The addition of Percy Harvin took a chunk out of the New York Jets' massive amount of salary-cap space, but they're still not crying poverty. They still have $14.58 million in room, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars ($24.17 million), Cleveland Browns ($20.58 million) and Philadelphia Eagles ($16.54 million) have more space than the Jets.

Harvin will count $6.47 million on the cap for the final 10 weeks (nine games plus the bye week). Initially, it was widely reported his cap charge would be $7.1 million, but his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, ended up picking up last week's pay check because the Jets already had played Thursday night, before the trade was finalized.

Despite his abbreviated season in New York, Harvin still has the fourth-highest cap charge on the Jets. The top 5:

1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- $11.7 million

2. Nick Mangold -- $7.2 million

3. David Harris -- $7.0 million

4. Percy Harvin -- $6.47 million

5. Eric Decker -- $4.0 million

5. Michael Vick -- $4.0 million

Darrelle Revis, Chandler Jones not at Patriots practice

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive end Chandler Jones were not spotted at the start of practice on Tuesday.

 Jones, who has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, played in 84 of 87 defensive snaps for the Patriots in Thursday night’s win over the Jets. Meanwhile, Revis showed no signs of an injury during the win against his former team and talked with media after the game.

With an extra practice this week, it's possible the Patriots are giving Jones and Revis an additional day of rest.

Meanwhile, the club received a boost on the health front with the return of three players on the offensive line. Starting left guard Dan Connolly (concussion), rookie center Bryan Stork (concussion) and rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were participating in practice.

Fleming has missed the past three games, Stork the last two, and Connolly last Thursday's win over the Jets.

Also, core special teamer and safety Nate Ebner (finger) returned to practice after missing the past three games. Ebner was wearing a black cast on his right hand that covered his thumb. Fleming seemed to have a larger black brace/cast that was also on his right hand.

Practice squad wide receiver Josh Boyce was wearing a black practice jersey, signifying that he was a practice player of the week in the preparations for the win over the Jets.

Players were wearing sweats and shells.

AFC East

The Film Don't Lie: Patriots

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the New England Patriots must fix:

With the Chicago Bears coming to town, it's a good week to highlight the importance of turnovers because the Bears give the ball up almost as much as any team in the NFL. Only the Jaguars (15) and Eagles (14) have more giveaways than the Bears' 13.

Meanwhile, the Patriots' 14 takeaways are tied for most in the NFL.

So given the Patriots' success in this area, why is this falling into the "must fix" category this week?

Because New England is coming off its second game of the season without producing a turnover, and we saw what a struggle it was against the New York Jets, with the Pats fortunate to escape with a 27-25 victory. The other game in which the Patriots didn't have a takeaway was their Sept. 29 blowout loss in Kansas City.

Also consider this Bears stat: Since quarterback Jay Cutler joined Chicago, the team is 21-5 in games in which he starts and does not throw an interception. When he throws multiple interceptions (as he has done three times this season), the Bears are 4-18.

The Film Don’t Lie: Dolphins

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

This is a difficult week to nitpick at the Dolphins (3-3) following a complete, four-quarter performance in a 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. However, the Dolphins did allow a season-high four sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that is a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The good news for Miami is it’s easy to identify the issue. Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was a one-man wrecking machine. Ratliff had his way with Miami’s center (Samson Satele) and guards (Daryn Colledge and Mike Pouncey) on his way to a career-high 3.5 sacks. The Dolphins had communication issues up front and must do a better job of picking up stunts moving forward. Opponents have been "stunting" Miami's offensive line the past few weeks with mixed results. But overall the pass protection for the Dolphins has been much improved compare to last season, when they allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks.

The Jaguars (1-6) finally got their first victory last week against the Cleveland Browns. Jacksonville will enter this game with a little momentum and feeling good about itself. If the Dolphins allow the Jaguars to disrupt and get hits on Tannehill, Jacksonville has another shot to pull off an upset.

