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First-quarter analysis: Big plays killing the Bills

By Jay Skurski

It took all of 4 seconds for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to jump ahead of the Buffalo Bills today in Raymond James Stadium.

Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey raced 80 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown on Tampa’s second play from scrimmage to give his team a 7-0 lead. Rainey blew past Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso to get into the open field.

It was a career-long run for Rainey, who took over as the starter for the Bucs after season-long injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James.

Bucs hit another big one: Tampa Bay went up, 14-3, on a 38-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to receiver Vincent Jackson. Glennon scrambled right, then heaved a bomb to the end zone that Jackson tracked down despite being interfered with by Bills cornerback Nickell Robey.

Penalty help: A pair of personal foul penalties against Tampa Bay assisted the Bills in the first quarter. The first came against linebacker Dekoda Watson, who ran into punter Brian Moorman. The Bills, however, were not able to capitalize and Moorman punted again four plays later. On Buffalo’s next possession, Bucs linebacker Mason Foster was penalized for hitting defenseless Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. The Bills got a 40-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter on the drive.

Lineup changes: The Bills started rookie seventh-round draft pick Chris Gragg at tight end in place of Scott Chandler. Buffalo also benched fullback Frank Summers, making him inactive in favor of Evan Rodriguez.

Bills activate some young scratches to see what they can do

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- A few Buffalo Bills youngsters will get a chance to show what they can do this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

Activated today are a few players who haven't been dressing. Among them are running back Ronnie Wingo, guard J.J. Unga and linebacker Ty Powell. Tight end Chris Gragg, who played six straight games but was benched last week, will dress again today.

Buccaneers who were listed with injuries but will dress include cornerback Darrelle Revis and receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Owusu, who had hamstring strains.

Buccaneers defensive end Steven Means, a Buffalo native, will dress.

Here are all the inactives for today's game:

Buffalo Bills

  • Quarterback Jeff Tuel
  • Fullback Frank Summers
  • Tight end Tony Moeaki
  • Guard Mark Asper
  • Guard Antoine McClain
  • Linebacker Jamaal Westerman
  • Cornerback Brandon Smith

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Fullback Lonnie Pryor
  • Guard Patrick Omameh
  • Guard Carl Nicks
  • Defensive tackle Gary Gibson
  • Linebacker Danny Lansanah
  • Cornerback Deveron Carr
  • Safety Bradley McDougald

Points after: Bills 37, Jets 14

6556026  McCoy Sports Bills

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' decisive victory over the New York Jets in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills snapped a three-game losing streak and avenged an ugly Week Three loss to the Jets. The Bills still are in the AFC East basement at 4-7, but they have to feel good about how they played. Bills rookie EJ Manuel returns to "future franchise quarterback" material (for the time being, anyway) with a strong bounce-back performance.

Players of the game: Bills safety Jairus Byrd and defensive tackle Kyle Williams were studs. Byrd had a sack and two interceptions. He dropped Geno Smith on a third-and-3 play in the second quarter to forcing a punt and grabbed an interception for the second straight week to set up a field goal right before halftime. He picked off another in the third quarter. Williams had two sacks in the first half and forced a fumble to set up a touchdown.

Manuel transmission: Geno Smith won the rookie QB showdown in the first game, but Manuel was far superior today. Manuel was 20 of 28 for 245 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. Smith completed eight of his 23 yards for 103 yards and no TDs with three interceptions and a lost fumble. Matt Simms replaced Smith with 12:55 left in the game.

Play of the game: After the Jets scored their first touchdown to make it 20-7 in the third quarter, Manuel responded with a 43-yard strike to Marquise Goodwin and put the Jets back in their place.

Milestone TD: Bills fullback Frank Summers, playing in his 13th NFL game since he got drafted in 2009, scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. It was the first TD of his career.

Preliminary injury report: Fred Jackson writhed on the ground 2:27 into the second half with an apparent left knee injury. He returned to the game on the next series. ... Defensive tackle Kyle Williams went to the locker room with 7:18 left in the third quarter but came back quickly after getting retaped.

Coming up: The Bills are on their bye week. They will return to action Dec. 1 against the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto.

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" »

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" »

Bills offense switches from up-tempo to smashmouth

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills didn't look new-fangled today against the Baltimore Ravens.

