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First-quarter analysis: Big plays killing the Bills

By Jay Skurski

It took all of 4 seconds for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to jump ahead of the Buffalo Bills today in Raymond James Stadium.

Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey raced 80 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown on Tampa’s second play from scrimmage to give his team a 7-0 lead. Rainey blew past Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso to get into the open field.

It was a career-long run for Rainey, who took over as the starter for the Bucs after season-long injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James.

Bucs hit another big one: Tampa Bay went up, 14-3, on a 38-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to receiver Vincent Jackson. Glennon scrambled right, then heaved a bomb to the end zone that Jackson tracked down despite being interfered with by Bills cornerback Nickell Robey.

Penalty help: A pair of personal foul penalties against Tampa Bay assisted the Bills in the first quarter. The first came against linebacker Dekoda Watson, who ran into punter Brian Moorman. The Bills, however, were not able to capitalize and Moorman punted again four plays later. On Buffalo’s next possession, Bucs linebacker Mason Foster was penalized for hitting defenseless Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. The Bills got a 40-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter on the drive.

Lineup changes: The Bills started rookie seventh-round draft pick Chris Gragg at tight end in place of Scott Chandler. Buffalo also benched fullback Frank Summers, making him inactive in favor of Evan Rodriguez.

Second-quarter analysis: Bills put 'Shout' song on replay

By Jay Skurski

Just about everything that could go right did for the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter today against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Hit two field goals of 40 or more yards in a brutal wind? Check.

Complete a long touchdown pass from EJ Manuel to T.J. Graham? Check.

Force a turnover, then punch it in for another TD? Check times three.

As a result, the Bills hold a 20-0 halftime lead. The Bills scored on every possession in the second quarter, starting with a 40-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter. After forcing a three and out by New York, the Bills put together one of their best drives of the season, a 13-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Graham.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams then recorded his second sack of the game, forcing a fumble in the process that was recovered by linebacker Manny Lawson. The Bills scored two plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run by fullback Frank Summers.

Sneak!: Fans and media members alike (especially WGR's Jeremy White) have often wondered why the Bills don't sneak the ball more when needing a yard for a first down. Buffalo did it twice in the second quarter, each time with success. The first one came on a third-and-1 play from the Buffalo 44, when Manuel rushed for 3 yards. The second sneak by Manuel came on a fourth-and-1 play from the Jets' 33-yard line on the same drive. The play was set up after Jets defensive end Leger Louzable jumped offside on a fourth-and-6 play on which the Bills had Brian Moorman out to punt.

Byrd watching: Safety Jairus Byrd was all over the field for the Bills in the second quarter. Byrd sacked Smith for a 9-yard loss early in the quarter, then later intercepted the Jets' rookie quarterback. That set up a 42-yard field goal by Carpenter that pushed the Bills' lead to 20-0.

Career high: Williams' two sacks today gives him seven on the season, a new career high. 

First-quarter analysis: Weather winning so far

By Jay Skurski

It’s shaping up to be a long day for the offenses of both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Neither team has gotten on the scoreboard after one quarter of play. The Jets had the best chance, but a 48-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk was pushed wide right by the wind.

Folk started the ball to the left of the uprights, but the wind carried it way right.

The Jets have punted twice on three possessions, while the Bills have punted twice. Both have been good punts by Brian Moorman – going 39 yards each time, with no return. The second Moorman punt went out of bounds at the Jets’ 6-yard line.

Geno briefly hurt: Jets quarterback Geno Smith was attended to by trainers on New York’s first possession of the game after taking a big hit by Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Smith got up after the hit, but then fell back to the turf. He appeared to get hit in the ribs. After being helped up, Smith walked off under his own power. Backup Matt Simms came in for one play, handing the ball off, before Smith came back in.

Gilmore beat again: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to struggle this season. Gilmore had tight coverage on Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, but never located the ball and Holmes was able to grab it for a 35-yard gain, helping New York set up Folk’s field-goal attempt.

Bad penalty: Blocking tight end Lee Smith took a bad false start penalty for the Bills prior to a third-and-1 play at the New York 41-yard line. On the following play, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel’s pass was batted down by Muhammad Wilkerson. 

'Field position' a flimsy reason for Doug Marrone's decision to punt

By Jay Skurski

Priority No. 1 for every Buffalo Bills head coach should be avoiding comparisons to Gregg Williams.

But it was easy to make one Sunday with Doug Marrone.

Trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-3, at the start of the fourth quarter, Marrone elected to punt on fourth and 5 from the Steelers' 36-yard line.

The decision hearkened back to 2002,  when Williams infamously punting from the New England Patriots' 32-yard line on a fourth-and-2 play in the third quarter of a game the Bills were trailing by 10 points. 

Here was the explanation offered by Marrone for Sunday's call after the game:

"I still think we’re going to get enough possessions trying to play the field position. We weren't able to make big plays, so I was trying to play the field position where we could get good field position and pin them back. I thought the defense was doing well for the most part, except for we gave up a couple plays. Man coverage, we lost a guy. They beat us in man-to-man a couple times. The reverse was a play, we missed that. That's what I was thinking at that time."

The problem with playing field position at that time is that the Bills had done absolutely nothing with it until that point. Buffalo's first three possessions began on the Pittsburgh 29-yard line, the Pittsburgh 44 and the Buffalo 44. The Bills got a field goal on those three drives combined, going three and out twice.