The Film Don't Lie: Bills

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Buffalo Bills must fix:

The Bills' rushing defense, ranked first in the NFL entering Week 7, allowed the Minnesota Vikings to average 5.4 yards per carry in Sunday's 17-16 win.

Was that a fluke or should the Bills be concerned when they travel to face Chris Ivory and the New York Jets this weekend?

"I think one of the things, uncharacteristically, were the missed tackles," coach Doug Marrone said Monday. "We had about nine missed tackles [Sunday]. That’s a lot of yardage. That’s something we’ve been doing a good job of. We didn’t do that [Sunday]."

No, the Bills did not. The Vikings gained an average of 2.45 yards after contact, the fourth-best mark of any team in Week 7. For comparison, the Bills allowed an average of 1.58 yards after contact through the first six games of the season.

The Vikings had a pair of big runs in the game -- both from deep in their own territory -- that helped boost their average.

First was a 21-yard rumble by fullback Jerome Felton in the first quarter. The Vikings had "22" personnel on the field -- two tight ends and two running backs -- so the Bills countered with a "4-4" defensive look. Defensive end Jerry Hughes was unblocked on the weak side and got caught too far upfield, allowing Felton to cut back. Safety Aaron Williams then missed a tackle to add at least another 10 yards to the run.

Second was a 29-yard run by Jerick McKinnon in the third quarter. Minnesota had the same personnel and formation, and the Bills were still in their "4-4" look. This time, the Bills over-pursued to the weak side -- where Felton found his crease on the first play -- and McKinnon cut back to the strong side. Williams then missed another tackle to allow the bigger gain.

Williams is playing with an injured right wrist, so it's understandable why he would have trouble tackling. But the overaggression on both plays was troubling, as it wasn't a single player at fault.

It's not rocket science, but if the Bills are to get back to their stingy run defense Sunday in the Meadowlands, they'll need to have more discipline in playing their lanes.

The Film Don't Lie: Jets

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the New York Jets must fix:

If third down is the money down, the Jets are a cash-poor defense.

The Jets have allowed a league-high 11 touchdowns on third down, a season-long problem that bit them again in last Thursday night's 27-25 loss to the New England Patriots. They surrendered two touchdowns on third down, including a 19-yard scoring pass on a third-and-19 play in the fourth quarter -- a breakdown that will haunt Rex Ryan's dreams for the remainder of the year.

Let's provide some context to the 11 touchdowns: In 2009, when their defense was at its peak under Ryan, the Jets allowed 19 touchdowns for the entire season -- on all downs.

They get a chance to start a turnaround Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, who suddenly have a formidable quarterback-receiver combo in Kyle Orton and rookie Sammy Watkins. The Jets don't have a true No. 1 corner to match against Watkins. Heck, they don't even have a No. 2 corner. Because of injuries and bad personnel decisions, Ryan is mixing and matching, using Darrin Walls and Phillip Adams as his starters after giving up on Antonio Allen as a corner.

But the third-down struggles go beyond the cornerback play. Ryan is using more zone coverages than usual, sometimes creating indecision among the defensive backs. The result: busted coverages.

The Jets should be cleaning up on third down, considering their pass-rushing prowess, but at times they look utterly helpless.
A few thoughts on the Percy Harvin love-fest Monday at One Jets Drive:

The most shocking development was that general manager John (Talking Points) Idzik actually provided the headline, calling the trade for Harvin a "potential coup" for the Jets.

They're coup-coup if they think Harvin will transform the New York Jets into an offensive juggernaut and save the season.

While it's hard to rip the trade, considering the minimal cost in terms of draft-pick compensation, it's also unrealistic to expect an immediate impact from Harvin. It's not easy to integrate a wide receiver into an unfamiliar system in the middle of a season. It's harder when that receiver isn't a traditional receiver.

Harvin is a hybrid player, a receiver/runner with elite physical skills. As the Seattle Seahawks discovered, it takes a concerted effort to get him the ball; it doesn't happen through the normal flow of an offense. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will have to cook up a "Percy Package," while trying to balance it with the running back, Eric Decker and emerging tight end Jace Amaro.

