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First-quarter analysis: Thad Lewis off and fumbling

By Jay Skurski

It took all of eight seconds for things to go south for the Buffalo Bills today in New Orleans.

Quarterback Thad Lewis was drilled by Saints linebacker David Hawthorne and fumbled on the Bills’ first play from scrimmage. The ball was recovered by New Orleans’ Junior Galette, giving the Saints the ball at the Buffalo 22-yard line.

Buffalo’s defense, though, came through. The Saints lost 7 yards on their first three plays, and kicker Garrett Hartley’s 47-yard field goal missed wide left.

Lewis needs to take better care of the ball.

He fumbled again on the Bills’ third possession. Lewis had the chance to throw, but instead pulled the ball down and was drilled by the Saints’ Cameron Jordan. Had the tuck rule still been around, Lewis would have been saved. Alas, it’s not, and Jordan recovered Lewis’ fumble at the Buffalo 21-yard line. That set up Drew Brees’ 15-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore to open the scoring.

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Thad Lewis off and fumbling" »

Game ball: Bills 23, Dolphins 21

Dan Carpenter comes through, and then Bills defense bails him out

By Tim Graham

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Even with the boos, Dan Carpenter's easiest play was his most important.

The final five plays that followed were much more harrowing.

Carpenter, back in the stadium where he kicked five seasons, made a 31-yard field goal to give the Buffalo Bills a 23-21 lead over the Miami Dolphins with 33 seconds to play.

Continue reading "Dan Carpenter comes through, and then Bills defense bails him out" »

Points after: Bills 23, Dolphins 21

723519 McCoy Sports Bill#67

By Tim Graham

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills are 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the AFC East. They avoided a three-game losing streak and won their first division road game in nine tries.

Welcome back: Dan Carpenter, cut by the Dolphins this year, kicked a 31-yard field goal with 33 seconds to play. He made a 39-yarder in the second quarter and a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter. His Dolphins replacement, Caleb Stugis, missed a 51-yard attempt in the second quarter.

Bills MVP: Mario Williams was quiet for much of the afternoon but notched a pair of crucial sacks in the fourth quarter. The Bills hadn't sacked Ryan Tannehill until there were seven minutes left. Williams beat right tackle Tyson Clabo for a pancake. Williams then caused the fumble that Kyle Williams recovered with 2:48 to play.

Play of the game: Mario Williams' strip was pivotal to setting up the winning field goal. Special mention to cornerback Nickell Robey, who returned Tannehill's first pass attempt 19 yards for a touchdown 93 seconds into the game. 

Player of the game: A free agent this past offseason, Brandon Gibson wanted to play alongside his buddy, Stevie Johnson, with the Bills. The Bills never called. Maybe they regretted not acting as they watched Gibson catch five passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns. 

Dolphins play of the game: Gibson's first touchdown was highlight-reel quality. With time running out in the first half and Miami on Buffalo's 13-yard line, Tannehill dumped it to Gibson at the 10. Gibson found some pace to the left and, from about the 3-yard line, made a tumbling leap over defensive backs Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams for the touchdown with 21 seconds left.

Preliminary injury report: Robey injured his left shoulder while covering a punt in the second quarter. He returned to the game. ... Linebacker Manny Lawson left with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.

Coming up: The Bills visit the New Orleans Saints next Sunday in the Superdome.

Second-quarter analysis: Dolphins' defensive line turns up the heat

By Jay Skurski

The Miami Dolphins’ pass rush was on point in the second quarter.

Although they registered only one sack of Bills quarterback Thad Lewis, the Dolphins were consistently in the Bills’ backfield.

Lewis also had his arm hit while throwing by Jared Odrick, leading to an interception by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons.

Miami limited the Bills to 16 yards rushing on just three carries – with two of them coming from fullback Frank Summers. Buffalo had four possessions in the second quarter – two of them went three and out, one ended in Lewis’ interception, and another resulted in a field goal.

Continue reading "Second-quarter analysis: Dolphins' defensive line turns up the heat" »

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.

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Bills place kicker Dustin Hopkins on injured reserve

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills opened up a spot on their 53-man roster today to promote quarterback Thad Lewis by placing rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins on injured reserve.

Hopkins, 23, joined the Bills as a sixth-round draft choice out of Florida State in April. He beat out veteran Rian Lindell for the team's kicking job in training camp, but suffered a groin injury prior to the start of the regular season and has not appeared in a game.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said Hopkins, who returned to practice on a limited basis last week, is still not able to perform kickoffs, which is why the team made the move.

"The problem was that we were bringing him along, we were one step in kicking field goals. The bigger issue is once we did the kickoff, which is obviously a much different type of movement, then it was like 'whoa.' So we didn't really know where we were until we got to that step. ... That movement is far behind," Marrone said.

Veteran Dan Carpenter was signed to fill in for Hopkins and has been a reliable replacement. Carpenter missed his first field goal of the season, but has gone 11 of 12 since, including two makes from 50-plus yards.

