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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.

Kyle Williams active for Bills

By Tim Graham

TORONTO -- Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams will dress for this afternoon's game against the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre.

Williams' status was suddenly in question when he wrenched his back getting out of bed Friday morning.

The inactives:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Running back Josh Vaughan
  • Guard Harland Gunn
  • Tackle Terren Jones
  • Tackle Sean Locklear
  • Defensive tackle Travian Robertson
  • Linebacker Omar Gaither
  • Safety Kemal Ishmael

Buffalo Bills

  • Quarterback Jeff Tuel
  • Running back Ronnie Wingo
  • Tight end Chris Gragg
  • Guard J.J. Unga
  • Guard Antoine McClain
  • Linebacker Ty Powell
  • Cornerback Brandon Smith

Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods had 23 targets in first Jets game

By Tim Graham

The last time the Buffalo Bills played the New York Jets, quarterback EJ Manuel targeted Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods 23 times.

Johnson and Woods have been ruled out for Sunday's rematch in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said they would go with their four healthy receivers.

T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley will need to pick up the slack. Goodwin is the only one of that group with a touchdown this year. Easley made his first NFL catch last week.

Tight ends Scott Chandler and Chris Gragg will be even more important. Gragg also caught his first NFL passes last Sunday, but one of them was a touchdown.

Johnson leads the Bills with 41 catches, 471 yards and three touchdowns. Woods is second among wide receivers with 26 catches, 349 yards and two touchdowns.

Points after: Steelers 23, Bills 10

19968 McCoy Sports Bills #8

By Tim Graham

PITTSBURGH -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers here at Heinz Field ...

What it means: The Bills went into the week insisting they still were in the playoff hunt. We can stop humoring them. They are 3-7 and in last place in the AFC East.

No Manuel transmission: EJ Manuel returned after a four-game injury absence and looked raggedy. Buffalo's first-round draft pick was 22 of 39 for 155 yards and one touchdown with one interception. His completion percentage (and eventually the 2-yard TD toss to Chris Gragg with three seconds left) was aided by the Steelers' prevent defense late in the fourth quarter.

Player of the game: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell didn't post a boffo stat line, but he was the most important player in the Steelers' impressive ball-control game plan. He ran 22 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Bills player of the game: Defensive end Jerry Hughes recorded a pair of sacks. Each came on third down to force a punt.

Symbolic play of the game: The Bills were down only a touchdown when the Steelers lined up for a field goal in the third quarter. Marcell Dareus jumped and was flagged for encroachment, giving the Steelers first and goal at the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Bell scored his touchdown.

Preliminary injury report: Bills receiver Stevie Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. ... Receiver Chris Hogan was shaken up after making a catch late in the fourth quarter and went straight to the locker room. ... The Steelers had several injuries, including cornerback Shamarko Thomas, left guard Ramon Foster and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Coming up: The Bills will host the New York Jets next Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium and then go on their by week.

Second-quarter analysis: Steelers control the clock

By Jay Skurski

The Pittsburgh Steelers played keep away from the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter today at Heinz Field.

The Steelers dominated time of possession,with an 11:42 to 3:18 advantage, opening up a 10-3 halftime lead on the Bills.

Pittsburgh scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery, who once again beat Stephon Gilmore in coverage. 

That capped a nine-play, 86-yard drive. 

Williams comes through: Kyle Williams came up with a big defensive play for the Bills when he sacked Roethlisberger on a third-and-goal play from the 7-yard line. That forced Pittsburgh to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. 

Still looking: Tight end Chris Gragg is still without a catch for the Buffalo Bills in his rookie season. Gragg had a great chance in the second quarter, but dropped a good throw from rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The drop negated what would have been a positivef play for the Bills, as Gragg had room to run. 

Wind whipping: Suisham's field goal from 36 yards hit a wall of wind, which seems to be swirling. Kicking off in the same direction, Suisham was able to power it through the end zone, negating an opportunity for Marquise Goodwin. 

C.J. Spiller, Leodis McKelvin, Doug Legursky get green light

By Tim Graham

CLEVELAND -- Running back C.J. Spiller's injured ankle won't keep him out of tonight's game against the Cleveland Browns.

The Buffalo Bills have announced their inactive list for tonight, and Spiller isn't on it. Neither is cornerback Leodis McKelvin nor guard Doug Legursky.

But two-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is.

Here is the complete list:

Buffalo Bills

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin
  • Tight end Chris Gragg
  • Offensive lineman Sam Young
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks
  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
  • Safety Jairus Byrd
  • Kicker Dustin Hopkins

Cleveland Browns

  • Quarterback Jason Campbell
  • Running back Fozzy Whittaker
  • Offensive lineman Patrick Lewis
  • Offensive lineman Martin Wallace
  • Defensive lineman Billy Winn
  • Linebacker Jabaal Sheard
  • Linebacker Quentin Groves

Leodis McKelvin, Jairus Byrd unavailable; Ray Rice active

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin has been ruled out, and safety Jairus Byrd will not make his season debut.

