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.

Things we learned about the Jets

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeaways on the New York Jets' loss to the Detroit Lions:

1. Lack of energy: There were stretches in the game when the Jets seemed utterly lifeless. I suppose that's what happens your offense suffers five consecutive three-and-out possessions, but it's still uncharacteristic of a Rex Ryan-coached team. Except for the crowd responding to a few big plays and chanting for Michael Vick, the stadium was dead. Other than empty seats, nothing upsets an owner more than lethargy.

2. Rex's job security: I'm not one of those who believe it's playoffs or bust for Ryan. I think he can survive if they finish on an upswing, as they did last season -- and the second-half schedule isn't nearly as formidable as the first half. So, no, he's not Dead Man Coaching, but there are certain red flags that will doom him -- a perceived lack of effort and fracturing in the locker room. The next three weeks (at the San Diego Chargers, home for the Denver Broncos and at the New England Patriots) will go a long way toward determining whether he withstands the storm.

3. A crack appears: For the first 19 starts of his career, Geno Smith showed a remarkably calm demeanor, deflecting adversity with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran. That changed Sunday when he cursed out a heckler, an indication the pressure of losing and the stress of a quarterback controversy are inside his head. It's a troubling sign. Nevertheless, Ryan was resolute in his support for Smith, who also has the all-important backing of GM John Idzik. Ryan also has to gauge the pulse of the locker room because, with another bad game by Smith, his players will start to jump on the Vick bandwagon, if they haven't already.

4. Identity crisis: The Jets began the game by running the ball down the throat of the NFL's second-ranked run defense. They ran 10 times en route to a field goal, but they ran Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson only 13 times over the final 3 1/2 quarters. I think offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is searching right now, trying to figure out what he has. I also believe he's still trying to determine the best way to navigate Smith's inconsistency. After last week's loss to the Chicago Bears, Mornhinweg chided himself for putting "too much on [Smith's] plate." He scaled back the game plan, calling safer plays and using fewer substitutions. That didn't work, as the offense went into a deep freeze. Let's face it: They're scrambling to form an identity.

5. Playing like No. 2 vs. No. 2s: How lucky can you get? The Jets were handed gifts the last two weeks, facing a banged-up Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. Once upon a time, a Ryan-coached defense, sensing blood in the water, would've responded with a feeding frenzy. Not anymore. They were shredded by the No. 2 receivers of the Bears and Lions. Alshon Jeffery and Golden Tate combined for 16 catches for 221 yards, underscoring the Jets' problems at cornerback. Don't blame Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls; they're doing the best they can. Blame Idzik for leaving Ryan with a suspect group of cornerbacks -- and that was before the injuries hit.

EJ Manuel at bottom of QBR chart

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
As bad as last week was for EJ Manuel, it got worse Sunday.

Manuel posted a Total QBR of 7.4 in the Buffalo Bills' 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans, the NFL's lowest QBR in Week 4, prior to Monday night's game.

It's the second consecutive week that Manuel has finished at the bottom of the NFL's charts in Total QBR, an advanced statistic developed by ESPN that uses situational and historical data to evaluate quarterbacks.

It's also the first time that an NFL quarterback has recorded a single-digit Total QBR in back-to-back full games since Kansas City's Brady Quinn did so in the final two weeks of the 2012 season.

Manuel now ranks 35th out of 36 qualified NFL quarterbacks in Total QBR. Only Jacksonville's Chad Henne, who lost his starting job last week, has a lower Total QBR than Manuel, whose season average is a 19.8 out of a possible 100.

Alfonzo Dennard ruled out vs. Chiefs

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- The New England Patriots ruled out cornerback Alfonzo Dennard -- an opening-day starter -- for Monday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

This marks the third straight game that Dennard will miss. Second-year player Logan Ryan likely will start in his place again.

Dennard was listed as probable on the team's final injury report, so the downgrade comes as a mild surprise.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan has been in this situation before. It's the eighth three-game losing streak in his head-coaching tenure, but this is the New York Jets' worst start under Ryan. At 1-3, they're on the brink of falling out of the race before the race even gets started.

