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Bills DE Chris Kelsay questions teammates' effort

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Bills DE Chris Kelsay questions teammates' effort

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Chris Kelsay is in no mood to enjoy Buffalo's bye week after the latest meltdown from the Bills' high-priced defense.

And the veteran defensive end delivered a tough-worded critique Monday that should make the upcoming break uncomfortable for his teammates, too.

Declining to single anyone out, Kelsay accused players of lacking effort in a 35-34 loss to Tennessee a day earlier. He then added it's time for team leaders to start holding teammates accountable.

``You watch film and not everybody was playing hard every snap. And that's unacceptable,'' Kelsay said. ``It's a blessing to be in this league. And then to go out there and lay an egg, there's no excuses for it.''

As for what it might take to get players' attention, Kelsay said: ``We might have to grab guys by the shirt collar and tell them to get moving.''

In his 10th season with Buffalo, Kelsay is the defense's longest-tenured player, and one of the team's most respected leaders. His comments come as Buffalo (3-4) enters its bye week having lost three of four, and facing numerous questions before returning from its break to play at Houston on Nov. 4.

The most pressing concern involves fixing an under-performing Mario Williams-led defense that's allowed an NFL-worst 1,238 yards rushing, including a whopping 937 in its past four games.

The Titans were but the latest team to expose the Bills' deficiencies.

After managing just 301 yards in his first six games, Titans running back Chris Johnson looked rejuvenated in racking up 195 yards rushing and two scores Sunday. And Buffalo crumbled in the clutch, allowing the Titans to score the decisive touchdown - Matt Hasselbeck's 15-yard pass to Nate Washington - on a fourth-and-9 with 1:03 remaining.

This was not the type of performance anyone imagined from a defense that was supposed to be much-improved after the Bills committed more than $127 million to sign Williams and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson in free agency. Though the pass-rush has improved, Buffalo's defense has regressed in most every other statistical category.

``I wouldn't have believed that in a million years,'' Kelsay said. ``That's why it's so frustrating.''

He became the latest member of the Bills organization - and first player - to openly question the team's performance.

Coach Chan Gailey questioned his team's mental toughness three weeks ago after a 52-28 loss to New England in which the Bills were outscored 45-14 in the second half.

A week later, general manager Buddy Nix blamed the defensive collapses on an overall lack of urgency after the Bills were accused of quitting in a 45-3 loss at San Francisco.

The Bills rebounded a week later with a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona, but they failed to carry over that momentum against Tennessee.

``I'm not pointing the finger. I'm looking in the mirror myself,'' Kelsay said. ``But if you aren't going to give us everything you've got, you shouldn't be on the field.''

Gailey was caught off guard when told of Kelsay's comments.

``Kelsay's entitled to his opinion,'' Gailey said, before adding everyone can play better. ``It's not that I don't think we're playing hard. I do. I think we play hard. Can we play better? That's the key. Being consistent. That's the term I used with the players this morning.''

Williams has taken the brunt of criticism for his inconsistent play. He's managed just 3 1/2 sacks and been invisible in all four losses.

Gailey said it was also unfair to single out Williams.

``I wish everybody was doing a little bit more right now, not just him,'' he said.

Running back Fred Jackson said there's plenty of blame to go around, and not just limited to the defense.

``Everybody has to be held accountable for what they are doing,'' Jackson said. ``It's a sick feeling right now. But at the same time we can't go in the tank.''

NOTES: Gailey said RG Chad Rinehart sustained a ``long-term'' injury after hurting his left ankle on Sunday. Gailey said more tests will be required before determining whether the injury is season-ending. ... Rinehart was starting in place of Kraig Urbik (right ankle), who is expected to return next week. ... The Bills will practice Wednesday before getting a four-day break.

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Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

Lamar Jackson's first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday will go down as one of the most memorable days of his career.

Going 13-of-19 for 150 yards in the air while rushing for 117 yards on 27 attempts is a pretty solid day for a rookie quarterback

With several days to reflect, one of Jackson's favorite parts of the 24-21 win was the congratulatory texts he received from two former quarterbacks.

"I got a text from Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham congratulating me," Jackson said Wednesday. "So, that was pretty cool."

Williams, who became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1987, and Randall Cunningham, who had a long career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Ravens, are seen as trailblazers by Jackson.

The rookie QB noted that he has been in contact with the two prior to earning the starting job in Week 11.

"Those are the guys that paved the way for us," Jackson added.

"Without those guys, you know, we probably wouldn't be in the situation we are [in]. So, hats of to those guys. Them congratulating me, from the GOATS, I'm like, 'yeah, that's cool.'

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

The Capitals return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) after a successful road trip (3-1-0), but will still be without forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie (upper-body injuries), who remain day-to-day, according to coach Todd Reirden.   

Here are four things to watch:

Holtby’s back

After missing three games with an upper-body injury of his own, Caps goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire down 4-2 at Montreal on Monday. But he played lights out and matched Habs goalie Carey Price save-for-save, finishing with 22 as Washington rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Holtby now feels good enough as he will start against the Blackhawks tonight. In his past four appearances, Holtby has stopped 116 of 122 shots on goal.

New-look Blackhawks

Chicago’s slow start cost Joel Quenneville his job on Nov. 6. An NHL coach getting fired is rarely news. But when it’s a guy who’s been in his post for more than a decade and has won three Stanley Cups it is still jarring. The results are mixed since Jeremy Colliton took over. Chicago lost his first two games behind the bench, but is 2-0-2 in its past four games. That’s a small step in the right direction, but the Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wilsonnnnn!!!!!

This was supposed to be the day Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after his 20-game suspension. An arbitrator cut that short last week so Wilson played on all four games of the road trip and had a goal and four assists. Not a bad start. Wednesday he gets his first home game of the year and what should be a raucous reception from the faithful at Capital One Arena. 

Old mates

On Monday, the crowd at Bell Centre booed former Canadien Lars Eller, who promptly took the puck up ice and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a great moment for a player who felt Montreal gave up on him way too soon when trading him to the Capitals. Michal Kempny knows how he feels. 

Languishing on the bench for most of last season in Chicago as a healthy scratch – he played just 31 games - Kempny sees his old team for the first time since helping Washington win a Stanley Cup. Quenneville is gone, but the defenseman would love to show the rest of the organization trading him was a mistake. 

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