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Bills release RB Tashard Choice

By Mark Gaughan

The Buffalo Bills announced running back Tashard Choice has been released.

A sixth-year NFL veteran, Choice joined Buffalo midway through the 2011 season and has served as the No. 3 running back since.

He had 35 carries this season for 126 yards. Throughout his time with the Bills, he had 105 carries for 389 yards in 29 games.

Choice played six snaps on offense over the past three games. Overall this year, he averaged 8.5 offensive plays a game, or 11 percent of the snaps.

Ronnie Wingo is the other halfback on the BIlls' roster, after C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

Game ball: Falcons 34, Bills 31 (OT)

Points after: Falcons 34, Bills 31 OT

81172 McCoy Sports Bills  2

By Tim Graham

TORONTO -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' demoralizing loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre ...

What it means: The Bills, trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but allowed the Falcons to tie the game at 17 by halftime. The Bills led 31-24 in the fourth quarter, but let the Falcons tie it again and then fumbled away the victory in the closing seconds. With a Miami Dolphins victory over the New York Jets today, the Bills are in last place and two games out of second place in the AFC East.

Play of the game: Stevie Johnson caught a third-down pass for what would have put the Bills within Dan Carpenter's field-goal range, but he fumbled at the Falcons' 30-yard line with 10 seconds left in regulation time. Without that fumble, tight end Scott Chandler wouldn't have fumbled on the first overtime possession.

Bills player of the game: Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, showed up to the game in a Fred Jackson uniform, and Jackson lived up to the endorsement. Jackson scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown for only the second time in his career. The first time was in 2010 against the Detroit Lions. Jackson gained 78 yards from scrimmage.

Spiller strikes: C.J. Spiller made a pair of gargantuan runs. On the Bills' second play from scrimmage, he ran 77 yards to set up a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he scampered 36 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Spiller finished with a season-high 149 rushing yards.

Falcons player of the game: Ankle and hamstring injuries have made Roddy White's season a colossal disappointment. His best game had been four receptions for 45 yards. Versus the Bills he caught 10 passes for 143 yards and midway through the third quarter accounted for 101 of Matt Ryan's 179 passing yards.

Turning point of the game: Kiko Alonso got off to a hot start with five takeaways in his first four pro games, but he didn't have another until today. With the Falcons seemingly seizing control of the game in the third quarter, Alonso recovered a botched snap. One play later, Jackson scored on a 21-yard catch-and run to tie the game at 24.

Sack attack: The Bills sacked Ryan six times, thrice on third down to force a punt. Jerry Hughes notched two sacks. Manny Lawson, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Corbin Bryant had one apiece.

Preliminary injury report: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore needed assistance on the field with about 9:30 left in the third quarter because of a cramp and came out of the game long enough for replacement Ron Brooks to get beat by Tony Gonzalez for a touchdown. Gilmore returned to action. ... Linebacker Arthur Moats left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury.

Coming up: The Bills will travel three times in their final four games, including two straight in Florida. They will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 15.

Second-quarter analysis: Big runs get Falcons back in game

By Jay Skurski

TORONTO – A pair of defensive breakdowns have let the Atlanta Falcons back into today's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Falcons rookie running back Antone Smith went 38 yards to the house in the second quarter today at Rogers Centre, cutting the Buffalo lead to 17-14.

Smith, who came into the game with just four career carries (which he had gained 107 yards on), went untouched down the left sideline. Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso appeared to over pursue the play to give Smith a lane.

Falcons veteran running back Steven Jackson opened the scoring for Atlanta in the first half with a 27-yard touchdown run, his longest since 2011.

Atlanta tied the game at 17-17 on a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant to end the first half. The Falcons completed a big third-and-10 play on the drive with a 22-yard completion from Matt Ryan to Roddy White, who beat the coverage of Stephon Gilmore.

Long drive stalls: The Bills put together a 15-play drive on their first possession of the second quarter, but had to settle for a 29-yard Dan Carpenter field goal. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel threw short of the first-down marker incomplete to Stevie Johnson on third down.

C.J. nicked, but still going: Bills running back C.J. Spiller has carried nine times for 105 yards. Spiller, though, has had to check himself out of the lineup a few times, as it appears his left high-ankle sprain continues to give him some level of discomfort.

Presented without comment: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is in attendance, wearing a Fred Jackson jersey.

First-quarter analysis: EJ Manuel bounces back from big hit, has Bills up

By Jay Skurski

TORONTO -- Exhale, Bills fans.

Quarterback EJ Manuel looks to be fine after briefly leaving today’s game against the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre.

Manuel missed one play after being drilled by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon during Buffalo’s second offensive possession. Backup Thad Lewis handed off, then Manuel returned to lead a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Manuel has directed two scoring drives for the Bills so far, giving his team a 14-7 lead.

He finished Buffalo’s first drive with his firs career rushing touchdown – a 1-yard run on which he dove for the pylon in the front-right corner of the end zone, hitting it with the ball. Manuel was initially ruled out of bounds, but the play was reviewed and overturned.

On Buffalo’s second offensive possession, Manuel connected with Stevie Johnson twice on third-and-1 plays for first down. Fred Jackson finished the drive off with a 4-yard touchdown run, dragging three defenders in with him.

Run, C.J., run: Bills running back C.J. Spiller’s first carry went for just 2 yards. He did just a little better on the next one. Spiller ripped off a 77-yard run – the longest of his career – on Buffalo’s second offensive play, setting up a first-and-goal at the Atlanta 6-yard line.

Sack party: The Falcons lost 5 yards on their first two possessions – each of which ended with Buffalo sacks. On Atlanta’s third offensive play, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked by linebacker Manny Lawson, who was untouched coming off the right side of the Bills’ defensive line. On the Falcons’s next possession, Ryan was dropped again on third down, this time by Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes.

Where’s everybody at: The capacity for today’s game in the Rogers Centre is 46,470. There was about a quarter of that in the stands for the 4:05 p.m. kickoff. The stands have slowly filled in – there were apparently massive lines outside the stadium – but it would be a shock if more than 30,000 people are in attendance today.

Spiller gets 40 percent of snaps, looks forward to bye-week rest

By Mark Gaughan

Bills running back C.J. Spiller played 27 snaps on Sunday against the New York Jets, his most in seven games, since he suffered a high-ankle sprain against Baltimore in Week Four.

While Spiller and the Bills' rushers overall had a miserable day against the Jets' No. 1-ranked run defense, Spiller said today he's looking forward to being close to full strength when the Bills get back from their bye week.

"It just gives it another week to let it rest and let it continue to heal," Spiller said. "It's definitely getting better. It's going to feel good not to play with braces on it for the remainder of the season."

Spiller gained 6 yards on 13 carries. Fred Jackson gained 34 yards on 12 carries. The Bills overall averaged 1.8 yards (68 total) on 38 rushes.

Here were the other snap totals for the Bills against the Jets:

OFFENSE: All five offensive linemen and QB EJ Manuel played all 67 snaps. Also: T.J. Graham 63, Marquise Goodwin 57, Lee Smith 50, Scott Chandler 42, Fred Jackson 36, C.J. Spiller 27, Frank Summer 25, Chris Hogan 19, Chris Gragg 9, Tashard Choice 4, Marcus Easley 3.

DEFENSE: Kiko Alonso 58, Stephon Gilmore 58, Mario Williams 58, Jairus Byrd 57, Leodis McKelvin 56, Aaron Williams 56, Marcell Dareus 49, Kyle Williams 47, Nickell Robey 40, Manny Lawson 36, Alan Branch 34, Jerry Hughes 22, Da'Norris Searcy 20, Arthur Moats 18, Corbin Bryant 14, Stefan Charles 8, Jim Leonhard 4, Ron Brooks 3.

 

Doug Marrone urges C.J. Spiller to hold O-line accountable

By Tim Graham

Maybe it's time for C.J. Spiller to stop being such a nice guy.

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone suggested after today's game that Spiller should get into his offensive linemen's grills about blocking better.

Spiller had another miserable game even though his Bills waylaid the New York Jets, 37-14, in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"I know it was terrible today," Spiller said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know I didn't have a good day rushing the ball. I probably was in negative yards."

Not quite, but almost.

Spiller ran 13 times for 6 yards. His longest gain was 3 yards. He was tackled for no gain or negative yards five times.

One play was particularly aggravating. Against a loaded box about five minutes before halftime, the Bills ran anyway. Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson shot through the Bills' line and tackled Spiller for a 4-yard loss.

You could almost see the steam shooting from the ear holes in Spiller's helmet as he walked to the sideline.

Marrone made it a point to speak with Spiller. Marrone was upset with the offensive line, noting they were falling down and whiffing on some run blocks.

"If you're a running back and you're getting the ball, that's something you don't expect," Marrone said. "You can live with the other stuff.

"I told him afterward, 'You know what? I'd be pissed, too. But the difference between me and you -- and this is what you have to do now -- is go over to that group right there, that offensive line, and you tell them. You tell them you're pissed.' "

Spiller had no quarrel with Marrone's advice.

"He's exactly right," Spiller said. "When things aren't going right, it's about holding each other accountable. It's nothing about degrading my teammates or anything like that. It's just letting them know that we have to get going."

Spiller admitted that venting isn't a foreign concept to him. He recently spoke to Thurman Thomas about this very topic, asking the Hall of Fame running back how to confront negative issues without turning into a controversy.

Bills center Eric Wood acknowledged Spiller's frustrations and welcomed his input.

"If he's not comfortable saying something, then maybe him doing that is not the best way," Wood said. "But if he's comfortable saying something, we respect him. We know what he can do when we give him holes. We've got to do a better job for him."