A pregame workout of McKelvin's hamstring wasn't encouraging enough for the Bills to dress him for today's game against the Baltimore Ravens in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Byrd, the two-time Pro Bowler, will miss his fourth straight game with plantar fasciitis.

For the Ravens, running back Ray Rice is active and will start. He was sidelined last week with a hip injury.

Here are all of the inactives:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Wide receiver Jacoby Jones
  • Wide receiver Brandon Stokley
  • Guard Jah Reid
  • Center Ryan Jensen
  • Defensive tackle Terrence Cody
  • Inside linebacker Arthur Brown
  • Safety Jeromy Miles

Buffalo Bills

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin
  • Guard Doug Legursky
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks
  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin
  • Safety Jairus Byrd
  • Kicker Dustin Hopkins

Jairus Byrd inactive again for Bills

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd will not make his season debut today.

The Bills have scratched Byrd for this afternoon's game against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Here are all of the inactives:

Buffalo Bills

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin
  • Tight end Chris Gragg
  • Guard Doug Legursky
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks
  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
  • Safety Jairus Byrd
  • Kicker Dustin Hopkins

New York Jets

  • Quarterback Brady Quinn
  • Wide receiver Ryan Spadola
  • Guard Will Campbell
  • Tackle Ben Ijalana
  • Tackle Oday Aboushi
  • Linebacker Ricky Sapp
  • Linebacker Scott Solomon

Jairus Byrd among Panthers-Bills inactives

By Tim Graham

Here are the inactives for this afternoon's game between the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium:

Carolina Panthers

  • Running back Kenjon Barner
  • Tight end Brandon Williams
  • Center Brian Folkerts
  • Defensive end Wes Horton
  • Defensive tackle Sione Fua
  • Cornerback Melvin White
  • Cornerback James Dockery

Buffalo Bills

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin
  • Tight end Chris Gragg
  • Guard Doug Legursky
  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks
  • Safety Jairus Byrd
  • Kicker Dustin Hopkins

Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 4

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Three times already in training camp, the Buffalo Bills have expressed dissatisfaction with their tight end depth.

Before the first air horn, they cut Mickey Shuler. The Bills added Nick Provo on Aug. 4. They waived Mike Caussin on Wednesday.

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg knows he's not supposed to pay attention, but it's difficult when a player at his position isn't there one day or a new guy shows up.

"It just shows you that this NFL is a business," Gragg said after Wednesday night's practice at St. John Fisher College. "You try not to really think about it. You hear about it in the media and Coach tells us the business of the day, everyday. You just try to focus on your job."

That can be difficult when your father is keeping such close tabs on roster spots and makes it a point to keep score.

"He texts me every time somebody gets released and tells me he's glad it wasn't me," said Gragg, the seventh-round draft choice who has agreed to share his rookie journey with throughout training camp.

"I try to block it out, just focus on your job at hand," Gragg said. "Coach Marrone told us [Tuesday] in the team meeting, when you think about stuff like that and you're always worried, it can affect your play, and I just don't want anything to affect my play.

"I think if I put everything good on film, I think I have a good chance to be on the team."

Gragg's NFL career began well Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He started along with Dorin Dickerson in a two-tight formation and saw more snaps than any other Bills tight end. Gragg called it "a great experience."

He took 57 offensive snaps. Provo was next at 32 plays, followed by Lee Smith with 16 and Dickerson with 15.

Gragg caught two of the four passes thrown his way. His catches went for 6 and 8 yards. He had one drop.

"I would probably give myself a B," Gragg said. "I never try to give myself an A. I mean, it was my first game.

"I know I had a pretty good day blocking. I know that's one of the things my coaches want to see from me, could I block at the NFL level? I think I did that."

With only four preparation days between games, Gragg is eager for Friday night's exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. It'll be his first game in Ralph Wilson Stadium and a chance to square off against a high school and college teammate, Vikings receiver Jarius Wright.

The quick turnaround between games provides a healthy whirlwind for Gragg, who doesn't have enough downtime to dwell on NFL realities.

"You just look at the schedule and know the cut days are coming close," Gragg said. "That's the only thing. When the cut days get closer, it might be a little harder. Right now, I'm just getting prepared for Minnesota."

As focused as Gragg is supposed to be on the here and now, he admitted he's already looking beyond next Wednesday, the last day of training camp at St. John Fisher.

"It's been hard, especially my rookie year," Gragg said. "It's been a long year. From January, I've been living out of suitcases, getting ready for the combine, getting ready for rookie minicamp and things like that. ... I'm ready for it all to be over and get settled."

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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 |