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13 penalties pockmark valiant Bills effort against Patriots

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills committed a penalty on the first play of their season opener.

The Bills committed a penalty on their sixth offensive snap.

The Bills committed seven penalties before the New England Patriots were charged with one.

Subtract all those yellow flags and the Bills might have pulled out an improbable victory today in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Instead, the Patriots stayed closed enough to win, 23-21, on a field goal with five seconds to play.

"There's some self-inflicted things we did today that you can't do against a team like that," Bills running back Fred Jackson said.

The Bills were zapped with 13 penalties. Ten of them were accepted for losses of 75 yards.

But the Bills sacrificed more than that. Three of their penalties wiped out 42 yards of first-down plays: a 19-yard Robert Woods reception, an 8-yard C.J. Spiller pass play and a 15-yard Jackson catch-and-run.

"That was frustrating," Bills quarterback EJ Manuel said. "When you have a first down or a big play and then you get it called back, you want to continue to fight those battles, but you shoot yourself in the foot."

So many disruptions prevented the Bills' no-huddle offense from getting into a rhythm.

"The strength of our offense is going to be once we get rolling because we don't let people get off the field," Bills center Eric Wood said. "We tire them out and then we can really run the ball. Pass protection will look better.

"When you get a penalty, and you think you're hurrying up on the ball, and then you got to walk 15 yards back and kind of reset and you're in obvious down and distance, the best O-lines and offenses in the league don't do well with first-and-20, second-and-15."

One might assume penalties are a natural byproduct of a young roster. Yet none of the Bills' penalties was committed by a rookie.

"Those penalties are inexcusable, and they called a pretty tight game on us up front," Wood said. "We got two hands-to-the-face penalties. I'd have to see them again, and in the past those have not been called, but that's an emphasis this year, and we've got to adapt."

Seventh-year tight end Scott Chandler had two penalties in the first half. Eighth-year defensive tackle Kyle Williams had a neutral-zone infraction on a third-and-4 play to give the Patriots a free first down. Fourth-year defensive end Jerry Hughes had a pair of offsides penalties that were declined.

Eight of the Bills' fouls happened before the snap. They were called for 12 men on the field twice and an illegal punt formation. They had four defensive alignment penalties and a false start.

"Penalties of aggression are going to happen sometimes," Williams said. "You get a facemask when you didn't mean to, you hold a guy and hit him late.

"The thing that's hard is the pre-snap penalties, the offsides, false starts, missed alignments. Those types of things are killers."


EJ Manuel | Eric Wood | Fred Jackson | Jerry Hughes | Kyle Williams | Robert Woods | Scott Chandler
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |