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Third-quarter analysis: One rookie good, one very bad

By Jay Skurski

While one rookie continues to struggle, another has made a big play to keep the Buffalo Bills in today’s game.

Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso perfectly read Jets quarterback Geno Smith, intercepting him and returning the ball 32 yards to the New York 13-yard line. Alonso became the first Bills rookie to intercept passes in consecutive games since Jairus Byrd in 2009. 

The Bills’ offense led by rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, however, continues to struggle horribly. After two runs by Fred Jackson on the drive set up by Alonso's interception, Manuel threw out of bounds, intended for T.J. Graham. It was a continutation of a game-long struggle for the Bills' rookie quarterback.

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Second-quarter analysis: Offensive woes start in red zone

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills came into today’s game having scored touchdowns on four of their first five trips into the red zone this season.

That success evaporated in the second quarter. The Bills had consecutive drives reach the Jets’ 19- and 5-yard lines, respectively, and couldn’t finish off either drive with a touchdown, settling for Dan Carpenter field goals of 37 and 23 yards.

On the first red-zone possession, Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel overthrew rookie wideout Robert Woods on the right side of the end zone on a third-down play.

On the next drive, Manuel couldn’t find an open receiver on third and goal, electing to run, but gaining only a yard.

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Doug Marrone not yet ready to say Bills have a kicking competition

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone said he'll wait until rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins is 100 percent healthy before deciding whether he will need to compete with veteran Dan Carpenter for the job.

"I'm going to wait to make that decision," Marrone said today. "Right now, what we have is Dan's out there playing for us and we're happy."

Carpenter made a good case for the job in Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He bounced back from missing a 42-yard attempt by hitting from 55 yards.

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Second-quarter analysis: Conservative playcalling fails

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills elected to play the field position game near the end of the first half, and it came back to bite them.

Facing a fourth and 3 from the Carolina 45-yard line, the Bills elected to punt. The decision backfired.

The Panthers took the ball from their 10-yard line and marched 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Cam Newton went 7 of 8 for 70 yards on the drive, finishing it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. The Panthers took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

Making amends: Dan Carpenter redeemed himself for a miss from 42 yards in the opening quarter by drilling a 55-yard field goal toward the scoreboard end of the stadium. Carpenter’s kick opened the scoring.

Missing Andy: Colin Brown isn’t doing anything to make the Bills forget Andy Levitre. The Bills’ left guard completely whiffed on a block in the first quarter that led to Fred Jackson being dropped for a 4-yard loss. Brown was then called for a false start in the second quarter, the first penalty of the game.

Short homecoming: Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas suffered a concussion and will not return to the game. Thomas, a University at Buffalo product, was hurt making a tackle of Bills receiver Robert Woods on a reverse early in the second quarter.

First-quarter analysis: Mario Williams comes to play

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills got exactly what they paid for from Mario Williams in the first quarter. Williams sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton twice, the second of which came on third down to end a Panthers drive. Williams easily got by Carolina right tackle Byron Bell on the play.

Dareus down: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus left the game because of injury. Trainers were looking at Dareus’ right knee on the sideline, but he was able to return to the game shortly before the end of the quarter.

Missed opportunities: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel had an up-and-down quarter. He opened the Bills’ first drive with a nice play-action pass to fullback Frank Summers for a 34-yard gain, but missed throws to wide receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end, both of whom were open deep in Carolina territory.

No good: Bills kicker Dan Carpenter was cut three times during training camp – by Miami, Arizona and the New York Jets. He showed why when he missed a 42-yard field goal wide to the right, spoiling a good opening drive by the Bills.

Nice read: Linebacker Kiko Alonso stopped Carolina’s first drive with an interception of Cam Newton. The rookie from Oregon showed great recognition on the play, stepping right in front of the throw. It looked to be great film study of the route.

No guarantees for Dustin Hopkins to remain Bills kicker

By Tim Graham

Of the 10 rookies on the Buffalo Bills' roster, the only one who knows he won't make his NFL debut Sunday against the New England Patriots is kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Hopkins easily beat out all-time Bills kicker Rian Lindell in training camp. But days before Hopkins should've realized his dream of playing in the NFL, he strained the groin on his kicking leg.

The Bills signed former Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, and coach Doug Marrone already has ruled out Hopkins for Sunday.

"Obviously, I want to be out there," Hopkins said. "This is something you work toward since you're a little kid, and it becomes more real and more real the older you get. I'm excited for when that opportunity comes up, and I think it'll come soon."

Continue reading "No guarantees for Dustin Hopkins to remain Bills kicker" »

Vagabond kicker Dan Carpenter will handle job for Bills on Sunday

By Tim Graham

Over the past three weeks, Dan Carpenter has worn four NFL uniforms and been cut three times.

Mr. Have Tee Will Travel will be the Buffalo Bills' kicker Sunday against the New England Patriots.

With rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins unable to practice because of a right groin strain, Bills coach Doug Marrone announced this afternoon Carpenter will handle the season opener.

The only time the Bills beat the Patriots over their past 19 meetings, a last-second Rian Lindell field goal won it.

Carpenter has spent his five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, making the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2009. He has converted 81.9 percent of his field goals, but only 50 percent from 50 yards or longer.

The Dolphins cut him three weeks ago. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets but couldn't stick with either club. Carpenter was on his way to a tryout with the Cleveland Browns when the Bills signed him this week.

Bills confirm signing of kicker Dan Carpenter

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills today announced they have signed kicker Dan Carpenter.

The 27-year-old is entering his sixth NFL season, after spending the first five with the Miami Dolphins. Carpenter was cut by Miami during training camp after getting beat out by rookie Caleb Sturgis. He also had four-day stints with the Arizonal Cardinals and New York Jets before joining the Bills.

For his career, Carpenter is 127 of 155 (81.9 percent) on field-goal attempts, with a career long of 60 yards. He went 22 of 27 (81.5 percent) with a long of 53 yards last season for Miami. Carpenter, 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, has put 97 of 357 career kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, 27.2 percent.  

Carpenter originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Montana. he joins rookie Dustin Hopkins on the Bills' 53-man roster at kicker. Hopkins reportedly suffered a groin injury during Monday's practice, but the team has not commented on the severity of the injury. The team is off today.

Carpenter's signing puts the Bills at the 53-man roster limit.

Report: Bills to sign Dan Carpenter after K Dustin Hopkins injured

By Jay Skurski

Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins suffered a groin injury today in practice, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Schefter first reported the Bills are on the verge of signing veteran kicker Dan Carpenter.

He then followed that up a few minutes later with the news that Hopkins, a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Florida State, suffered a groin injury during today's practice.

Bills coach Doug Marrone made no mention of Hopkins being injured during his news conference following today's practice. 

Carpenter, 27, has spent the first five years of his career with the Miami Dolphins. He is 127 of 155 (81.9 percent) on field goals, with a career long of 60 yards. He's made 154 of 155 career extra-point attempts.

Carpenter went 22 of 27 on field goals for the Dolphins in 2012. He was beat out for Miami's kicking job during training camp by rookie Caleb Sturgis. Since then, Carpenter has had four-day stints with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets.

Hopkins beat out veteran Rian Lindell for the Bills' kicking job during training camp. Hopkins went 6 for 6 on field goals in the preseason, but did not have any attempts from 40 yards or longer. Only four of Hopkins' 14 kickoffs during the preseason went for touchbacks. He also had one kickoff go out of bounds.

Carpenter, meanwhile, has 97 touchbacks on 357 career kickoffs.

Carpenter would put the Bills at the 53-man roster limit.

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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 |