Share this article

print logo

Schobel gets honor he wanted Joins Moorman as Bills' Pro Bowlers

Aaron Schobel, usually a man of few words, prefers to let his play speak for him. His performance spoke volumes this season, and the rest of the NFL took notice.

The Buffalo Bills' veteran defensive end was named to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday, as a starter with Miami's Jason Taylor.

Bills punter Brian Moorman also made the AFC team, his second selection in as many years.

Schobel has been one of the NFL's better pass rushers for most of his six-year career. This year he reached the elite level. He leads the league with 13 1/2 sacks, tying him with Bruce Smith for the seventh-highest total in Bills' history for a single season.

Schobel has at least one sack in the last five games, another career high. It is the longest such streak by a Bills player since Smith did it in six straight games in 1997. Schobel's 60 sacks rank third on the club's all-time list.

"It's an honor I really wanted to happen," said Schobel, the first Bills Pro Bowl defensive end since Smith in 1998. "From this day on I guess I'll always be remembered as a Pro Bowler. That's something nobody can take away from you."

Schobel attributes his success this year to the Bills' new defensive scheme that allows him to rush the quarterback more instead of dropping back into coverage. He also credits defensive line coach Bill Kollar for pushing him to improve his practice habits and conditioning.

While Schobel takes pride in being an all-around player, he said people always focus on sacks when it comes to assessing defensive ends.

He thinks the game that put him over the top was his three-sack performance against the New York Jets three weeks ago. He forced a fumble on one, leading to a Bills touchdown.

Schobel didn't finish in the top five in fan voting, but fans account only for one-third of the tabulation. Those who played and coached against him thought he earned a trip to Hawaii.

"It's good to see the coaches and players vote for me," he said. "It's great for people to respect what you've done."

Playing in Buffalo's unpredictable weather has earned Moorman a lot of respect among his peers. This season has been windier than usual in Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the weather conditions at some road venues have been tough as well.

But Moorman has continued to excel. He is seventh in gross punting (43.7-yard average) but is tied with Dallas' Mat McBriar for the NFL lead with a 39.5-yard net average.

"I think as I've gone on through my career here [the weather] probably does fit into the equation," said Moorman, who finished second in fan voting. "Having guys come in here and tell me, 'You can have this place. I don't ever want to come back,' I love it. I love playing over there and look forward to continuing it."

Moorman said he was "sweating bullets" waiting for the announcement.

"It's been a rough couple of weeks with the weather changing and just watching my numbers go down," he said. "But I can't say enough about how the guys have played on the punt team and how they cover. You can't say enough about our long snapper [2005 Pro Bowler Mike Schneck] that keeps me from having to move around catching snaps. It's always a tight spiral. Those are the guys that get me there and make me look good.

"I owe a lot to [special teams coach] Bobby April. He does a lot for me. Coach [Dick] Jauron emphasizes special teams and lets Coach April do what he needs to do with the kickers. I'm grateful for that and this organization and Mr. [Ralph] Wilson for allowing me to be part of this organization."

Among the Bills not selected, middle linebacker London Fletcher was the biggest snub. He ranks third in the NFL with 131 total tackles, according to NFL.com. He also leads the Bills with seven tackles for losses, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns and is tied for second with 11 passes defended.

Fletcher finished third in fan voting, but his lack of league-wide recognition and the Bills' poor start this season probably hurt his chances. Miami's Zach Thomas, the league's leading tackler, was named the AFC starter while Denver's Al Wilson was chosen as the backup. Wilson had an outstanding year, but his numbers pale in comparison to Fletcher's.

A lot of Bills fans probably thought wide receiver Lee Evans deserved an invitation as well. But despite career highs of 70 catches and 1,083 yards, Evans' numbers don't stack up to the four Pro Bowl recipients -- Cincinnati's Chad Johnson, Houston's Andre Johnson and Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.

Nate Clements also faced heavy competition at cornerback, where Denver's Champ Bailey, Jacksonville's Rashean Mathis and Baltimore's Chris McAlister claimed the three spots.

***

At 7-7, the Bills trail the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars by only one game in the wild-card playoff race. The Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers also are 7-7, but the Bills are ahead of them with a better conference record.

If the Bills beat Tennessee on Sunday and then win at Baltimore, they would need the following scenarios to jump three of the four teams ahead of them:

* A Jets loss at Miami on Sunday: This would make the Bills and Jets 3-3 in the AFC East, but the Bills would finish with a better conference record. A Jets win and they edge the Bills with a better division mark.

* A Bengals loss at Denver on Sunday: Buffalo and Cincinnati are 1-4 versus common opponents and if the Bills win two and the Bengals split, they would both be 7-5 in the conference. The next tiebreaker would be strength of victory, which would favor Buffalo.

* The Jaguars lose one of their final two games: The Jags host New England on Sunday before visiting Kansas City. The Bills beat Jacksonville earlier this season, so they would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

* Two Denver losses: If the Broncos split home games against Cincinnati and San Francisco they would match Buffalo's conference record but would be 2-3 versus common opponents compared to Buffalo's 1-4 record. If both teams finish 9-7, the Bills could only beat out the Broncos if Kansas City has the same record. The Chiefs would have a better division record than the Broncos but the Bills would top the Chiefs with a better conference mark.

***

As of Tuesday evening, there were 18,700 tickets left for Sunday's game.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment