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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.

Jeff Tuel's uncommon company among undrafted rookie starters

By Tim Graham

Jeff Tuel became the 46th undrafted quarterback to start as a rookie since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com data.

If that number seems high, then consider 17 of those were strike replacements in 1987. A slew of quarterbacks who came through other pro leagues (Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia, Bobby Hebert, et al) also count toward the total.

So for the proper context to underscore Tuel's lack of pedigree and experience, know that he became only the 13th undrafted rookie under 25 years old and not from the strike season to start since the merger.

  • Rick Arrington, 1970 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Don Gault, 1970 Cleveland Browns
  • Bill Demory, 1973 New York Jets
  • J.J. Jones, 1975 New York Jets
  • Jim Zorn, 1976 Seattle Seahawks
  • Mike Lloyd, 1980 St. Louis Cardinals
  • Brad Goebel, 1991 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Kelly Holcomb, 1997 Indianapolis Colts
  • Jake Delhomme, 1999 New Orleans Saints
  • Doug Johnson, 2000 Atlanta Falcons
  • Anthony Wright, 2000 Dallas Cowboys
  • Matt Moore, 2007 Miami Dolphins
  • Jeff Tuel, 2013 Buffalo Bills

Willie Totten, a 1987 strike replacement, was the only other undrafted rookie to start at quarterback for Buffalo.

Tuel became Buffalo's third starter this year. That has happened three times in the past six seasons, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards and Brian Brohm doing it in 2009 and 2010.

Week Nine is the earliest the Bills have started three quarterbacks since 1969, when James Harris, Jack Kemp and Dan Darragh were called upon.

The Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns are the only other teams to have started three quarterbacks this year.

James Harris, Marlin Briscoe recall plight of black NFL QBs

By Tim Graham

EJ Manuel could be the Buffalo Bills opening-day quarterback. Most of us won't pause for a second to consider the color of his skin.

Not too long ago, however, trying to make it in the NFL as a back quarterback was almost impossible.

Wednesday's edition of "60 Minutes Sports" on Showtime will revisit the hardships of those who broke the color line. Armen Keteyian interviews four pioneers: former Buffalo Bills James Harris and Marlin Briscoe, Hall of Famer Warren Moon and Super Bowl champion Doug Williams.

"I was referred to as a black quarterback in every article," Harris tells Keteyian.

A newspaper headline appears on the screen: "A 6-4 Negro QB, Harris, Drafted 8th by the Bills."

Keteyian mentions the Bills housed Harris at a YMCA while the other players stayed in a hotel. Harris adds that when he arrived, the Bills gave him a job washing cleats in the equipment room.

"I knew that was out of line," Harris says.

Briscoe was the first black starting quarterback in modern pro football. He started for the Denver Broncos in 1968 but was cut after that season.

The Bills signed him and immediately converted him to receiver. He caught 57 passes for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns in 1970, but he took only one more snap at quarterback for the rest of his career.

Two of the more poignant moments from the "60 Minutes Sports" promo of Keteyian's segment are from Williams and Moon.

Williams cries when asked to contemplate a question he likely has been asked a gazillion times: What did it mean to him to be the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl?

Moon, who wasn't drafted by any NFL team, reminds us we're not far removed from an embarrassing era.

"In the pros, you can hear the N-word and all those other things," Moon says. "You heard all of that ... far, far more than once.

"I mean, I got death threats in different places we went."

And what year was that?

"This was, like, 1990," Moon replies.

That was the year Manuel was born.

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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 | tgraham@buffnews.com


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 | mgaughan@buffnews.com


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 | jskurski@buffnews.com

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