"It hurts, it's ugly," guard Willie Colon said after the Jets' 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. "I'm tired of it. I'm sure the whole team is tired of it."

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesGeno Smith and the Jets are one loss away from the first four-game losing streak under Rex Ryan.
Since the division realignment in 1990, only 24 of the 165 teams that started 1-3 reached the playoffs -- a mere 14 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What makes the Jets' situation so dire is the upcoming schedule -- at the San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos and at the New England Patriots.

"There's no doubt, we're in a hole," Ryan said. "It doesn't get any easier. We just have to keep working and digging, and find ways to get out of it. ... We do need wins. There's no question about it. I think we'll get there."

The Jets have never lost four straight under Ryan. Askedi if he believes they can still be a playoff team, Colon said: "Totally, totally. I think it's still early. We have a lot to change. We've got to find it in ourselves to get out of this. The worst thing we can do is divide. We can't point fingers."

'Digs' takes a dig at Geno: Former Jets safety James Ihedigbo, who recorded a fourth-quarter strip sack, offered a less-than-flattering assessment of Geno Smith and the Jets' offense. He described Smith as a "good, young quarterback," but Ihedigbo also said Smith tends to lock on to receivers.

"He does," Ihedigbo said. "He is a one-look guy. But that's kind of how the offense is designed, to make the easy read and get the ball out of his hand quick."

Good Decker, bad Decker: The day got off to a rousing start for Eric Decker, who watched his wife -- county singer Jessie James Decker -- deliver a rousing rendition of the national anthem. After that, the Jets' receiver hit a couple of good notes (an 11-yard touchdown reception), but also a couple of bad ones -- two dropped passes. Recovering from a hamstring injury, Decker has missed a lot of practice time.

"It's hard for a quarterback when he doesn't have his guys out there working with him," Decker said. "I had a couple of drops. That never helps out. For me, when I get repetitions during the week -- when I catch the ball, moving around -- it makes it easier during the game. Unfortunately, I haven't allowed myself to do that with the injury."

The disappearing Chris: Chris Ivory got the start over the recently ineffective Chris Johnson and responded with an impressive first drive -- nine carries for 51 yards, setting up a field goal. He didn't touch the ball again over the next two series; his next carry came with 10:59 remaining in the first half. What gives?

"There are a lot of things that contribute to that," Ryan said. "You don't know if a back is winded or if you're trying to keep some guys fresh. One of the strengths we have is that we have three backs that we feel good about. We want to play all three."

Ivory finished with 84 yards on 17 carries. Johnson rushed for 44 on six carries, including a 35-yard touchdown -- his longest run since 2012, if you can believe that.

"It felt good to get some momentum and, hopefully, keep the running game going," he said.

J.J. Watt torments Bills in latest loss

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
HOUSTON -- At times, it wasn't even fair.

The Buffalo Bills couldn't stop J.J. Watt in Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans. No matter where he lined up, he couldn't be blocked. And when he snagged an EJ Manuel pass out of the air in the third quarter, he couldn't be chased down to prevent an 80-yard touchdown.

It was that rumbling score that erased a Bills lead and breathed fire into NRG Stadium. After that point, the Bills had an uphill battle.

"One of the keys was to make sure that he wasn't going to make that big disruptive play prior to the game, and he did," Bills coach Doug Marrone said. "He made a lot of plays."

Watt accounted for nine of the Texans' 16 quarterback hits on Manuel. For some perspective, the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, and San Diego Chargers combined for eight hits on Manuel through the Bills' first three games.

He didn't turn off his motor after the game:

Watt was apparently upset at the Bills for some aggression after plays that weren't flagged.

"I was upset. I get personal fouls called against me all day. I get some extracurriculars done to me, and I don't see repercussions on the other side, but that's fine," Watt said. "That's kind of how the game goes when you try to play the way I play. The guy on the other team is gunning for you and trying to rile you up."

Watt and Manuel met frequently in the backfield. Watt was arguably too powerful for his own good, reaching Manuel but being flagged for roughing the passer twice.

