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Bills' offensive performance might be worst in four decades

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- In a week when NFL touchdowns were easier to order than a Super Pack at Mighty Taco, the Buffalo Bills turned in one of the worst offensive performances in their history.

Da'Rick Rogers, an undrafted rookie receiver the Bills cut in the preseason, scored twice as many points as they did Sunday.

Rogers had a pair of touchdowns for the Indianapolis Colts, while the Bills were pulverized, 27-6, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

The particulars were foul. The Bills had five giveaways, allowed seven sacks and committed a dozen penalties.

A search of Pro-Football-Reference.com found the Bills became only the 13th team in NFL history to give up at least seven sacks, throw at least four interceptions and not score an offensive touchdown.

Pro-Football-Reference.com's database shows the last time the Bills met that thoroughly impotent criteria was 1971.

The Bills gave up nine sacks unofficially (sacks became an NFL stat in 1982) in a 43-0 loss to the Baltimore Colts at the Rockpile. Dennis Shaw threw three interceptions, and James Harris threw one. O.J. Simpson ran seven times for minus-10 yards.

Also Sunday, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel had the 15th game in Bills history with at least four interceptions and no touchdown passes. The last time was Drew Bledsoe against the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.

Joe Ferguson did it three times, including a six-interception (1974 against the Houston Oilers) and a five-interception (1982 versus the Miami Dolphins) game without a TD toss.

More info from Pro-Football-Reference: Buffalo had its 15th game in which it lost by at least 21 points, failed to score an offensive touchdown and committed five turnovers. But it has happened three times in the past four seasons.

Doug Marrone says Bills should simplify offense for EJ Manuel

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- At a time when Buffalo Bills fans hoped they'd know more about rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, coach Doug Marrone delivered some sobering news.

Marrone said after Sunday's comprehensive, 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it probably was time to simplify the offense for Manuel.

"We've been giving him more and more, and now it's a point where you have to re-evaluate that," Marrone said outside the visitors' locker room in Raymond James Stadium. "We've been going fast with his progression, and now we just have to look at it and get him started again.

"It's not starting over. Don't get me wrong. We've got to look to see what we can do and probably cut down on what we're doing."

Manuel had his worst game as a pro. The first-round draft choice from Florida State was 18 of 33 for 184 yards and no touchdowns with four interceptions. He was sacked seven times.

"A disappointing day in my performance," Manuel said. "It starts with me, especially on offense. I'm the quarterback. I'm the leader. These guys feed off of me, and I was supposed to be facilitating the ball to these guys.

"I didn't do a good job today, plain and simple. Got to get better, plain and simple."

Stevie Johnson: It's all about accountability, sort of

By Jerry Sullivan

TAMPA, Fla. -- By now, I've come to learn that you never know what Stevie Johnson is going to do or say next.

After Sunday's 27-6 loss to the Bucs, he talked about the importance of players being accountable -- seconds after shrugging off a question about a pass that deflected off his hands for an interception.

Early in the second quarter, the Bills had a second-and-3 at their own 44. EJ Manuel threw a pass over the middle that bounced off Johnson's hands and was picked off by Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. The throw was a bit high, but Stevie should have caught it.

Here's what he had to say about the play later:

"That was early in the game and that's all I have to say about that. That don't really matter."

On the very next question, Johnson was asked what Doug Marrone's primary message had been to the team after the loss.

"Just accountability," Johnson said. "He came out and said we've got to be accountable for what's going on. We can't be afraid to speak our minds to each other. That's how you know you're playing with each other, when you got guys who can say whatever, not be just -- quote, unquote -- yes men. Got to be real with each other. That's what he was saying."

Evidently, suggesting that an interception didn't matter is Stevie's idea of being real and accountable. And you wonder why critics are saying the Bills should get rid of the guy.

Points after: Buccaneers 27, Bills 6

Bills Buccaneers Footbal#19

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills stink. They had five turnovers, allowed seven sacks, gave up way too many big plays on defense and committed costly penalties.

Rookie QB showdown: Both were ugly, but Mike Glennon was a little less homely. EJ Manuel was 18 of 33 for 184 yards and no TDs with four interceptions, two of which were off his receivers' hands. Glennon, a third-round pick, had two interceptions and only 90 yards but threw a pair of TD passes.