The Jets could've used a training camp with Harvin, giving him a chance to learn the full offense and develop a rapport with Geno Smith. Now, it's a seat-of-their-pants operation.

Let's call it what it really is: This is a nine-game audition for Harvin. If he stays out of trouble, doesn't slug any teammates and makes plays, the Jets -- rather, Idzik -- can bring him back in 2015. His salary next year is $10.5 million, so it might take a lot of convincing over these next couple of months.

It's a rental, with the option to buy.

This audition is costing them a pretty penny ($7.1 million in guaranteed salary), but they can cut bait after the season without any salary-cap ramifications; there is no guaranteed money from 2015 to 2018 in the contact. It's a wonderful set-up for Idzik, who has mastered the low-risk, short-term contract (see: Chris Johnson and Michael Vick.)

So, basically, Harvin is in the same situation as Rex Ryan and Geno Smith. To varying degrees, they're all battling for the jobs over these next nine games.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- What's the big deal about a fight between teammates?

That, essentially, was the response Monday from right tackle Breno Giacomini, who witnessed the Percy Harvin-Golden Tate dust up at last year's Super Bowl.

Giacomini, who played last season for the Seattle Seahawks, was surrounded by reporters after practice, everyone wanting to get his take on the New York Jets' newest player. Giacomini called Harvin "a good teammate" who plays with a feisty attitude.

Harvin took the feisty part to a different level. Altercations with Tate and Doug Baldwin, in the preseason, surfaced in various reports in the immediate aftermath of last Friday's trade.

"It happened twice. Who cares?" Giacomini said. "It was squashed right away [with Tate]. ... People get in fights all the time. This is the game of football. The media is blowing that up. It's being blown up for no reason."

Giacomini finally acknowledged that a fight between teammates, on the eve of the Super Bowl, is a bit unusual. But he added, "It wasn't like a big, huge boxing match."

Naturally, the Jets said only positive things about their new teammate. They're aware of his reputation as a troublemaker, but they appear willing to forgive and forget, hoping he can provide some electricity for their moribund offense.

"He's a dynamic player," quarterback Geno Smith said. "You can give him the ball in space and he can make guys miss. He has that home run ability, so to have a guy like that who can make explosive plays and give our offense that extra edge, I think is going to make us all better."

Guard Willie Colon described Harvin as "scary fast," recalling a play from Monday's practice.

"He ran a route, he was on one side of the field and the time I blinked, he was all the way downfield," Colon said. "He has that DeSean Jackson, lightning in a bottle-type speed."

Coach Rex Ryan was hesitant to spell out Harvin's role, except to say he will return kickoffs. Obviously, he will do more than that. He'll be heavily involved as a wide receiver, probably emerging as the starter opposite Eric Decker.

"I think it'll be interesting to put Percy in with the weapons, the other players we already have," Ryan said. "I think it's going to be exciting. When you have [Jeremy] Kerley, when you have Decker, our tight ends and our running backs, I think it brings an explosive talent to our team. It should be fun to watch."

General manager John Idzik called the trade "a potential coup," acquiring Harvin for a conditional sixth-round pick. Giacomini agreed.

"I'm surprised [he got traded], but you know what? I think we got the upper hand," he said. "I don't know who Seattle will draft, but it won't be Percy Harvin."

McDaniels says Gray will get more chances

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
When New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray was promoted from the practice squad prior to Thursday night's 27-25 win against the Jets, it was a move to find answers after Stevan Ridley's season-ending knee injury. Gray earned the opportunity with his hard work and consistent presence on the scout teams during practice.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attested to Gray's work ethic and desire to be a team contributor.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsPatriots rookie Jonas Gray (No. 35) saw his first NFL action of the season in Week 7 against the Jets, rushing for 12 yards on three attempts.
"Jonas works really hard," McDaniels said. "He's been well prepared and done a great job for us on the scout teams here. And certainly made the most of his opportunities in the preseason and just continues to prepare like he is playing each week."

