles east of Lake Erie. Sometimes, he said, there is “snow and bad weather and all that stuff.”

Ryan added: “And that’s certainly something have to deal with. When you go out there, a calm day is probably 20-mile-an-hour winds. It seems like I’ve always been there in worse conditions.”

The forecast calls for Sunday’s game between the Jets and Bills to be played in practically balmy conditions, with a high of 55 degrees and winds a relatively calm 12 miles an hour. But now the Bills (5-2) actually have a good team, and they are 4-0 in home games this season, three at the Ralph, one in Toronto.

The Jets (4-3), meanwhile, have uncharacteristically lost all three of their road games this season, which Ryan said is something that “kind of digs” at him. In Ryan’s first two years as their coach, the Jets won 15 of 22 road games, including four playoff games.

“I think it bothers all of us, because we’ve always played well on the road,” Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.

against an improved division rival, which all but makes it a must-win, Tomlinson said. It comes after a bye week, and the Jets lost both games that came after bye weeks in Ryan’s first two years with the team.

Ryan said the Jets’ three road opponents this season — Oakland, Baltimore and New England, a combined 9-2 at home — have had something to do with the Jets’ poor road record. This is still inexcusable to Ryan.

“We know we need to win, no question,” he said Thursday. “You’re not going to go anywhere if you can’t win on the road.”

Tomlinson said he would probably point out to his teammates before they take the field on Sunday that the Jets will determine this month if they win the . After Sunday, they are to host New England (5-2), play at Denver (2-5) and play the Bills at home.

The Jets said practices for the Buffalo game have been relatively sharp. Tomlinson said he thinks the Jets have learned the hard way over the last two years about the perils that await teams coming off bye weeks without intensity. “I think with that type of focus, we will come out and play pretty good,” Tomlinson said.

When reminded Wednesday that the Jets had not won a road game, quarterback Mark Sanchez smiled and said: “Easy, easy. Be easy on us. This is still a tough team on the road. We’re just going to have to play smart. We can’t have any penalties and we have to take care of the football, and that will really set us free.”

The Jets have six turnovers in three road games, including three fumbles in a rugged 34-17 loss on Oct. 2 to the Baltimore Ravens. The Bills have a plus-9 turnover differential, the best in the A.F.C. and third in the N.F.L. The Bills’ assistant head coach, Dave Wannstedt, has employed a ball-hawking style on defense.

“He’s probably said a couple of words to them about defense, because that’s his thing,” said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who played for Wannstedt at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ryan had heard that the Bills plan to wear all-white uniforms Sunday for the first time at home since 1986. The Bills said they wanted to give their fans a chance to see the team play at least one home game in their all-white uniforms, but Ryan said, laughing, “They’re having a white-out — oh, my goodness.” The Jets will dress in the green jerseys that they normally wear at home — where they are 4-0 this year.

Ryan said he thought the Jets would break this recent trend of losing games on the road. He also said his team might derive some motivation from being a slight underdog.

“I think we just need to get off to a fast start,” Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress said. “You look at their defense and the things that they’ve been doing. They’re a smart group but they’re fast, they’re physical. They’re number one in the league in takeaways. So, that’s just something that we’re definitely going to have to be cognizant about, taking care of the football and trying to get the crowd out of the game early.”

Bookmark and Share

Bills Place LB Shawne Merriman on IR

Merriman, who earned the nickname “Lights Out” when he was one of the NFL’s most feared players, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday because of a right Achilles’ tendon injury. It’s the same injury that forced the Bills to place him on IR last November after they signed him as a free agent following his release from the San Diego Chargers.

“Shawne has worked extremely hard, but unfortunately his Achilles flared back up and it doesn’t appear that he will be able to return to the field anytime soon,” Bills general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. “We felt it was in the best interest of our team and for Shawne to put him on IR.”

After being bothered by a nagging shoulder injury for the past month, Merriman’s Achilles suddenly became a problem on the Thursday before the Bills’ 27-24 loss to the New York Giants. Merriman missed that game, but he expressed confidence that he’d be able to return and not miss any significant time when the Bills came back from the bye.

“I’m expecting it to hold up well and bounce back and do what I need to do,” the 27-year-old told the Associated Press last week. “I’m feeling a lot better than I did a week ago as of right now. It’s going to be a work in progress. Personally for me, it’s about peaking at the right time, and this bye week has been perfect for me.”

But the Achilles didn’t make as much progress as the Bills had hoped, and it’s left them with a severe dent in a pass rush that’s generated only four sacks this season. Coach Chan Gailey and several players spoke last week about the need to pressure the quarterback to take the heat off Buffalo’s defensive backfield, which has allowed 300-plus yards passing three times already this season.

Overall, Buffalo ranks 31st in total defense.

“I think we just need to keep finetuning the things that we’re not doing well,” Gailey said. “I think what we’re doing is good, but I think we’re not doing it very well. We’re playing hard, we’re not playing better.”

Merriman’s season was average at best, mostly due to his inability to stay healthy. After recording a pair of sacks in Buffalo’s preseason opener against Chicago, he hurt his right knee in practice. That kept him out of two preseason games.

He then hurt his shoulder in Week 2 against Oakland, and the Bills began to monitor both his playing and practice time. That basically made him a part-time player.

