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Hangartner's return uncertain

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey didn't sound optimistic on Monday that center Geoff Hangartner would return to the lineup for Sunday's game against New England. Hangartner has missed the Bills' last two games with a knee injury and second-year guard Eric Wood has started in his place at center.

"If we were out of linemen, Geoff might be able to get ready to play by Sunday, but we're not pushed into that," Gailey said. "I'm thinking that if we can let him get healthy one more week, that wouldn't hurt anything. I don't want to push him back too quick this time of the season."

Gailey's assessment of Wood at center is mixed but added that, "he's learning." Wood also had to deal with Miami's 6-foot-4, 355-pound nose tackle, Paul Soliai.

"He's done some good things and done some bad things," he said. "It's hard to say he's been great or awful. He's been somewhere in between there. He's learning. He hasn't been there. I'll tell you what, the nose tackle we just played is right at the top of the list of guys we played this year so that was an extreme challenge for him."

Gailey's evaluation of the offensive line is indifferent as well. On one hand, the unit kept Dolphins weakside linebacker Cameron Wake out of the backfield. Wake is the league leader in sacks with 14 but was held to two tackles, one for a loss, and a hurry. The Dolphins recorded two sacks in the game.

The Bills' running game, however, was another story. The team rushed 27 times for 71 yards, an average of 2.6 yards a carry.

"Pass protection was good, run blocking was awful," Gailey said. "That's about how it was."

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After losing their first eight games, the Bills (4-10) are 4-2 over their last six which makes for a much happier environment at One Bills Drive.

"Winning's fun and what we've done with the four wins of late has been fun," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "It's been fun because of the way that we've played.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams said he isn't surprised that the Bills didn't give up on the season following the 0-8 start.

"I never figured anyone would lay down or anything like that," he said. "There's too much to a lot of guys in here to let anyone around them lay down or lay down themselves."

Of course New England comes to The Ralph on Sunday hoping to cease the Bills late-season momentum. The Patriots (12-2) have already secured a playoff berth and have defeated the Bills in 19 of their last 20 meetings including 14 in a row. Quarterback Tom Brady is playing some of the best football of his brilliant career.

"It's always a fun game when we play those guys," Williams said. "We know that they're on a roll, they're playing for home-field advantage. We're still trying to continue to get better, and there's no greater test than playing those guys especially when Tom Brady's hot."

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Gailey is high on rookie linebacker Arthur Moats who recorded six tackles against the Dolphins, including 1.5 sacks and two hurries. Moats' multi-sack game was the first by a Bills rookie since Aaron Schobel had a pair against New England in Dec, 2001.

"In the last four or five weeks, he might as made as much progress as anybody on our football team," Gailey said.

Wide receiver Donald Jones left Sunday's game with an undisclosed injury and didn't return after crashing into teammate Stevie Johnson while trying to recover a fumbled lateral by Miami. Gailey said Jones is still being evaluated.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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