Manning big test for Bills backs [5:06 AM]
D and C reports: 'Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has his favorite horror movies. Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street. The replay of the Indianapolis Colts 43-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Monday night. Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in just his third season, threw for a team-record 440 yards and four touchdowns and the Colts rolled up 533 yards offense. Manning is Cottrell's problem this week when the Bills (2-1) host the Colts (2-1) in a key AFC East Division battle. So how does his No. 2-ranked defense stop the Manning Machine? "We're hoping he gets a case of the West Nile virus," Cottrell said jokingly, letting out one of his patented bellylaughs. "Seriously, your technique has to be so sound because this guy is a pin-point passer. He can throw it deep, he can throw it short. Our techniques have to be sound against his receivers."'
Polian's blueprint for success remains in force in Buffalo [4:46 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: '"John [Butler] steered the ship through a lot of uncharted and rocky waters and hasn't gotten nearly the credit he deserves," Polian said. "He's brought in high-character, high-performing people. "There's been a lot of focus on the players they lost, but not nearly enough focus on the players they've kept. And the trade for (quarterback Brad) Johnson was a masterstroke." Polian was full of masterstrokes during his tenure in Buffalo. It's a pattern he is in the process of repeating with the Colts.'
Punter doesn't mind cramped quarters [4:44 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'The Bills apparently haven't recovered from last year's special-teams disaster that cost them in their playoff loss at Tennessee. They are 31st in punt returns (3.2), 29th in kickoff returns (17.7), 31st in kick coverage (35.7) and 18th in punt coverage (9.2). The Bills already have had a field goal blocked, allowed a kickoff to be returned 97 yards for a touchdown and have fumbled a pair of punts. The problem can be traced to massive change. Position coach Bruce DeHaven was fired after Tennessee pulled off its "Home Run Throwback" in the AFC playoffs a year ago. Also, the Bills lost 15 players to free agency during the off-season, and many were special-teams performers.'
Defending agsainst the triplets [4:42 AM]
ColtsNews.com reports: 'The Colts have been using a no-huddle in recent weeks. Are there any special adjustments that you make on the defensive front to combat the no-huddle? [Ted] Washington: "We've faced no-huddle offenses in the past and I think the best way to defend it is to get it off the field. If you don't give up a first down and send them off the field, they can't score. We try to play our same style of aggressive and fundamentally-sound defense and hopefully that's good enough to get the job done, no matter what they come out in."'
Colts punter gives poor averages the boot [8:38 PM]
AP reports: 'Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith is making people forget his disappointing rookie season. "I feel like a completely different punter,'' he said. "It's been an absolutely 180 degree turnaround." Three games into the season, Smith ranks first in the NFL with an average of 52.5 yards per punt. Even better is his league-leading net average of 42.1 yards.'
Bills and Colts kill with kindness [8:59 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'If last weekend's Jets-Buccaneers showdown was the trash talking game of the year in the NFL, this weekend's Bills-Colts showdown might be the opposite. Call it the Mutual Admiration Bowl...So it goes when the first big AFC East game of the season is on tap. This isn't a non-conference game devoid of postseason tie-breaker implications, like last Sunday's New York-Tampa affair. The Bills and Colts know this game is too important to allow any headlines to get posted on bulletin boards.'
The numbers support reliance on passing game [8:57 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'The Buffalo Bills rank 13th in passing yards per game and 25th in yards per rushing attempt through three games. Statistics, in this case, don't lie. Coach Wade Phillips acknowledged Wednesday he thinks his offense will be more effective passing than rushing this season. "I think we're going to be more of a passing team this year," Phillips said. "I think we're going to be able to move the ball through the air efficiently. With the players we have this year, that's where we're going. . . . I think everybody can see that we're stronger throwing the ball, and I think we're stronger at this point certainly than where we were last year. "I think we have to run more running plays off the passing game, rather than vice versa."'
Collins primed to start again [5:25 AM]
D and C reports: 'When the Bills (2-1) host the high-powered Indianapolis Colts (2-1) Sunday, quarterback Rob Johnson will be missing one of his favorite receivers in Riemersma, a sure-handed 6-5 target who created great mismatches in the opponents' secondary. If the game turns into a shootout between Manning and Johnson, the second- and third-ranked passers in the NFL, Buffalo's hoping the dropoff between Riemersma and Collins is closer to stepping off a curb than a cliff. "He's a great athlete, but he's young," Johnson said of the 6-4, 250-pound Collins. "Jay's the starter and one of the best tight ends in the league. Bobby's been working hard, though. He realizes this is a great opportunity. But he's got to get ready for a whole game instead of just spot play."'
Flutie returns as No. 1 backup [5:23 AM]
D and C reports: '"(Last week) felt like the first week of training camp where you were a fraction of a second later than what you want to be on that throw, or you were seeing everything but thinking a little too much," said Flutie, who received final medical clearance after a positive MRI result Tuesday. "Today was night and day from last week. I think I've played long enough that that (rustiness) is not really an issue."'
Colts sign running back from practice squad [5:08 AM]
AP reports: 'Running back Lennox Gordon was signed by the Indianapolis Colts off their practice squad on Wednesday. Gordon signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills last year and played in eight games, accumulating 38 yards on 11 carries. He also had one kickoff return for 11 yards.'
Terr-ing it up [5:01 AM]
Fox Sports reports: 'If you're going to double-up on star receiver Marvin Harrison, you better not forget about Terrence Wilkins. Jacksonville did on Monday night, and Wilkins had a career night - catching nine passes for 148 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' 43-14 rout.'
Pathon posts early returns with hard work, commitment [4:51 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'Catching the ball has always been the easy part for Jerome Pathon. But there is so much more to being a productive wide receiver than that. Assigned routes must be run precisely and consistently. Alternate routes must be learned and adjusted to at a moment's notice, when necessary. Downfield blocking on running plays is an unattractive, but necessary, part of the job. Perhaps most importantly with Pathon, a relationship with the quarterback must be built, so timing and trust can be developed. After a frustrating 1999 season when he basically dropped off the map, the athletically gifted wide receiver is showing signs of fulfilling the potential he flashed as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts in '98. He's making the catches, sure. But he's also where he's supposed to be, and when. And in many instances, the catch has been the beginning of the play, not the end. It might be a little early to say Pathon has arrived, but it's not too early to say he's on his way. After catching 14 passes in 10 games last season -- and not playing at all in four others -- Pathon has come out quickly this year with 11 receptions for 183 yards in three games.'
Al-Jabbar battles hurt, frustration [4:48 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: '[Abdul-Karim] Al-Jabbar saw limited action in the opener at Kansas City. But soreness and swelling in his right knee have kept him out of the past two games. He's listed as "doubtful'' on the NFL's injury report, but coach Jim Mora basically ruled him out of Sunday's game at Buffalo. "It's kind of a day-to-day thing, but I would say he's out for this game," he said.'
Maybe Colts fans get it, after all [4:46 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'I have been critical of the fan support the Colts receive in this city. I've always said we have great fans here, just not enough of them. And based on your responses, most people agree with me. But on Monday evening I experienced a quiet, reflective, pregame moment where I just sat, smiled, and thought to myself that this city is really starting to "get it".'
Colts changing course on defense [9:04 PM]
AP reports: 'And that focus and intensity again will be the difference this weekend when Indianapolis visits Buffalo, where it has not won since 1994. Especially against a quarterback such as Rob Johnson, who is agile enough to lead the Bills in rushing this season. "We're facing a similar type of quarterback as we did last week," coach Jim Mora said. "He's an athletic-type quarterback that is tough to bring down."'
Flutie ready to reclaim his backup quarterback role [9:02 PM]
AP reports: 'Before Flutie tore a groin muscle in July, Buffalo Bills head coach Wade Phillips suggested using Flutie in certain situations in place of starter Rob Johnson. With Flutie expected to be promoted to No. 2 quarterback for this Sunday's game against Indianapolis, Phillips didn't sound all that certain about sticking to his original plan. "We have to play that by ear," Phillips said on Wednesday. "Certainly, I think he can help you. I think he's a guy that can come in and spark-plug you."'
Bills pass on run to concentrate on air attack [8:58 PM]
AP reports: '"I think we're going to be more of a passing team this year. That's what it looks like to me," Phillips said on Wednesday. "I think we're going to be able to move the ball through the air efficiently."'
Flutie back running with the No. 2 offense in practice [8:58 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'After spending the first three weeks of the season as the third-string quarterback because of a groin injury, Flutie has moved ahead of Alex Van Pelt on the depth chart. Flutie began working with the second-team offense last week, and his workload will likely increase this week as the Bills prepare for Sunday's AFC East showdown against the Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium.'
Smith rips Bills over demotion [9:31 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Smith got the ball 18 times per game in 1998 when he ran for a career-high 1,124 yards, but averaged just 10 carries last season. "For me, I feel like I really wasn't getting a fair opportunity at it," Smith said. "The last game, I only had five carries. Thirty carries (actually 34) in three games. . . . I guess that's enough carries to do your job. I guess."'
Smith says he's the scapegoat [5:44 AM]
D and C reports: '"The running game hasn't gotten off to a good start so the blame had to fall on somebody's shoulders, and I'm that guy," said Smith, who was demoted to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Jonathan Linton and Shawn Bryson. Asked how big his shoulders were, an uncharacteristically angry and sarcastic Smith quipped: "Big enough to carry this blame."'