Player of the game: Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David was a monster. He had two interceptions, a sack and a team-high eight tackles.

Moment of the game: On the second offensive play, Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey ran up the middle and past linebacker Kiko Alonso for an 80-yard touchdown. That was all the scoring the Buccaneers would need. The game was 18 seconds old.

Preliminary injury report: Bills cornerback Ron Brooks got hurt while covering a punt late in the first quarter. Although he remained on the field for several minutes, he returned in the second quarter.

Coming up: The Bills will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday at EverBank Field.

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: From bad to worse

By Jay Skurski

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's season-long struggles on the road are continuing today in Raymond James Stadium.

Manuel threw a pair of interceptions in the second quarter, and the Buffalo offense is mustering very little against the Buccaneers, who lead 24-3 at halftime.

Buffalo turned the ball over three times in the second quarter -- including two interceptions from Manuel. The first was a good throw to Stevie Johnson that bounced off the receiver's hands, while the second was an absolute disaster of a throw intended for T.J. Graham.

Manuel is a brutal 6 of 15 for 54 yards and those two interceptions for a passer rating of 10.8. 

Glennon not much better: It hasn't been a great day for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon on the other side, either. Glennon went 8 of 20 in the first half, also throwing two interceptions. Glennon, however, has two touchdown passes, the second of which went to tight end Timothy Wright and gave the Bucs their 24-3 lead.

It's good: Buccaneers kicker Rian Lindell buried a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter. That had to fel good for the former Bills kicker, who last season was not counted on for 50-plus yard field-goal tries by the team's former coaching staff.

Tough call: Bills safety Jairus Byrd was hit with a personal foul penalty for roughing the passer late in the second quarter. Byrd came in on a blitz and tackled quarterback Mike Glennon. Officials ruled that Byrd hit Glennon below the knees.

Bills continually plowing under bottom of roster, practice squad

By Tim Graham

To everything, churn, churn, churn ...

In hopes of maximizing personnel, the Buffalo Bills have been busy rototilling the bottom part of their roster and practice squad this fall.

Over the past nine weeks, the Bills have made 33 player transactions. Few were forced by injuries. Most were made simply to improve depth and bring aboard raw prospects.

"That's something that we're always trying to do because I believe development in this league is extremely important," Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "and that's the way that we can develop players, bringing players in and out and seeing which one sticks."

While the Bills are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, much of the focus has shifted to player evaluation for the future. That's why veteran running back Tashard Choice was cut, and former practice-squad player Ronnie Wingo will get a look-see over the final four weeks.

Marrone said he meets "constantly" with General Manager Doug Whaley and player personnel director Jim Monos about tweaking the roster with an eye toward the future.

"That's where sometimes those guys pop, and that's where they come from," Marrone said. "I think when you look at the situation that we're in, when I think you look at salary cap, I think that there are certain positions you need to develop. If you don't develop those positions, you're going to get in trouble from a salary cap standpoint and not be the best team you can be if you're relying on paying players at the highest price to play certain positions."

As you'll see below, the Bills regard some developmental positions more prominently than others.

In the final season with GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey, the Bills made 28 practice-squad signings or releases. That total does not include players who were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, only those who were added to the developmental squad or released outright.

After the 2012 Bills signed their eight practice-squad players at the start of the year, they didn't make another move for four weeks.

Under Whaley and Marrone, the Bills have made 25 practice-squad moves already. They've also patrolled other teams' taxi squads, plucking defensive tackle Stefan Charles and guard J.J. Unga for the 53-man roster.

After signing their original eight, the Bills made three moves in September, six in October and six in November. The Bills have made two transactions so far in December.

The Bills already have matched last year's number of practice-squad players promoted to the active roster. They've elevated five, most notably quarterback Thad Lewis.

Of last year's promotions, receiver Marcus Easley is the only one still on the active roster. Wide receiver Kevin Elliott is on injured reserve. Safety Mana Silva left the team without permission in training camp, but remains Bills property.

A breakdown of practice-squad transactions the past two years:

2012

Final practice squad: running back Zach Brown, tight end Derek Buttles, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, tackle Adam Grant, defensive end Corbin Bryant, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, linebacker Brian Smith.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 28.

