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Bills replace playoff objective with progress

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Bills replace playoff objective with progress

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) No longer in playoff contention, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills believe they still have something important to compete for before the season is over.

Job security.

With questions being raised about his future as well as that of coach Chan Gailey's, Fitzpatrick can't predict what changes might be coming this offseason. What he and the team can control is salvaging what's left by using the final two games to show they're making progress.

That's the argument Fitzpatrick laid out Monday, a day after an embarrassing 50-17 loss to Seattle that formally knocked the Bills (5-9) out of the playoff race for a 13th straight season.

``We all understand the situation we're in right now,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``And I think we all understand the importance of these last two games in terms of effort and the product that we put on the field to show that we have made progress and there is hope with the guys that we have in this locker room.''

Buffalo closes the year facing two AFC East rivals and a chance to avoid finishing last in the division for a fifth consecutive season. The Bills travel to play Miami (6-8) on Sunday, followed by a home game against the New York Jets on Dec. 30.

So much for the high expectations the Bills had in opening the season. They've instead been replaced by the familiar frustrations of a franchise that's spent much of the past decade spinning its wheels.

Buffalo's playoff drought is the NFL's longest active streak. And the team is also guaranteed to finish with a losing record for an eighth straight season.

That's not what Bills players and re-energized fans believed was in store following a free-spending offseason in which the team made a big splash three days into free agency by signing defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract.

Williams' arrival was supposed to improve a defense that had been one of the NFL's leakiest. He has helped to improve the Bills' pass rush, but the defense is still experiencing trouble in other areas.

In giving up 50 points to Seattle, Buffalo became the eighth NFL team to allow 45 points four times in one season, and the first since the New York Jets did that in 1986, according to STATS LLC. The NFL record is five 45-point games, shared by the 1950 Baltimore Colts and 1966 New York Giants.

The Bills have now allowed 402 points this season, which already ranks as the team's fifth-worst total. The franchise low is 454 (1984).

``Just giving up too many big plays, simple as that,'' linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. ``We didn't get the results that we were expecting or everyone else was expecting. So it is what it is.''

The same holds true for an offense that was supposed to build on last year, when it showed glimpses of a spark during a 6-10 finish.

Fitzpatrick is 65 yards passing short of his third consecutive 3,000-yard season, but he's been inconsistent in having thrown 22 touchdowns versus 15 interceptions. He's also coming off a sloppy outing against the Seahawks in which he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on three consecutive drives to open the second half.

That's left Fitzpatrick unsure of his status some 14 months since signing a six-year, $59 million contract extension.

``Yeah, that's a great question,'' Fitzpatrick said, when asked if he feels he's done enough to merit another shot at being the starter. ``Unfortunately, the product on the field and the results, especially the win-loss record, isn't where it needs to be. And so, again, I think, the last two games are important.''

Gailey's on the hot seat, even though general manager Buddy Nix insisted last month that the coach's job is safe.

What's missing, though, is an assurance from Ralph Wilson, the Bills owner. Though he's in regular contact with team officials, including Nix and Gailey, Wilson has not spoken publicly since he was briefly hospitalized in late August.

Gailey is focused on preparing for the final two games. And he has no plans to tinker with his lineup, including a change at quarterback. Fitzpatrick will remain the starter even though the team gave up a draft pick to acquire Tarvaris Jackson in a trade with Seattle in August.

Jackson, who is 17-17 as a starter, has been inactive for all 14 games this season.

``The focus is to win,'' Gailey said. ``We're going to put the players on the field that help us win games. That's the responsibility of an organization, and for me in particular.''

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Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

On the outside, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seems pretty easy to read. A man of few words -- at least to the media -- Belichick has made it clear that he has two things he cares about above all else: football and winning.

However, there is another side to the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach that most may not be aware of. On the latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports, 'The Bill Belichick You Don’t Know’ takes a look at some lesser-known stories, facts and passions that Belichick has.

Among them all, one thing many may not know about the Patriots head coach is that he has deep ties -- and a strong love -- for Navy football. Yes, despite his longtime rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, Belichick does indeed have a soft spot for some football in the state of Maryland.

Belichick's connection to the Naval Academy football team stems from his father's history of coaching at the program. Steve Belichick, who passed away in 2005, spent 30 years as an assistant coach while also teaching classes at Navy.

