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Third-quarter analysis: Keep the clock running

By Jay Skurski

TAMPA, Fla. -- EJ Manuel's nightmare afternoon continued in the third quarter today at Raymond James Stadium.

Manuel threw two more interceptions, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers open a 27-6 lead.

Manuel was picked off by linebacker Mason Foster on Buffalo's second possession of the second half, and then Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David made his second interception of the game on Buffalo's next possession. 

David's interception set up a 32-yard field goal by Rian Lindell to give the Bucs their lead. Through three quarters, Manuel is 13 of 24 for 136 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Carpenter is solid: Bills kicker Dan Carpenter continues to have a good year. Carpenter hit a 46-yard field goal on Buffalo's first possession of the third quarter. He is now 25 of 27 on the season.

What if: Today's a classic, "but if you take out that 80-yard run," type of day for the Bills' defense. Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey has 17 carries for 22 yards after his 80-yard run on the game's second play.

Flags along the line: Four of the five members of Buffalo's offensive line have been hit with penalties today. Only left guard Doug Urbik has escaped.

Second-quarter analysis: Stevie steps up, but defense can't keep up

By Jay Skurski

Stevie Johnson looked every bit a No. 1 receiver on the Buffalo Bills’ first drive of the second quarter.

Johnson had four catches for 42 yards during the Bills’ eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with his 13-yard touchdown catch that tied the game, 7-7.

With the catch, Johnson ended a streak of four straight games without a touchdown.

Johnson, though, came off the field midway through the quarter with trainer Bud Carpenter. He did return to the field before halftime.

The Bills took a 10-7 lead with a 37-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter with 4:38 to go in the second quarter, but the Buffalo defense couldn’t hold it.

New Orleans took the lead less than a minute later on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to rookie Kenny Stills, then extended the lead to 21-10 when Brees hooked up with tight end Jimmy Graham for a 15-yard score shortly before halftime.

Continue reading "Second-quarter analysis: Stevie steps up, but defense can't keep up" »

Snap counts: Marquise Goodwin doesn't get much work

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills went big in an effort to protect quarterback Thad Lewis on Sunday in Miami.

No. 2 tight end Lee Smith played 32 of 67 offensive snaps for the team against the Dolphins, which was 48 percent. Smith, as he usually is, was used almost exclusively in a blocking role, although he did make his second catch of the season, for 18 yards.

Even with the bigger lineup, the Dolphins still managed to get four sacks of Lewis, and hit him six times.

The Bills also used Frank Summers on 11 snaps (16 percent). He got his first two carries of the season, and gained 14 yards.

Most interesting among the snap counts for the Bills' offense was the use of rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin. Coming off his huge 40-yard touchdown catch against the Bengals in Week Six that sent the game to overtime, Goodwin saw only five offensive snaps (7 percent) against Miami. Robert Woods (63 snaps, 94 percent) and Stevie Johnson (60 snaps, 90 percent) played almost the entire game, most often joined by T.J. Graham (34 snaps, 51 percent) when the Bills went three wide.

Running back Fred Jackson (39 snaps, 58 percent) came back from a knee injury in the first quarter to lead the team with 11 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 49. Jackson's leadership, however, doesn't show up in the stats book. C.J. Spiller managed just 14 snaps (21 percent), while third back Tashard Choice played 12 snaps (18 percent).

The starting offensive line -- including left guard Doug Legursky in his first start of the season -- played the entire game (67 snaps).

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg (six snaps, 9 percent) also saw his first action of the season.

Continue reading "Snap counts: Marquise Goodwin doesn't get much work" »

Bills promote OL Mark Asper to 53-man roster, release G Colin Brown

By Jay Skurski

Colin Brown's tenure with the Buffalo Bills is over.

The team today released Brown, who started the first five games of the season at left guard, and replaced him on the 53-man roster by promoting offensive lineman Mark Asper from the practice squad.

Brown, 28, struggled throughout the season. Coach Doug Marrone said last week he would rotate Brown with Doug Legursky against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Six. Brown, however, got only 12 snaps to Legursky's 57.

Marrone was asked Monday afternoon whether Legursky had earned the starting job.