Gray said earlier in the week, when asked about the potential of being called up from the practice squad, that he prepares every week like he is playing and that the Patriots' coaching staff doesn't treat practice squad players any differently from roster players.

In his first career NFL game, Gray had three carries for 12 yards -- a modest performance. But, he made his impact in blitz pickups and proved he could be a consistent back within the limited work he had.

"He had an opportunity to come up last week and help and I thought he did a good job in his role," McDaniels said. "Didn't play -- I think he played a total of 11 plays, if I am correct on it -- but, again, did a great job of running hard, runs behind his pads, stays low, not the easiest guy in the world to bring down because he's a thick guy with the ball."

At 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Gray packs a lot of power into his running and has the confidence to land blocks on safeties, linebackers and defensive linemen because he has the size to do so.

Based on Gray receiving the second-most snaps among Patriots running backs on Thursday night with 12 of 60 -- behind Shane Vereen's 48 snaps and trumping Brandon Bolden's one offensive snap -- Gray could see more action and become the secondary back in the Patriots' offense.

McDaniels liked Gray's performance throughout the offseason and in his first NFL game and is looking forward to working with his hard-working running back.

"He stepped in there and picked up the blitz a couple of times the other night," McDaniels said. "So just a young guy that is eager to do whatever is asked of him and we will continue to work with him and see if we can't continue to build on what we did the other night with him."
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (3-3) are getting another key addition to their roster this week. Former 2013 No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan completed his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancement and substance abuse policies. He became eligible to return on Monday, although a roster move isn't expected until later in the week.

Per NFL rules, Miami's coaches haven’t seen or heard from Jordan since he began his suspension on Aug. 29, one day after the Dolphins' preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams. Almost seven weeks have gone by, and the Dolphins will finally see Jordan back in practice on Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to get him on the field and start working him and see where he's at,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It will be great to have him back. But we have to take it one day at a time.”

Jordan’s role on the team remains uncertain. He was slotted to be the No. 3 defensive end at the start of training camp behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. But Jordan fell behind on the depth chart after the suspension and a lot has changed since.

Miami’s current No. 3 defensive end, Derrick Shelby, is third on the Dolphins with three sacks this season. Rookies such as Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have also flashed and earned playing time. Defensive end is arguably the deepest area of Miami's roster, which will make it tough for Jordan to immediately find a significant role.

The most important aspect of Jordan getting back on the field quickly is his health, which is unknown. But Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is confident Jordan did the right things during his suspension.

“I envision that he will be in good shape,” Coyle said Monday. “He’s the type of athlete that can run all day. We’ve never had issues with him being out of shape. So I hope he comes back and he’s ready to go.”

Coyle, in some ways, is getting a new toy on defense near the midpoint of the season. Jordan is one of Miami’s best pure athletes, although he hasn't come close to reaching his potential in two seasons.

The Dolphins had high hopes for Jordan in 2014, but the suspension to start the year stunted his growth. Miami still has 10 games remaining and could use as much talent as possible to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.

“If you have good players you find ways to utilize them,” Coyle said of Jordan. “He's certainly a talented guy.”
Each week during the season, the positional groupings the New England Patriots utilize on offense are charted. Sometimes these groupings can take us deeper inside the game to get a feel for how coaches view personnel and favorable matchups -- both with their own team and the opposition.