Smith considers himself the 'scapegoat' for Bills poor running game [8:00 PM]
AP reports: '"You know something, for me I feel like I wasn't given a fair opportunity. Last game I only had five carries. I guess 30 carries in three games is enough carries to do your job, I guess," Smith said. "The running game hasn't gotten off to a good start, so the blame has to fall on somebody's shoulders and I'm that guy."'
Bills now look ahead to Colts after bye week [7:58 PM]
Olean Times Herald reports: 'While the Bills enjoyed a week off, Indianapolis, which already had its bye week, will be entertaining tough Jacksonville tonight. In case you're wondering, Buffalo has one of the NFL's best records in games after bye weeks, since those open dates were added to the schedule in 1990. The Bills are 9-2 following bye weeks, 6-2 at home, 3-0 on the road. In fact, they're even inspired heading into bye, going 8-4 the game before, one of those losses coming a week ago at the Meadowlands.'
DeHaven Is Missed As Special [1:15 PM]
Jamestown Post Journal reports: 'If I have do have one criticism of Phillips, it's his hiring of Ronnie James [sic], a former assistant coach at Texas-El Paso, who is over his head as the Bills' special teams coach. As I wrote earlier this week, the Bills would have been better off keeping Bruce DeHaven, who was fired after the Music City Miracle in January. Jones, who had never coached special teams before arriving in Orchard Park, has not been able to straighten out Buffalo's horrific kick coverage. Pull out the tape against the New York Jets for proof of that. If I'm Phillips, I'd put Steve Tasker or Mark Pike on my speed dial.'
Bills cash in on higher ticket costs [5:30 AM]
Business First of Buffalo reports: 'The Bills, according to the SportsBusiness Journal, have the seventh highest payroll in the league at $70.65 million. Despite paring several long-time top performers, that is a 32 percent increase from 1999 and compared with 1998, when the team's player payroll was $49.8 million, represents a 42 percent rise...So what are the Bills, playing in the retro-fitted, better revenue-producing stadium, worth? Forbes Magazine ventures a guess in the Sept. 18 issue. Forbes figures the Bills are valued at $365 million, 21st overall and well below the league average of $423 million. Again, the Redskins, at $741 million, are tops while the Arizona Cardinals rank last at $305 million.'
Healthy Panos (knock on wood) eyes Indy [9:06 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Now healthy, Panos expects to return to full-scale workouts this week. But he won't allow himself to get too excited about it. "The last time I got fired up to play, I got hurt again," he said. "It's just been one thing after another, from my neck to my foot to my foot again. It's tough not being out there. I waited the whole year last year, so three games this year is enough. "I know God's got a plan for me. I'll just have to hang in there a little longer. My time will come."'
Lack of depth, experience could spill Bills [8:18 AM]
D and C reports: '"I look at wins just like a loss," says coach Wade Phillips, whose teams have a history of improving as the season wears on. "I never said everything's rosie and we're a great team because we beat Tennessee. There were things we had to do, like block the blitz better, run the ball better, have our quarterback make the right decisions. We're working on all of it, but it doesn't all happen at once."'
Man admits stealing items worth $50,000 from Jim Kelly [8:55 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'An Orchard Park man pleaded guilty Friday to stealing sports memorabilia from the home of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and causing crack cocaine to be planted in a man's car. State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia told Mark J. Dombrowski, 36, that he will limit Dombrowski's prison sentence to one year, but Dombrowski must pay $6,500 to Kelly or insurance companies who have already compensated Kelly for the theft of more than $50,000 in sports memorabilia.'
Flutie's '22' hits the spot [8:07 AM]
Boston Globe reports: 'The No. 22 has gone unworn in the Natick football program for the last 19 years. Last night, in a halftime ceremony during the Redmen's game with Braintree, the school officially retired the number made famous by the quarterback who put the town on the map.'
Fun night for Flutie memories [8:06 AM]
Metro West Daily News reports: 'After winning the Heisman and devouring the CFL for eight years, the big stage for Flutie now is the NFL, and it's not the best of times, come to think of it. Rob Johnson has taken over the starting job with the 2-1 Buffalo Bills. Flutie, injured during training camp, hasn't played a down yet, although he said he could. "I feel 100 percent. I'm ready to go. But I've felt that way for two weeks."'
Bills attempt to regain momentum [7:22 AM]
AP reports: 'On the surface, the Bills are maintaining a stiff upper lip, citing their 2-1 record. Underneath, a sense of urgency has developed. Why else would coach Wade Phillips turn to sparingly used Jonathan Linton and relegate starting running back Antowain Smith to No. 3 on his depth chart? And what to make of defensive co-ordinator's Ted Cottrell's biting challenge issued to the Bills' special team players? "Those rookies basically better get on the stick," Cottrell said. "If they give up a kickoff return for a lot or yards, that puts a big strain on the rest of the defence, so you better get your act together if you want to stay around here." So much for the rest and relaxation a bye week is supposed to bring. The bright side is that the Bills don't get a chance to beat themselves this weekend.'
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