"I haven't talked to those players yet, but I thought Doug did a nice job in there for just coming back. Colin has struggled before and we did play Doug much more than we did Colin," Marrone said. "I don't really like talking about it until I've talked to the players, which I haven't yet. That's a situation that hasn't occurred and when I update those guys, I'll update that answer."

That came in the form of today's release of Brown.

Continue reading "Bills promote OL Mark Asper to 53-man roster, release G Colin Brown" »

Snap counts: Nigel Bradham busy in place of Manny Lawson

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills turned to Nigel Bradham on Sunday after linebacker Manny Lawson was hurt against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Bradham played 39 of the Bills' 86 defensive snaps, or 45 percent. That's by far the busiest he has been all season. He played 19 defensive snaps (21 percent) against the New England Patriots in Week One, then did not have more than eight snaps over the next four games before Sunday.

"It's not what I expected, but it is what it is," Bradham said of his playing time. "Pretty much just have to be ready for your opportunity. Manny went down so I had to be able to just be ready and go out there and play."

Bradham said he spent a lot of time in practice last week reviewing Lawson's role.

"It's one of the things where it's a different scheme and we have so many different packages that you just have to be ready for all the packages and just be ready for whenever anybody gets hurt," he said.

Continue reading "Snap counts: Nigel Bradham busy in place of Manny Lawson" »

Competition back on between Doug Legursky, Colin Brown

By Jay Skurski

When Doug Legursky went down with a knee injury in the Buffalo Bills' final preseason game, Colin Brown won the team's starting left guard job by default.

With Legursky now fully recovered from that injury, coach Doug Marrone said today that competition is back on.

"We do need to improve our play there. ... That's going to be an open competiton. Both those players will play left guard this week versus Cincinnati. So that's where we are with that," Marrone said. "How we're going to do it, we still haven't finalized that plan -- quarters, series, whatever it may be. That we're going to work out during the week with the players."

Legursky made his season debut in Week Five against Cleveland, but appeared for just one snap in place of Brown. That will change going forward as Marrone seeks more consistency.

Continue reading "Competition back on between Doug Legursky, Colin Brown" »

Bills release OL Sam Young, claim G Antoine McClain off waivers

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have made a change to the depth along their offensive line this afternoon.

The team has released tackle/guard Sam Young and replaced him with guard Antoine McClain, who was claimed off waivers from Oakland.

McClain, 23, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. The 6-foot-5, 336-pounder played collegiately at Clemson. He spent the 2012 season on the Ravens' practice squad, but was one of the team's final cuts this season after training camp. The Raiders claimed McClain on Sept. 1, but he did not appear in a game for them before being waived Friday.

McClain started 41 of 54 career games at Clemson from 2008-11, including every game in his final three years.

Young, 26, has appeared in 20 games for the Bills over the past three seasons, including four starts last year. The 6-8, 316-pounder played limited snaps at right guard in replace of an injured Kraig Urbik during a Week Three loss at the New York Jets. Young became replaceable, however, when Doug Legursky returned from a knee injury.

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

Spotlight on: G Colin Brown

By Jay Skurski

Colin Brown's grasp on a starting job with the Buffalo Bills could be tenuous.

Brown has struggled in the Bills' first three games -- and that's putting it nicely.

The website Pro Football Focus, which grades every play of every NFL game, has Brown graded as the worst starting guard in all of the NFL. Brown's pass blocking efficiency, which is a metric used by PFF, is 89.1 and he's accounted for 18 of the offensive line's 35 pressures allowed, according to the site.

Since PFF started handing out grades in 2008, Brown's cumulative season grade is the second-worst ever recorded.

With a matchup against hulking Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on tap Sunday, Brown's performance will again be in the spotlight. The matchup will take on even more significance for Brown because the player he was competing with for the starting left guard job during training camp, Doug Legursky, is probable to play Sunday as he nears his return from a knee injury that has kept him out the first three weeks of the season.

Another poor performance from Brown could result in a change to Legursky along the Bills' offensive line. Ngata, 29, is 6-foot-3, 340-pounder in his eighth NFL season. He's a rock in the middle of the Ravens' defensive line, and will require a double team by the Bills on most plays (with Brown being joined by center Eric Wood). 

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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 |