With the Patriots not playing this weekend, it provides a chance to step back and look at the seven-game snapshot (split in two categories between three-receiver groupings or fewer):

3-WR/1-TE/1-RB -- 188 of 494 (38.0 percent)
3-WR/2-RB -- 12 of 494 (2.4 percent)
3-WR/1-FB/1-RB -- 12 of 494 (2.4 percent)
Total: 212 of 494 (42.9 percent)

2-WR/2-TE/1-RB -- 171 of 494 (34.6 percent)
2-WR/1-TE/1-FB/1-RB -- 62 of 494 (12.5 percent)
1-WR/2-TE/1-FB/1-RB -- 30 of 494 (6.1 percent)
1-WR/3-TE/1-RB -- 9 of 494 (1.8 percent)
3-TE/1-FB/1-RB -- 6 of 494 (1.2 percent)
2-WR/1-TE/2-RB -- 4 of 494 (0.8 percent)
Total: 282 of 494 (57.0 percent)

Some thoughts on these groupings that stand out when looking at how they've evolved over the course of the season:

1. As Rob Gronkowski's playing time has increased upon his return from a torn right ACL, the Patriots have trended more toward multiple-tight-end groupings, which makes sense. Specifically, the Patriots seem to have found something that works for them -- going empty with the 2-WR/2-TE/1-RB grouping with Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end, which in a lot of ways could be viewed as a 3-WR package of sorts because of Wright's presence as more of a pass-catching tight end.

2. The 1-WR/3-TE/1-RB run-based package was introduced for the first time against the Bengals (three snaps) Oct. 5 and then used again against the Bills the following week (six snaps), with the Patriots having nice success throwing out of it despite being a run-based look. Again, another example of how the usage of tight ends has changed a bit in recent weeks, which is probably tied to Gronkowski's graduation to nearly full-time action and the acclimation process of Wright (acquired from Tampa Bay Aug. 26) gaining momentum with more time.

3. With a lower percentage of three-receiver packages, it has reduced the playing-time totals for pure slot receiver Danny Amendola. But as we saw Thursday, he's still contributing in that niche role (as well as a kickoff returner).

4. One could also draw the conclusion that inconsistent play along the offensive line has contributed to fewer three-receiver packages. By playing with a second or third tight end instead of a second or third receiver, the Patriots are devoting more resources to the line of scrimmage. Everything starts up front.

5. Tom Brady said a big part of early-season action is finding out what an offense can hang its hat on, and after the Sept. 29 game against the Chiefs, the idea of an offensive "identity crisis" was detailed at this address. What has stood out since that time is that the Patriots are using their tight ends more, but at the same time opening things up a bit and giving Brady a chance to attack down the field. It has been an interesting contrast, aided by some improvement in pass protection and, of course, Gronkowski's return to close to top form.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NFL world will soon get its formal introduction to Anthony Dixon.

A change-of-pace running back for the San Francisco 49ers for the past four seasons, Dixon signed with the Buffalo Bills last offseason and now will be thrust into the spotlight after C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were carted off with injuries in Buffalo's 17-16 win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Dixon
AP Photo/Gary WiepertWith the Bills' top two running backs injured, Anthony Dixon said he's ready for an expanded role.
Spiller has a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, and is out for an “undetermined time,” Marrone said. Jackson will have further tests on his injured groin Monday but his body language as he was taken off the field suggested a more serious injury for the Bills' team captain.

"It's time to step up and be great," Dixon said after the game. "It's what I've been waiting for for a long time, getting that workhorse role and I just tried to take advantage."

Once Jackson went down in the first quarter, the Bills split the six plays on their next drive between Dixon and Spiller. Then Spiller -- after a 53-yard gain on his first carry of the game -- landed hard on his left shoulder and might miss significant time, if not the remainder of the season.

As the Bills' final healthy running back who dressed for the game, Dixon rushed nine times in the second half, gaining 31 yards. He finished the day with 51 yards on 13 carries.

His role will undoubtedly increase. Known for his special-teams prowess -- he blocked a punt earlier this season -- and as a short-yardage option, Dixon is out to prove he's more than that.

"I feel like I didn't really get labeled right coming out of college and high school. People tried to do something else with me, make me somebody that I really wasn't," Dixon said. "I've been a workhorse like that all my life. I've been making plays like that all my life."

How was Dixon being labeled?

