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Bills only NFL team without a 20-yard play on opening day

By Tim Graham

Last week, 121 NFL offensive plays went for at least 20 yards.

The Buffalo Bills were the only team that didn't have any.

Bills coach Doug Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel refuted the notion the playbook was simplified for the rookie quarterback on opening day against the New England Patriots. They claimed the game plan called for short throws against the Patriots' defense.

Manuel revealed Wednesday the game plan for Sunday against the Carolina Panthers would include more deep passes.

The problem with chunk plays, Manuel explained, was poor execution when the Bills had a chance to open up their offense.

"Sometimes we might've missed a hole here, missed a hole there," Manuel said. "As far as throwing the ball, I might've missed a read. It's always something very small and minute that kind of not necessarily costs you the game, but those long drives that you want to get."

Buffalo's longest play Sunday was a 5-yard run from T.J. Graham with an unnecessary roughness penalty tacked on.

Buffalo did have gains that were close to 20 yards long. Both of Manuel's touchdown throws were into the end zone from the 18-yard line. He also scrambled for a 19-yard gain and connected with tight end Scott Chandler for a 19-yard completion.

But C.J. Spiller's longest gain was 9 yards (a run), and Fred Jackson's longest gain was 14 yards (a catch). Speedy downfield threats Graham and Marquise Goodwin combined for one catch for zero yards.

An inability to gain yards in chunks limited Buffalo to 15 first downs and often prevented it from flipping the field. New England's average drive start was its 31-yard line.

New England, meanwhile, popped an NFL-high three runs of at least 20 yards. Tom Brady had three pass plays of at least 20 yards. A Julian Edelman catch-and-run went for 35 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers led the league with nine plays of at least 20 yards in Week One.

The Bills averaged 3.7 plays of at least 20 yards per game last year. They tied for fifth in the NFL with 15 runs and were 22nd with 44 passes that went that far.


C.J. Spiller | Doug Marrone | EJ Manuel | Fred Jackson | T.J. Graham | Tom Brady
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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 |