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Game ball: Falcons 34, Bills 31 (OT)

Points after: Falcons 34, Bills 31 OT

81172 McCoy Sports Bills  2

By Tim Graham

TORONTO -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' demoralizing loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre ...

What it means: The Bills, trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but allowed the Falcons to tie the game at 17 by halftime. The Bills led 31-24 in the fourth quarter, but let the Falcons tie it again and then fumbled away the victory in the closing seconds. With a Miami Dolphins victory over the New York Jets today, the Bills are in last place and two games out of second place in the AFC East.

Play of the game: Stevie Johnson caught a third-down pass for what would have put the Bills within Dan Carpenter's field-goal range, but he fumbled at the Falcons' 30-yard line with 10 seconds left in regulation time. Without that fumble, tight end Scott Chandler wouldn't have fumbled on the first overtime possession.

Bills player of the game: Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, showed up to the game in a Fred Jackson uniform, and Jackson lived up to the endorsement. Jackson scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown for only the second time in his career. The first time was in 2010 against the Detroit Lions. Jackson gained 78 yards from scrimmage.

Spiller strikes: C.J. Spiller made a pair of gargantuan runs. On the Bills' second play from scrimmage, he ran 77 yards to set up a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he scampered 36 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Spiller finished with a season-high 149 rushing yards.

Falcons player of the game: Ankle and hamstring injuries have made Roddy White's season a colossal disappointment. His best game had been four receptions for 45 yards. Versus the Bills he caught 10 passes for 143 yards and midway through the third quarter accounted for 101 of Matt Ryan's 179 passing yards.

Turning point of the game: Kiko Alonso got off to a hot start with five takeaways in his first four pro games, but he didn't have another until today. With the Falcons seemingly seizing control of the game in the third quarter, Alonso recovered a botched snap. One play later, Jackson scored on a 21-yard catch-and run to tie the game at 24.

Sack attack: The Bills sacked Ryan six times, thrice on third down to force a punt. Jerry Hughes notched two sacks. Manny Lawson, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Corbin Bryant had one apiece.

Preliminary injury report: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore needed assistance on the field with about 9:30 left in the third quarter because of a cramp and came out of the game long enough for replacement Ron Brooks to get beat by Tony Gonzalez for a touchdown. Gilmore returned to action. ... Linebacker Arthur Moats left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury.

Coming up: The Bills will travel three times in their final four games, including two straight in Florida. They will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 15.

First-quarter analysis: EJ Manuel bounces back from big hit, has Bills up

By Jay Skurski

TORONTO -- Exhale, Bills fans.

Quarterback EJ Manuel looks to be fine after briefly leaving today’s game against the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre.

Manuel missed one play after being drilled by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon during Buffalo’s second offensive possession. Backup Thad Lewis handed off, then Manuel returned to lead a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Manuel has directed two scoring drives for the Bills so far, giving his team a 14-7 lead.

He finished Buffalo’s first drive with his firs career rushing touchdown – a 1-yard run on which he dove for the pylon in the front-right corner of the end zone, hitting it with the ball. Manuel was initially ruled out of bounds, but the play was reviewed and overturned.

On Buffalo’s second offensive possession, Manuel connected with Stevie Johnson twice on third-and-1 plays for first down. Fred Jackson finished the drive off with a 4-yard touchdown run, dragging three defenders in with him.

Run, C.J., run: Bills running back C.J. Spiller’s first carry went for just 2 yards. He did just a little better on the next one. Spiller ripped off a 77-yard run – the longest of his career – on Buffalo’s second offensive play, setting up a first-and-goal at the Atlanta 6-yard line.

Sack party: The Falcons lost 5 yards on their first two possessions – each of which ended with Buffalo sacks. On Atlanta’s third offensive play, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked by linebacker Manny Lawson, who was untouched coming off the right side of the Bills’ defensive line. On the Falcons’s next possession, Ryan was dropped again on third down, this time by Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes.

Where’s everybody at: The capacity for today’s game in the Rogers Centre is 46,470. There was about a quarter of that in the stands for the 4:05 p.m. kickoff. The stands have slowly filled in – there were apparently massive lines outside the stadium – but it would be a shock if more than 30,000 people are in attendance today.

Game ball: Steelers 23, Bills 10

Bills winning Jerry Hughes trade

By Tim Graham

PITTSBURGH -- Jerry Hughes was considered a bust for the Indianapolis Colts.

The fourth-year pass-rusher has been productive for the Buffalo Bills.

Hughes, acquired in an offseason trade for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, had two more sacks in today's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each sack came on third down and forced a punt.

Hughes has more than doubled his career sack total since joining the Bills. He has six this season (second for the Bills behind Mario Williams) and 11 since he entered the NFL as the 31st overall draft choice in 2010.

Hughes also has 31 tackles, two tackles for losses and two forced fumbles this year.

Sheppard has 18 tackles and one sack for the Colts. The Bills drafted him in the third round in 2011.

Points after: Steelers 23, Bills 10

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By Tim Graham

PITTSBURGH -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers here at Heinz Field ...

What it means: The Bills went into the week insisting they still were in the playoff hunt. We can stop humoring them. They are 3-7 and in last place in the AFC East.

No Manuel transmission: EJ Manuel returned after a four-game injury absence and looked raggedy. Buffalo's first-round draft pick was 22 of 39 for 155 yards and one touchdown with one interception. His completion percentage (and eventually the 2-yard TD toss to Chris Gragg with three seconds left) was aided by the Steelers' prevent defense late in the fourth quarter.

Player of the game: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell didn't post a boffo stat line, but he was the most important player in the Steelers' impressive ball-control game plan. He ran 22 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Bills player of the game: Defensive end Jerry Hughes recorded a pair of sacks. Each came on third down to force a punt.

Symbolic play of the game: The Bills were down only a touchdown when the Steelers lined up for a field goal in the third quarter. Marcell Dareus jumped and was flagged for encroachment, giving the Steelers first and goal at the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Bell scored his touchdown.

Preliminary injury report: Bills receiver Stevie Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. ... Receiver Chris Hogan was shaken up after making a catch late in the fourth quarter and went straight to the locker room. ... The Steelers had several injuries, including cornerback Shamarko Thomas, left guard Ramon Foster and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Coming up: The Bills will host the New York Jets next Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium and then go on their by week.

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" »

C.J. Spiller loses a reception; Dareus and Hughes share a sack

By Tim Graham

If you had C.J. Spiller in your fantasy lineup last weekend and beat your opponent by a couple points, then you're about to get angry.

The NFL has made some statistical changes for each of the Buffalo Bills' two games.

Spiller was erroneously given credit for a 12-yard reception with 1:28 left in the first half. The play was to Fred Jackson, changing his stat line to five catches for 35 yards. Spiller's stat line should now read three catches for 14 yards.

The NFL also reviewed the season opener against the New England Patriots and switched a Tom Brady run for minus-4 yards into a sack shared by Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes.

13 penalties pockmark valiant Bills effort against Patriots

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills committed a penalty on the first play of their season opener.

The Bills committed a penalty on their sixth offensive snap.

The Bills committed seven penalties before the New England Patriots were charged with one.

Subtract all those yellow flags and the Bills might have pulled out an improbable victory today in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Instead, the Patriots stayed closed enough to win, 23-21, on a field goal with five seconds to play.

"There's some self-inflicted things we did today that you can't do against a team like that," Bills running back Fred Jackson said.

Continue reading "13 penalties pockmark valiant Bills effort against Patriots" »

Leslie Frazier suggests Bills' D game-planned for exhibition

By Tim Graham

The Minnesota Vikings weren't prepared for what the defense they faced Friday night.

Teams usually don't game-plan for preseason exhibitions or constantly call blitzes. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier didn't sound too appreciative for what the Buffalo Bills unleashed defensively.

"Everybody has they way of approaching the preseason, and that's their choice," Frazier said after the Bills beat the Vikings, 20-16, in Ralph Wilson Stadium. "We'll keep moving forward.

"They did some good things. It's preseason. They have the option to do whatever they want to do."

The Bills blitzed throughout the game. They recorded four sacks, with defensive end Jerry Hughes tallying a pair. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and linebacker Marcus Dowtin had one apiece. The Bills also had five quarterback hits and six tackles for losses.

Continue reading "Leslie Frazier suggests Bills' D game-planned for exhibition" »

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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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