"[They] put me in a short-yardage [situation], they were just making all these type of stuff -- I can't run routes, I don't got hands. So I'm looking at them, like, 'What?' I don't see what they see," he said. "But yeah, I'm ready now for that opportunity.

"They never gave me a chance to get this opportunity [in San Francisco]. That was one of the reasons why I had to get out of there. I was looking at this opportunity. I really wanted to get back in that workhorse role and I think I'm almost there."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After the Buffalo Bills' close loss to the then-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs last November, coach Doug Marrone memorably proclaimed that he would go home, hide away in frustration and not even pet his dog.

Despite the Bills' come-from-behind, 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, I don't think Boudreaux -- the Marrone family dog -- will be getting much attention Sunday night.

This is a flawed Bills team that has gone from playing mistake-free football at the start of the season to stumbling its way through the first 59 minutes of Sunday's contest, patching up its self-inflicted wounds just in time to escape with a win.

Let's not confuse this brand of football with resiliency. Rather, all the Bills showed Sunday was an ability to create drama out of what should have been an ordinary victory over a struggling opponent. It might be exciting in October, but it's hardly a recipe that will allow Buffalo to taste success in January.

Marrone's demeanor at the podium -- you would need to double-check the box score to make sure the Bills actually won -- told the story after the game.

"I think when you go down to the wire like this, then you're not going to win as many as you need to to get there [to the playoffs]," Marrone said.

The Bills are 4-3 and managed to keep pace in the division with the New England Patriots (5-2), who won Thursday. Buffalo's schedule -- which includes two games against the New York Jets (1-6) over the next month -- is favorable.

It's just hard to see the Bills heading in the right direction given the way they've played the past month. The task of making the postseason will now be even harder after both members of Buffalo's two-headed rushing attack -- C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson -- were carted off with injuries Sunday.

Spiller has a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, and is out for an "undetermined time," Marrone said. Jackson will have an MRI on his injured groin Monday. If his body language while leaving the field is any indication, it might not be an easy injury for Jackson to brush off -- as he always seems to do.

The Bills are down to Anthony Dixon, a career backup who will have plenty to prove if he becomes the workhorse, and Bryce Brown, a low-mileage back dumped by the Philadelphia Eagles in an offseason trade who hasn't suited up once this season.

Spiller has been struggling lately and his playing time dipped to a season-low 12 snaps in last week's loss to the Patriots, but losing Jackson for any extended period would be a big blow. He'd proved to be a consistent, reliable presence in the all-too-inconsistent Bills offense, even leading the team in receptions entering Sunday's game.

Overcoming the absence of either or both of those backs will be difficult, but it's the Bills' slipping focus and mounting mistakes that are most alarming.

They turned over the ball to the Patriots three times last week, added four turnovers Sunday -- including two fumbles inside the red zone -- and have shown an uncanny knack for drawing flags in critical situations.

Even on their last-minute touchdown drive Sunday, which ended in a decisive 2-yard touchdown catch by Sammy Watkins, the Bills seemingly did their best to lose the game.

Tight end Scott Chandler let a ball slip through his hands, right tackle Seantrel Henderson drew a false-start penalty one breath after a fourth-and-20 conversion, and Kyle Orton committed an intentional grounding penalty once the Bills reached the red zone.

Had it not been for Chandler's 24-yard catch on fourth-and-20 or Watkins' touchdown grab with one second remaining, the Bills would be reeling, losers of four of their past five.

Count Marrone among those disturbed by the trend, one that threatens to turn the Bills' 4-3 start into a much less desirable finish.

"I would hate to be categorized as grumpy after a win, but I don't help myself here right now," Marrone said. "I know where I want to go with the team. I do. And I'm just fighting to lead this team to where I want to go.

"It's on myself. I'm going to be on the coaches and the coaches are going to be on [the players]."
CHICAGO -- So this is what Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like at his absolute best.

Miami's 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday finally showed what a consistent, dominant Tannehill looks like under center. Better yet for the Dolphins, it happened over four full quarters -- not the usual one good half or quarter Tannehill has provided this season.