Nix has always been a big believer in Merriman after previously working in the Chargers front office when they made Merriman their first pick (12th overall) in the 2005 draft. Hoping Merriman could rekindle some of his past glory with a Bills defense that was in desperate need of a pass-rushing specialist, Nix re-signed Merriman to a two-year deal just a day before Buffalo’s 2010 season finale at the New York Jets.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Merriman finishes the season with nine tackles, one sack and five games. Coming into the season, he had 43 1/2 sacks in 60 career games — but only four sacks from 2008-10 when his production was slowed by injuries.

He missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, and after sitting out most of the 2010 offseason workouts and part of training camp to protest his contract status, he was slowed by an Achilles’ tendon injury and then a calf injury before being released.

Bookmark and Share

Giants Have Another Adventure in Sudden Reversals

First down on the 27, already in field-goal range, the seemed to have the Giants right where they wanted them, where they were the previous week, about to cough up a close game at home.

That’s when Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard-educated quarterback, flunked the fundamental question on the deep sideline route. He underthrew his receiver, Stevie Johnson, leaving Corey Webster in prime position to turn around the game’s momentum, the disquieting mood at MetLife Stadium and maybe the Giants’ season — or at least the first half of it.

“I wanted to get inside of him,” Webster said of Johnson, whom he was chasing on the left sideline, just inside the 5, with four minutes and change left in a 24-24 game. “Hopefully you get your head turned around and go for the ball.”

Turn around and turnarounds. It was appropriate word play for a day on which the Giants’ defense began by surrendering 14 points on two plays that covered a combined 140 yards. When they remembered that defense does require tackling, the Giants reversed field and fortune in a 27-24 victory that sent them into their bye week at 4-2, thinking they had survived a brutal run of preseason injuries in pretty good shape.

“To have the bye and to be an optimist, if I might, maybe we will get some guys healthy,” said Coach Tom Coughlin, whose team was without defensive end Justin Tuck again and running back Brandon Jacobs, among others.

Coughlin hedged on the hopefulness because this is the N.F.L., where enduring parity has been achieved almost to the point of parody, where most games are as predictable as a gust and where Coach barely knows who will suit up week to week.

A week ago, against Seattle, Coughlin must have felt mighty optimistic when the Giants were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown, only to have Eli Manning’s short pass to Victor Cruz turn into a pinball and run back the other way more yards than Coughlin could bear.

Be it coincidence or karma, Webster’s fourth-quarter interception that started the Giants on a 76-yard drive resulting in a deciding 23-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes was made in the general vicinity of the previous week’s Manning-Cruz crusher.

On Sunday, Manning was mostly patient and pick-free while throwing for 292 yards. Fitzpatrick, one-time master of the Wonderlic, was perhaps left wanting to beat his own brains in for Webster’s interceptions. Especially the second one, unforgivable as it was given the circumstances. “I’ll take that matchup every time, and if I throw a good ball on that, Stevie scores and everybody is happy,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s easy to second-guess it now, but I thought it was a great call and I thought it was the right play.”

A debatable claim, to say the least. But that the Bills were even bidding for their fifth victory in six games was testimony to a crazy-quilt season that has already given us a stunning assortment of the ascendant (Lions, 49ers, Bills) and descendent (Eagles, Jets, Colts).

In a league whose current champion is the municipally owned property of Green Bay, in which Los Angeles doesn’t even rate a team, a season’s overriding success is seldom linked to size of market or sexiness of franchise. It’s the beastly nature of the game, the uncertainty of Sunday, which has turned the N.F.L. into the envy of all competing sports leagues, especially the one currently in collective bargaining limbo.

By themselves, the Giants have become a weekly soap opera. They were declared a disaster in the making after Week 1 at Washington, then a remake of “Little Giants” after they ran off three straight victories despite being patched together with sticks and glue, and a team on the brink of a nervous breakdown after the way they lost to Seattle last week.

“We talked about positive energy, because there was so much negative out there,” Coughlin said.

He was brimming with his own while praising Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw for his 104 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, and the playmakers on defense who recovered from the unsightliness of Fred Jackson’s 80-yard touchdown run and Naaman Roosevelt’s 60-yard catch and run to the end zone about five minutes apart in the first quarter.

Especially Jason Pierre-Paul, who sacked Fitzpatrick for a 9-yard loss at the Giants’ 37 midway through the second quarter, pushing the Bills out of field-goal range. On the Bills’ next drive, he and Osi Umenyiora stuffed Jackson for no gain on third-and-1 at the Giants’ 31, forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal. In a 3-point victory, the play, though forgotten by the finish, loomed large.

“You never know what’s going to happen in this game,” Pierre-Paul said. “You give up a couple of big plays, but at the end of the day, you move on.”

You take the fourth-quarter gift from Fitzpatrick, drive the ball down the field and cringe when Manning forces a pass to Mario Manningham on third-and-5 from the Buffalo 5.

Cornerback Leodis McKelvin knocked it down, only a step from the unspeakable. “I tried to put it low and maybe squeeze it in,” Manning said. “It’s always a tough situation right there.”

Could have been worse, much worse, a turnaround to turn the stadium upside down. But this week, the football gods smiled on them. Parity rules.


Bookmark and Share