Legendary Bills receiver Andre Reed attended today's game and was in the locker room afterward. Reed laughed when asked whether Thomas had the temerity to confront Pro Bowl linemen such as Jim Ritcher, Kent Hull and Howard Ballard.

"If it ain't going right and you're the main guy, you get up in somebody's face regardless," Reed said. "Get up in the offensive line's face and say something. Thurman didn't give a damn who he was talking to.

"If it's bothering me, I'd get in somebody's face. Hell, I'm out here working, too."

Spiller's backfield mates, Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice, didn't fare much better Sunday. The Bills combined for 68 yards on 38 rushing attempts.

"We have the guys that can get the job done," Spiller said. "There wasn't a whole lot of room out there, but we'll get it corrected. That's the encouraging part."

C.J. Spiller insists usage not a touchy issue for him

By Tim Graham

C.J. Spiller has not and likely won't meet with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about how the running back is being used.

"No," Spiller said, "I've never done that in my whole career. I've never sat down with the offensive coordinator.

"Probably from the outside, people would say, 'Well, you need to do it.' But since I've been playing football I never done it. I didn't do it in high school, didn't do it in college. I don't think I'm going to change now."

Union County High coach Buddy Nobles or Clemson coach Dabo Swinney almost certainly didn't limit Spiller to 33 percent of his team's plays.

But the Bills used Spiller on 22 of their 67 snaps in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Spiller had 11 touches, eight rushes for 23 yards and three catches for 11 yards.

Spiller has been battling various injuries and played 29 percent of the snaps a week earlier against the Kansas City Chiefs. But he seemed to be sufficiently healed, turning his 14 touches into 155 yards from scrimmage.

"I just go in when I'm told to go into the game," Spiller said.

Asked about his frustrations, Spiller replied, "I'm just frustrated that we're on a three-game losing streak. I'm not frustrated with the amount I done touched. I'm just sick and tired of the losing."

Marrone defended the team's backfield deployment by pointing out the Bills rank eighth in rushing and are the only team with two 500-yard rushers.

"Both of those players are playing well," Marrone said. "So when both of those guys are in there, I view both of those guys as No. 1s for us.

"I've always said it from the beginning when I had the job that I like to different backs, two different styles. That's what we have. If someone would ever get the hot hand, I would keep him in there and going. But until then, until someone gets extremely hot, I'm going to keep playing both of those players."

C.J. Spiller's limited usage not injury related

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills thought running back C.J. Spilller's high-ankle sprain was healed sufficiently enough to remove him from their injury report last week.

Despite that, Spiller still only saw 33 percent of the offensive snaps in Sunday's 23-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Spiller was on the field for 22 of Buffalo's 67 offensive plays, running eight times for 23 yards and catching three passes for 11 yards.

Fred Jackson, meanwhile, took 44 snaps (66 percent), while third running back Tashard Choice saw just one play.

"Game plan. How we're putting those guys in there," Marrone said today when asked if Spiller's usage was at all still limited by injury. "Doesn't have anything to do with his ankle."

Marrone said Spiller's playing time "could increase, could decrease -- We'll see it week to week."

"As far as the running backs, I think both players are productive in their own way with two different styles, which isn't a problem. At the same sense, you know, did we run the ball like we wanted to the other day? Absoultely not. I don't think you need to be a genius to figure that out," the coach said. "How come? Why not? ... Very simple -- I think it always starts with up front, because I'm an offensive line coach. We could have done a better job up front."

Marrone said there were times during the game that his running backs missed a hole or missed a read, and that the blocking on the perimeter by his tight ends was sometimes not strong enough.

"To be able to run the football, you have to do all those things well," he said. "I think at times when we don't do that, then it's very difficult for us to run the football."

Bills getting healthy; C.J. Spiller off injury report first time in 7 weeks

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' injury report is notable for names that don't appear on it.

Only three players didn't practice today, and all of them could play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
  • Wide receiver Robert Woods (ankle)
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles)

Everybody else was a full participant. Nobody was listed as limited.

That means quarterback EJ Manuel, running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, receiver Stevie Johnson and defensive end Mario Williams are healthy.

Manuel has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Spiller (ankle), Jackson (knee), Johnson (hip) and Mario Williams (hip) all were listed on last week's injury report.

Today was the first time Spiller hadn't been on the injury report since before the Week Four game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"That's exciting," Marrone said. "The more we can get his hands on the ball, there's an opportunity for him to make a big play. That's something we're always striving to do."

Kyle Williams regularly sits out Wednesday's practice to cool his heels.

Goodwin and Woods are recovering from injuries suffered in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their availability is less certain.

Marrone said "I don't feel as good about Robert Woods being able to play," but said Goodwin is expected to practice some Thursday.

Woods is a versatile receiver who can play inside and outside. If Woods doesn't dress, then Chris Hogan would pick up some inside duties, and Marcus Easley could help on the outside.

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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