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During that time, Bill Belichick became embedded in his father's world of football. Spending time so close to the team, he carried a close personal connection to the team and school. Being the football genius that he is, the head coach can still recall specific moments, players and uniforms from games that took place over 40 years ago.

Though Belichick now resides in New England, his relationship with Navy Football is as strong as ever. As NBC Sports' Peter King showed in 2019, Belichick and his father's legacy will remain in Annapolis forever as the school has a special archive named the "Belichick Collection."

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There, football books dating back 100 years can be found, and read. For a family dedicated to football, it's the perfect touch.

For as long as he is the head coach of the Patriots -- and even after -- Belichick may not be the most popular person in the state of Maryland. However, his lesser-known side shows that he does have at least one positive connection to football in the state. 

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

Bill Belichick and the Ravens have been attached at the hip for longer, and more deeply, than people might assume. 

Perhaps the NFL’s best coach of all time, Belichick has had a great impact on Baltimore football, even when he’s not been actively on the team’s staff. 

He was an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts and coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, his first ever coaching job in the NFL. After a few stints as an assistant coach, he moved on to the Giants where he led one of the most successful defensive teams in NFL history to two Super Bowls. 

There’s no shortage of memorable moments between the famed coach and the Ravens, and here are a few that stand out: 

The 1996 NFL Draft

Belichick was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995 before the Browns’ move to Baltimore. Even with Art Modell’s assurances that he’d be the head coach in Baltimore too, where Belichick started his career, he was fired in early 1996. 

But while the Ravens’ first draft in the NFL was one of the best drafts of any team in NFL history, it couldn’t have happened without Belichick. 

He made a trade in the 1995 season, still as the coach of the Browns, with the 49ers that gave the Ravens two first round picks in 1996. The Ravens’ first pick ever, their own pick, went to the selection of Jonathan Ogden at fourth overall. 

Later in the first round, with the pick Belichick had traded for, the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis. 

 

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Ed Reed

Belichick perhaps had no greater admiration for a Ravens player than Ed Reed. That manifested itself on one play against the Colts. 

Reed had studied Peyton Manning’s tendencies and found out that a pump fake indicated where Manning wanted to throw the football. He intercepted a would-be touchdown in that week’s game. 

Reed’s play still sticks out in his mind.

“Best play I’ve ever seen a free safety make,” Belichick said.

Tom Brady was understandably worried about Reed in his career, and both he and Belichick have marveled at Reed’s ability for years. 

Brady once had “Find 20 on Every Play” written on his quarterback armband.

2007 Ravens/Patriots

The Ravens nearly ended the perfection of Belichick’s best team of all time. 

On Monday Night Football late in the 2007 season, Belichick took his unbeaten Patriots to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens. There, one of the wildest finishes in the storied rivalry took place. 

The Ravens thought they had the Patriots stopped on 4th down on three separate occasions as the Patriots drove for the game-winning touchdown, but each time had to replay the down. 

Belichick’s Patriots escaped with the win as the end of the Brian Billick era in Baltimore was set in motion, which led to John Harbaugh’s hiring as coach.

2012 Justin Tucker winner

In one of the least proud moments of the rivalry, the Ravens knocked off the Patriots 31-30 on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker early in the 2012 season. 

Late in the game, Harbaugh was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after coming onto the field, while yelling, “I was trying to call timeout!” That led to a “manure” chant by Ravens fans that Al Michaels noted on the NBC broadcast. 

The Ravens got the ball back and marched into Patriots territory, where Tucker’s game-winning kick sailed seemingly directly over top of the right upright. As Vince Wilfork ran screaming toward the officials, Belichick ran off the field and tried to grab the arm of an official who was running off the field.

At the time, the NFL’s referees were in the midst of a lockout and replacement referees were the biggest story of the season.

“Deflategate”

The Ravens, at least publicly, denied any involvement in their role in the “Deflategate” controversy. But according to documents released in August of 2015, the Ravens were the ones who let the Colts know about deflated footballs. 

After a 35-31 loss in the divisional round, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Chuck Pagano, then the coach of the Colts, to warn him about the condition of the footballs in New England.

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2019 Lamar

In what was the future of the rivalry, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens handed the Patriots their first loss of the 2019 season. 

Jackson threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 yards as the Ravens won 37-20. It was the Ravens’ most notable win of the season to that point and the win that propelled them to a 14-2 finish.

And, as it turns out, it was Belichick’s last game against the Ravens with Brady at the helm and the turning of the page in the rivalry to the next chapter.

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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