The Bills started at their own 48-yard line on the drive in which Marrone decided to punt. They gained 16 yards on five plays before failing to convert a third and 5. Brian Moorman punted 25 yards to the Pittsburgh 11, where Antonio Brown made a fair catch.

The decision to punt officially backfired when the Steelers converted a third-and-4 play to get the ball out to their 26-yard line. Pittsburgh then gained one more first down before eventually being forced to punt, but by that time the Steelers had flipped the field -- and ran 4:15 off the clock. Mat McBriar's 44-yard punt was returned for a loss of 1 yard by the Bills' Leodis McKelvin, meaning the Bills took over at their 22-yard line with 9:47 to play. EJ Manuel threw an interception on the next play.

Third-quarter analysis: Stephon Gilmore gets picked on again

By Jay Skurski   

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to have a target on his back today against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Gilmore was victimized again by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who connected with receiver Antonio Brown for a 40-yard gain on Pittsburgh's first play of their second offensive series in the third quarter. That got the Steelers down to the Bills' 18-yard line. 

Five plays later, rookie running back Le'Veon Bell ran in from 4 yards out to give Pittsburgh a 17-3 lead.

Costly penalty: Marcell Dareus made a big play early in the third quarter when he forced a fumble by Roethlisberger on a third down, which led to a Pittsburgh punt. But Dareus made a critical mistake later in the quarter when he jumped offside on a fourth-and-3 play on which the Steelers were going to attempt a field goal. That gave Pittsburgh a first down, leading to Bell's touchdown.

Day to forget: Bills punter Brian Moorman has struggled this afternoon. Moorman's two punts in the third quarter were both mediocre. The first went into the end zone for a touchback, and the second was returned 24 yards by Antonio Brown. That meant Moorman had a net average of just 24.5 yards on the two punts.

Third-down struggles: The Bills' offense went just 1 of 4 on third downs in the third quarter, continuing a trend from the first half, when the team was just 1 of 6.

First-quarter analysis: Robey plays bigger than his size

By Jay Skurski

Cornerback Nickell Robey has been a heck of a find for the Buffalo Bills this season.

An undrafted rookie free agent out of Southern California, Robey made the biggest play of his young professional career today in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at SunLife Stadium.

Robey perfectly read Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and stepped in front of receiver Brandon Gibson for his first career interception, which he took 19 yards for a touchdown.

Robey is undersized at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds but plays bigger than his size. He’s been fearless as the nickel cornerback, and stepped right into the lineup in Week One. Robey’s play has helped the Bills overcome the loss of Ron Brooks, who was expected to serve as the third corner coming out of training camp.

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Robey plays bigger than his size" »

Second-quarter analysis: Big plays hurting Bills' defense

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills' defense has been hurt by the big play today against the Cincinnati Bengals at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Buffalo has allowed three plays of at least 34 yards -- including a 54-yard gain by receiver A.J. Green on a wide receiver screen in the second quarter. That set up Cincinnati's 20-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to running back Giovani Bernard, which gave the Bengals a 17-7 lead.

Cincinnati has 284 yards of offense in the first half, and Dalton is 9 of 14 for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Continue reading "Second-quarter analysis: Big plays hurting Bills' defense" »

Jeff Tuel gives up No. 8 to Brian Moorman

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman owes rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel a nice dinner.

But as far as compensation to Tuel goes for him handing over jersey No. 8 to Moorman upon his return this week, that's the only payment that will take place.

"I didn't really have to think much about it. The things Brian has done here are tremendous, the Pro Bowls and all that. He deserves the number," said Tuel, who will now wear No. 7. "If he wants his number here, then I'm going to give him it. He's done a hell of a lot more here than I have, so in my eyes he deserved it."

Continue reading "Jeff Tuel gives up No. 8 to Brian Moorman" »

Bills bring back Brian Moorman

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have brought back a familiar face to handle the team's punting job, signing Brian Moorman late this morning.

The 37-year-old Moorman holds or shares eight team records for the Bills. He replaces Shawn Powell, who had replaced him last season. Powell was released Friday.

Moorman has been out of work since being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the start of the regular season. He spent the first 11 full seasons with the Bills after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2001 out of Pittsburg State. Moorman then beat out Powell -- an undrafted free agent out of Florida State -- in training camp in 2012, but the team made a change after a Week Three victory at Cleveland by releasing Moorman and bringing back Powell.

Continue reading "Bills bring back Brian Moorman" »

Doug Marrone cites lack of hang time for Shawn Powell's release

Shawn Powell appeared in 18 games over two seasons with the Bills. (Photo by Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills' decision to release Shawn Powell today was based largely on his inability to get enough hang time on his punts, according to coach Doug Marrone.

"We've been trying to get that for the last couple weeks," Marrone said. "It's not very difficult. You look to see how many times you're covering. You're covering more than anyone else; it's only a matter of time in this league before you get exposed."

That time came Thursday night for the Bills in Cleveland, where Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin had a huge impact in his team's 37-24 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium. Benjamin set a Browns record with seven punt returns for 179 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown.

Continue reading "Doug Marrone cites lack of hang time for Shawn Powell's release" »

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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 |