ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Quarterback Kelly Holcomb blushed when several Buffalo Bills teammates asked whether he backed up Vinny Testaverde in Tampa Bay.

“No, I did not,” Holcomb said smiling, pointing out he didn’t break into the NFL with the Buccaneers until 1995 when Testaverde, then a nine-year veteran, already had moved on to Cleveland. “That started making me feel old.”

Testaverde’s got a few funny “Hey, I was in second grade when you played” stories himself now that he’s back for his 19th season and second stint with the New York Jets.

“Last week, I walked into the locker room and I had some Rust-Oleum on my bench,” Testaverde said, referring to the mock present he received from linebacker Jonathan Vilma. “He was trying to get the rust off me. That was a big hit.”

Holcomb, at 32, is not that old, and Testaverde, who turns 42 in November, suddenly is ageless, two journeyman quarterbacks asked to continue providing a much-needed spark when the Bills (2-3) host the AFC East rival Jets (2-3) today.

“The one thing about the NFL you can’t underestimate or not appreciate is experience,” Bills linebacker London Fletcher said. “So I guess old is kind of in from the quarterback standpoint right now.”

Testaverde did Fletcher one better when asked if old QBs were back in fashion.

“Some of the clothes I have had have come back in style,” he said. “If you hang around long enough, you come back in style.”

What’s next, bell bottoms?

Believing his playing days were over after being released by Dallas last winter, Testaverde was signed off the couch by a Jets team desperate for a quarterback after starter Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler both were hurt in a 26-20 overtime loss to Jacksonville on Sept. 25.

Testaverde, who already ranks sixth on the league’s list for career yards passing, responded immediately after third-stringer Brooks Bollinger struggled in a 13-3 loss to Baltimore.

Running a simplified offense, Testaverde went 13-of-19 for 163 yards and an interception in helping the Jets to a 14-12 win over the previously unbeaten and defensively stingy Buccaneers last weekend.

Holcomb wasn’t too bad himself last weekend, thrust into the starting role after four shaky performances – and three straight losses – by 2004 first-round pick J.P. Losman.

Making only his 14th career start, Holcomb went 20-of-26 for 169 yards passing and a touchdown in leading Buffalo to a 20-14 win over Miami.

While coach Mike Mularkey refuses to reveal his starter for a second straight week, Holcomb is expected to get the nod again after taking most of the snaps with the first team in practice this week.

It’s a move that has the backing of the Bills veterans, crediting Holcomb with providing focus and efficiency to an offense that, prior to the Miami game, had mustered 29 points in 14 quarters.

“He knows what it takes,” said running back Willis McGahee. “He came in and took charge.”

Testaverde’s performance garnered rave reviews.

“Last week was one of those stories you write in Hollywood,” Jets coach Herm Edwards said.

“The guy comes off his couch, has about six practices and goes in and plays a game and wins at home. Vinny did a really good job.”

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells wasn’t surprised, although he called to congratulate his former quarterback.

“I was happy for him,” Parcells said. “Hey, they’ll love him now. He’s the underdog. So, it’ll be fun for him and I hope he enjoys it.”

The Jets’ strength remains their defense, a unit that has rebounded from a season-opening 27-7 loss at Kansas City to limit three of its last four opponents to less than 300 yards. The Bills, meanwhile, have only once had 300 yards offense this year in their season-opening 22-7 win against Houston.

The key for both teams is to keep pace in a division race that remains wide open now that the banged-up New England Patriots (3-2) have proven vulnerable while the Dolphins (2-2) are still finding their identity under rookie coach Nick Saban.

“It’s kind of fun this early in the season because a lot of things can happen,” Edwards said.

Just don’t ask him to predict how many wins it will take to win the division.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Edwards said. “The last team standing is going to win it. The team that’s the least injured, probably.”

AP-ES-10-13-05 1628EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.