First-quarter analysis: A dream start

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills couldn’t have scripted a better start to tonight’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

The Bills forced a three and out on their first defensive series, got a 25-yard punt return from Jim Leonhard deep into Cleveland territory, then scored a touchdown on their third offensive play – a 1-yard rush by running back Fred Jackson. Buffalo got the ball on the Browns’ 1-yard line after a bit of trickery on their second play. Receiver T.J. Graham threw a deep pass intended for Stevie Johnson in the end zone on a reverse. Johnson was interfered with on the play by the Browns’ top cornerback, Joe Haden, a 29-yard penalty.

On the next play, Jackson dove in for a touchdown just 1:39 into the game.

Hoyer goes down: Cleveland starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was hurt after running just seven plays. Hoyer scrambled for 11 yards on a second-down play on Cleveland’s second possession. At the end of the run, he slid late and was tackled by Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso. Hoyer has a knee injury, and his return is questionable.

Leodis, C.J. active, but don’t start: Cornerback Leodis McKelvin and running back C.J. Spiller both are dressed for the Bills tonight, but neither started. McKelvin did, however, come in for a third-down play on the Bills’ first possession, and has been on the field extensively since. Spiller, however, has been seen for just one play, and does not have any rushes. He appears to be an emergency option for the Bills behind Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice.

Carpenter good from deep: Bills kicker Dan Carpenter is making things interesting. He drilled a 52-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 10-0 lead. After missing his first field goal of the season, he’s made 11 straight. With rookie Dustin Hopkins yet to prove himself because of a groin injury that has kept him out the first five weeks, Carpenter is making a push to at least be considered for the job full time.

First-quarter analysis: Red-zone struggles on full display

By Jay Skurski

A 6-0 lead after the opening quarter sounds pretty good for the Buffalo Bills, but it’s easy to be disappointed by it.

The Bills twice have had to settle for field goals inside the red zone today against the Baltimore Ravens at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with Dan Carpenter converting both times from 27 yards out.

The Bills are now failed to score a touchdown in their past five trips inside the red zone, settling for Carpenter field goals each time.

The Bills’ first drive of the game covered 64 yards in 11 plays and took 4:43 off the clock. The big play was a 26-yard completion from EJ Manuel to T.J. Graham on a third-and-9 play from the Baltimore 40-yard line, setting the Bills up at the Ravens’ 14. The drive stalled when on third and 3 from the Baltimore 7, Manuel was sacked by Terrell Suggs.

The Bills’ next drive also stalled when Manuel scrambled on a third-and-7 play from the Baltimore 14-yard line, sliding down 2 yards short of the first down.  After missing his first field goal of the season, Carpenter has now made nine straight.

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Red-zone struggles on full display" »

Points after: Jets 27, Bills 20

916379 McCoy Sports Bill#21

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to New York Jets at the Meadowlands ...

What it means: The Bills had an opportunity to make a statement about their status in the AFC East with a lackluster performance against a beatable team that committed an absurd number of penalties. The Bills are 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the division.

Play of the game: Geno Smith placed a perfectly thrown pass into Santonio Holmes' hands down the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown with 9:23 to play. Bills cornerback Justin Rogers, in over his head the entire game, was in coverage.

Sequence of the game: With an eight-point lead and the Bills starting out on their 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the Jets couldn't challenge an EJ Manuel fumble that had been ruled down by contact and committed penalties on four straight plays (one wiped out a Fred Jackson lost fumble) before Manuel connected with tight end Scott Chandler for a 33-yard touchdown. Stevie Johnson caught a two-point conversion pass to tie the score.

Jets player of the game: Smith was 16 of 29 for 331 yards and two long touchdowns with two interceptions. He also ran for an 8-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Bills player of the game: Dan Carpenter made field goals from 37, 23, 43 and 26 yards without a miss.

Rookie QB showdown: In the first installment of what both teams hope to be a long rivalry, Smith was better. Manuel was 18 of 38 for 231 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions. Manuel ran for 40 yards but was sacked seven times, thrice in the third quarter alone.

Stat line of the game: Bills running back C.J. Spiller left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter after 10 carries for 9 yards and one reception for 1 yard.

Run of the game: Seemingly stopped on a third-and-1 play at the end of the first quarter, Jackson spun away from the pile and ran past a few Jets defenders who assumed the play was over. Jackson was tackled 59 yards later.

Penalty report: The Jets had an astounding 20 penalties for 168 yards. The Bills were sharp early, but flags eventually cost them here and there. They were penalized seven times for 87 yards. On the final drive of the first half, the Bills committed two penalties to help the Jets get close enough for a field goal.

Preliminary injury report: In addition to Spiller's knee injury, Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin left the game on the opening drive with a hamstring injury. Aaron Williams moved from safety to corner, and Jim Leonhard handled punt return duties. ... Right guard Kraig Urbik left in the second quarter with a knee injury and was replaced by Sam Young. ... Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus limped back to the locker room with a right ankle injury in the third quarter and didn't return. ... Defensive end Alex Carrington was carted off the field with an apparent left leg injury with 70 seconds to play.

Coming up: The Bills return home to play the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. Sunday. It'll be a short week after that, with a Thursday night road game against the Cleveland Browns.

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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 |