Moves by position: nine offensive lineman, five receiver, four defensive back, three tight end, three defensive tackle, two linebacker, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: defensive tackle Jay Ross, offensive lineman David Snow, receiver Marcus Easley, safety Mana Silva, Ross again after being cut and re-signed and receiver Kevin Elliott.

2013

Current practice squad: quarterback Dennis Dixon, receivers Cordell Roberson and Tommy Streeter, tackles Edawn Coughman and Jamaal Johnson-Webb, defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, linebacker Jacquies Smith, cornerback Mario Butler.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 25.

Moves by position: eight defensive end, five cornerback, five guard, two quarterback, two receiver, two offensive tackle, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: cornerback Johnny Adams, quarterback Thad Lewis, cornerback Brandon Smith, guard Mark Asper, running back Ronnie Wingo.

The breakdown shows the developmental emphasis shifted to defensive end, from one move last year to a team-high eight so far this year.

Also interesting is that previous Bills management didn't bother with a developmental quarterback, but the new regime has placed an importance there. Good thing, because Lewis helped the Bills remain competitive when rookie EJ Manuel missed four games with a knee injury.

Analytics site shows EJ Manuel is NFL's least-accurate passer

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills essentially are into evaluation phase for the rest of the season.

No player needs to absorb experience over the last four games more than rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.

The Bills and their weary fans still are learning about Manuel, who missed four games while recovering from a knee injury. He has looked good at times, and showed a flair for the dramatic with his game-winning touchdown drive against the Carolina Panthers in Week Two.

But one area of concern is his accuracy. Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com says Manuel has been the NFL's least-accurate passer this year.

Manuel ranks dead last out of the 30 quarterbacks who've handled at least 50 percent of their teams' pass plays. When the field is broadened to include quarterbacks who've handled 25 percent of their teams' pass plays, he is tied for 36th out of 38, ahead of only St. Louis Rams backup Kellen Clemens.

PFF's "quarterback accuracy percentage" metric takes a deeper look than standard completion percentage.

PFF gives the passer credit for dropped passes and does not consider the following incompletions: throwaways, spikes, batted passes or attempts while being hit.

Manuel's adjusted accuracy percentage is 66.4 percent, two-tenths of a percent worse than that of New York Jets rookie Geno Smith, who has completed 29 passes over his past four games.

On Manuel's 249 attempts, PFF counts 15 drops (he gets credit for a completion on those) plus two throwaways, one batted pass and four while being hit (he doesn't get faulted for any of those).

PFF's data tags Bills receiver Stevie Johnson for a team-high five drops, although that total also includes passes thrown by Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. Tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Robert Woods have four drops apiece.

But Manuel is in decent company at the bottom of PFF's chart. Tom Brady is ranked 20th, Colin Kaepernick 24th, Andrew Luck 25th, Eli Manning 26th and Joe Flacco 27th.

Aaron Rodgers ranks first, followed by Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

Third-quarter analysis: Kiko Alonso's fumble recovery sets up score

By Jay Skurski    

TORONTO -- Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso caem through with a huge play today just when the Buffalo Bills' defense needed it most. 

Alonso recovered a fumble by Atlanta running back Steven Jackson, giving the Bills the ball at the Falcons' 21-yard line.

On the next play, running back Fred Jackson took a short completion of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to the end zone, tying the game at 24 after Dan Carpenter's extra point. To that point, Buffalo had run only seven offensive plays in third quarter, and managed just one first down.

The Falcons had taken their first lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to tight end Tony Gonzalez. That completed a 10-play, 56-yard drive.

Three and out: The Bills started the second half the way they ended the first, with a three and out on their first possession of the third quarter. Manuel attempted to find tight end Scott Chandler on a third-and-7 play, but the ball was knocked away by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Gilmore gets burned: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to struggle for the Bills. Gilmore was beaten by Atlanta receiver Harry Douglas for a 13-yard gain on a play that looked like it was going to be a touchdown, but was reversed after a replay review. Douglas beat Gilmore inside, then bounced off a hit from safety Jairus Byrd before diving for the goal line. Earlier in the quarter, Gilmore took an illegal-use-of-hands penalty, giving Atlanta a first down when it would have been third and 14.

Stats watch: The Bills held the ball for only 3:52 in that quarter, compared to 11:08 for Atlanta. The Falcons went 4 of 5 on third down, while the Bills were 0 for 3.

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.

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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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