How locked in was the third-year quarterback? On his second touchdown pass of the day, the Bears took away his first and second options. So Tannehill went to his third progression -- which he rarely does successfully -- to complete a 10-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.

Wallace said after the game that the Dolphins (3-3) couldn't even hit that play in practice. But with Tannehill in the zone, they made it look easy when it mattered most, giving Miami a lead it never relinquished.

"I was the last read on the play," Wallace said. "On that play in practice, I've been working that [route] probably since I was in Pittsburgh and never got the ball, not one time, on that play. That was the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastQB Ryan Tannehill capitalized on short passes to lift the Dolphins over Chicago in Week 7.
"You could fall asleep on that play, but you gotta stay focused. Honestly, I got that same play on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice and he threw it. We didn't connect on it, and I told him I will be better on it the next time. Tonight was our next time, and we were better."

There have been games when Tannehill was good, but never the best player on the field. That changed in Chicago. Afterward, backup quarterback Matt Moore got a chuckle out of Tannehill by telling him, "You inspire me."

Tannehill's day started with 14 straight completions, and he finished with 277 yards and two touchdown passes. He posted a career-high 123.6 passer rating and didn't have his first incompletion until 54 seconds left in the first half.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is getting a better grasp of his quarterback's capabilities. The Dolphins used a well-devised game plan that highlighted Tannehill's strengths: throwing short and intermediate passes. His longest completion was for 26 yards to backup tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill also used his athleticism by rolling out of the pocket on passing plays, rushing for 48 yards on six carries.

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill's confidence was at an all-time high, especially after getting hot early.

"It's hard to pinpoint, but it was just something about him," said Clay, who had four receptions and caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass. "It gave me confidence, and I'm sure it gave everybody else in the huddle confidence."

Tannehill said he has never completed 14 straight passes to start a game at any level. He did complete 14 straight between the second and third quarters this season against the Oakland Raiders, but this performance was from the start and more dominant.

On this day, if you were open, Tannehill easily identified it and made the right decisions. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, and eight Dolphins players had at least two receptions.

"Everyone was getting open," Tannehill said. "It's fun to be able to spread the ball around like that."

Was this a one-game performance or a potential career turning point? That remains to be seen.

One of the biggest critiques of Tannehill is he rarely strings together strong games in back-to-back weeks. This season alone he has struggled from half to half. That is one of the major reasons Tannehill is just 18-20 as a starter and still trying to prove he is Miami's long-term solution.

But Sunday's lights-out performance at least provided a one-game snapshot that Tannehill is capable of dominating a game. He has good athleticism and can make most of the throws needed to thrive in the NFL, with the exception of a consistent deep ball.

After six games, it's clear the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them this season.

"We're definitely playoff-caliber, and if he's playing like [Sunday], we could be Super Bowl-caliber, honestly," Wallace said. "But we got to put in the work every day. We know it's not going to just come to us. We have to keep grinding and stay focused."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings:
  • Spiller
    After being carted off in the first half, running back C.J. Spiller was diagnosed with a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. Spiller will have surgery Monday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan. Coach Doug Marrone said Spiller will be out "an undetermined time." He added that Fred Jackson, who was carted off with a groin injury, will need further tests.
  • Bryce Brown, acquired in an offseason trade, was inactive Sunday for the seventh time this season. There was more buzz about Brown last week after Spiller's continued struggles, and Marrone acknowledged Brown will now have a chance. "I have no problem bringing up Bryce. We talked about him last week -- which I hope wasn't a jinx," Marrone said, chuckling.
  • The Bills won this game, but you wouldn't know it. Marrone generally had a frustrated tone when speaking about the game, saying the Bills will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs if they play like they did Sunday. Many players were gone by the time reporters entered the locker room. One of those who did speak, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, acknowledged the Bills' poor play for long stretches Sunday but added, "They're all beautiful [wins] as far as I'm concerned. I don't think there's such a thing as an ugly win."