Despite the pressure, Manuel said he wasn't too thrown off by Watt.

"He wasn't in my head. J.J. is a great player, and we knew coming in that he was going to have his opportunity to make plays or that he was going to get in the back as much as he could," Watt said. "But no, he wasn't in my head."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With one slip of the tongue, Geno Smith turned a bad day into a really bad day. After another poor performance, resulting in occasional chants of "We Want Vick!" at MetLife Stadium, Smith walked off the field Sunday -- clearly angry -- and violated one of the 10 commandments of NFL quarterbacking: Thou shalt not let the fans get inside your head.

"F--- you!" Smith yelled at a heckler behind the New York Jets' bench after an ugly 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions -- the Jets' third straight defeat.

The brief exchange was caught on camera by WCBS 2 New York, and it shows Smith glaring at the fan, pausing a moment and shouting the profanity with conviction. There was nothing flippant about it.

We might have witnessed the beginning of the end of Smith as the Jets' starting quarterback.

It wasn't just the unfortunate outburst; it was everything that unfolded. The supposedly improved Smith continued to regress, committing two turnovers and missing a handful of open receivers. He fed the blood-thirsty crowd, which started chanting for Michael Vick during a stretch of five consecutive three-and-out possessions in the first half. It got louder in the fourth quarter, when Smith was intercepted.

[+] EnlargeSmith & Mornhinweg
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesMarty Mornhinweg (right) had a more conservative game plan for Geno Smith against the Lions, but it didn't jump-start the Jets offense.
It's one thing when a gladiator is defeated by the lions -- or, in this case, the Lions. It's quite another situation when he's affected by the coliseum's angry mob. Smith let it get to him -- the bad day, the swirling quarterback controversy, everything. During his postgame apology, he said it was only "one guy" in the crowd, but that doesn't matter. Smith showed cracks, stripping away perhaps his greatest attribute -- his thick skin.

Smith is known for an even-keeled demeanor, which he demonstrated during a wildly inconsistent rookie season. But Sunday's outburst showed a different side. A starting quarterback can't have rabbit ears; it's not a good look. You don't pick fights with the paying customers. It shows immaturity and a lack of poise. For all his mistakes, Mark Sanchez never lashed out at a fan.

"It's part of my learning process," Smith said. "I have to get better with that. I have to let that stuff roll off my back. But today I didn't do well with that."

Smith received a vote of confidence from Jets coach Rex Ryan, who said he's not considering a change. It's the right call; Smith should get at least another start to right himself and the offense. At this point, benching Smith would be a panic move for an organization that still believes he can be the franchise quarterback, but let's be clear: It has to be a short leash. The margin for error is almost gone. The chances of a 1-3 team making the playoffs are 14.5 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

That the Jets are going on the road, facing the San Diego Chargers, is a plus for Smith. To paraphrase the slogan in an airline commercial, he needs to get away.

Ryan said he never considered switching to Vick, although I'm not sure I'm buying that. I think Smith bought himself the rest of the game by opening the second half with a 74-yard touchdown drive that ended with his 11-yard scoring pass to Eric Decker. But it went downhill from there, starting with Smith's interception and a strip-sack on back-to-back possessions. He has seven turnovers in four games, and his passer rating has dropped to 77.0.

"No, I'm not going to replace him," Ryan said. "I feel good about Geno. I think he will get it turned [around]. He's a tough, resilient young man. ... I think he has the tools to be really good. In my opinion, it's not a question of if it's going to happen, but a question of when he will be that kind of guy. I think he's a good quarterback. I think he has a chance to really be something one day."

Part of the problem is a trust issue. After last week's loss, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg chided himself for putting "too much on his plate." On Sunday, Mornhinweg's cleaned Smith's plate, leaving only a couple of crumbs. It was an ultra-conservative game plan, starting with 10 runs on the first 13 plays. It led to an early field goal, but then came the deep freeze. Smith completed 17 of 33 passes for 209 yards and, frankly, he was worse than the stats indicate.

"I have to make sure I right the ship and get this team going," Smith said.

Right now, the team is headed toward an iceberg.