Buffalo's fast-paced offense, criticized for leaving its defense on the field too long through the first three games, pumped the brakes.

Buffalo's offense huddled at times, ran way more often than it threw, used its fullback and played the kind of style your grandfather would recognize.

The result was a 23-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion.

The game was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, not the Rockpile.

Continue reading "Bills offense switches from up-tempo to smashmouth" »

Snap counts: Nigel Bradham gets all of one play against Carolina

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone made sure to let everyone know after the season opener against the New England Patriots that he was pleased with linebacker Nigel Bradham's performance, despite him playing just 19 snaps.

That number was drastically reduced Sunday, as Bradham was on the field for just one defensive snap.

"I really didn't expect that, but it just happened that way," Bradham said today of his playing time. "As the weeks go on, we'll see what happens. Hopefully I get more reps."

Bradham said he had no idea that he would be used so sparingly against the Panthers.

"I've just got to control what I can control and keep focusing on trying to become a better linebacker," he said.

Other items of note from the Bills' snap count numbers against Carolina:

Continue reading "Snap counts: Nigel Bradham gets all of one play against Carolina" »

Points after: Bills 24, Panthers 23

Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin breaks up a pass intended for Carolina's Steve Smith. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' thrilling victory over the Carolina Panthers in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills were staring at an 0-2 start but came back to even their record. The Bills lost to the New England Patriots by one point on opening day and could be 2-0 with a bounce or two. There's a lot to feel good about.

Bills player of the game: Mario Williams was a boss. He set a Bills record and a new career-high with 4.5 sacks, three of them in the first half. Williams' previous personal-best was 3.5 sacks for the Texans in December 2007. Bruce Smith had four sacks for the Bills twice, Cornelius Bennett once.


Panthers player of the game: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 21 of his 38 throws for 229 yards and two touchdowns, including a gorgeous, 40-yard strike to Ted Ginn in the end zone. Newton also kept several plays alive with his feet and ran for 15 yards.

Turbulent second half for the rookie: EJ Manuel committed two turnovers in a three-play span in the second half. Two plays after his first lost fumble, he threw his first interception. Carolina turned each short-field giveaway into a field goal. But Manuel led the Bills on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in 96 seconds. He finished 27 of 39 for 296 yards and a touchdown.

Plays of the game: The Panthers appeared to seal the game with safety Colin Jones' interception with 21 seconds to play. But Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was called for pass interference, and the Bills kept the ball. Two snaps later, Manuel threw a 2-yard TD toss to Stevie Johnson for the victory. 

Preliminary injury report: Buffalo made it through without any injuries significant enough for a press-box announcement. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus appeared to have a right knee issue in the first quarter but soon returned. ... A grenade went off in Carolina's secondary. It lost cornerback Josh Thomas (University at Buffalo) and safeties Charles Godfrey and Quintin Mikell. Carolina cornerback Charles Norman also missed time in the third quarter.

Coming up: The Bills will play their first road game next Sunday against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Third-quarter analysis: Second round looking strong

By Jay Skurski

It’s early, but it’s looking like the Buffalo Bills may have hit a pair of home runs in the second round of this year’s draft with linebacker Kiko Alonso and wide receiver Robert Woods.

Woods stepped up after halftime for the Bills, making a pair of catches that covered 43 yards on the team’s opening drive of the third quarter, helping to set up a field goal. Later in the quarter, Woods made a terrific catch to complete a two-point conversion following Fred Jackson’s touchdown. That tied the game at 14-14.

Costly flag: The Bills have had plenty of issues with penalties this season, but the costliest flag so far may have been the one issued to fullback Frank Summers in the third quarter. Summers was called for defensive holding before a Carolina punt, giving the Panthers an automatic first down. Four plays later, Cam Newton connected on a 40-yard bomb with Ted Ginn Jr. for a touchdown.

Injury issues: The Panthers have been hit hard by injuries in the secondary. Cornerback Josh Thomas suffered a concussion in the second quarter, then the Panthers lost cornerback Josh Norman and safeties Charles Godfrey and Quintin Mikell in the third quarter. Mikell later returned to the game.

First turnover: Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's first career turnover came late in the third quarter. Manuel was sacked by Mikell, fumbling in the process. The ball was recovered for Carolina by former Bill Dwan Edwards.

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.

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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 |