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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" »

First-quarter analysis: A dream start

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills couldn’t have scripted a better start to tonight’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

The Bills forced a three and out on their first defensive series, got a 25-yard punt return from Jim Leonhard deep into Cleveland territory, then scored a touchdown on their third offensive play – a 1-yard rush by running back Fred Jackson. Buffalo got the ball on the Browns’ 1-yard line after a bit of trickery on their second play. Receiver T.J. Graham threw a deep pass intended for Stevie Johnson in the end zone on a reverse. Johnson was interfered with on the play by the Browns’ top cornerback, Joe Haden, a 29-yard penalty.

On the next play, Jackson dove in for a touchdown just 1:39 into the game.

Hoyer goes down: Cleveland starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was hurt after running just seven plays. Hoyer scrambled for 11 yards on a second-down play on Cleveland’s second possession. At the end of the run, he slid late and was tackled by Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso. Hoyer has a knee injury, and his return is questionable.

Leodis, C.J. active, but don’t start: Cornerback Leodis McKelvin and running back C.J. Spiller both are dressed for the Bills tonight, but neither started. McKelvin did, however, come in for a third-down play on the Bills’ first possession, and has been on the field extensively since. Spiller, however, has been seen for just one play, and does not have any rushes. He appears to be an emergency option for the Bills behind Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice.

Carpenter good from deep: Bills kicker Dan Carpenter is making things interesting. He drilled a 52-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 10-0 lead. After missing his first field goal of the season, he’s made 11 straight. With rookie Dustin Hopkins yet to prove himself because of a groin injury that has kept him out the first five weeks, Carpenter is making a push to at least be considered for the job full time.

Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When I spoke to eight-time Pro Bowl guard Stevie Wisniewski for my NFL Sunday story about overcoming penalties, he shared with me a stat from when he was a coaching intern for John Harbaugh at Stanford.

"If you're minus-one or minus-two in turnovers and also have a net difference of over 30 yards in penalties," Wisniewski said, "it's about impossible to win a game. That doesn't matter who you're playing."

Wisniewski couldn't recall the exact number, but said he thought teams lose 98 percent of the time they're overmatched in penalties and turnovers like that.

Continue reading "Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years" »

Bills banged up: Mario, C.J., McKelvin among injured group

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Buffalo Bills' defense is in tatters. They're hurting on offense, too.

While surrendering 513 yards in a 27-20 loss to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands today, the Bills lost several important players to injuries.

Running back C.J. Spiller, defensive ends Mario Williams and Alex Carrington and cornerback Leodis McKelvin were sidelined with injuries and couldn't finish the game. Right guard Kraig Urbik also left with a knee injury and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus missed time with an ankle injury.

Bills coach Doug Marrone didn't have an update on Williams, who was spotted limping mightily in the corridor outside the locker room after the game. Williams didn't have crutches, but he labored to walk after getting an X-ray.

Continue reading "Bills banged up: Mario, C.J., McKelvin among injured group" »

Second-quarter analysis: Offensive woes start in red zone

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills came into today’s game having scored touchdowns on four of their first five trips into the red zone this season.

That success evaporated in the second quarter. The Bills had consecutive drives reach the Jets’ 19- and 5-yard lines, respectively, and couldn’t finish off either drive with a touchdown, settling for Dan Carpenter field goals of 37 and 23 yards.

On the first red-zone possession, Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel overthrew rookie wideout Robert Woods on the right side of the end zone on a third-down play.

On the next drive, Manuel couldn’t find an open receiver on third and goal, electing to run, but gaining only a yard.

Continue reading "Second-quarter analysis: Offensive woes start in red zone" »

Doug Marrone: Bills were in position for Danny Amendola

By Tim Graham

Danny Amendola disemboweled the Buffalo Bills' pass defense Sunday.

Amendola, the New England Patriots' replacement for Wes Welker, was the MVP of a 23-21 victory in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Amendola had 10 receptions for 104 yards, but those stats tell only a smidgeon of the story. He was hobbled by a groin injury. Seven of his catches converted third downs into first downs.

He probably made some more catches in Doug Marrone's dreams Sunday night -- if the Bills' coach slept after such an emotional debut.

After reviewing the game film, Marrone couldn't find much fault with his defense.

"I wasn't discouraged about where we were on a lot of positioning where those balls were completed," Marrone said.

On the winning drive, Amendola caught all four passes Tom Brady threw to him for 26 yards and three first downs.

The critical grab came on a third-and-8 play from Buffalo's 39-yard line with just over a minute left. Amendola gained 10 yards. That play essentially sealed Buffalo's fate.

Marrone praised Amendola, who made several great catches from a Hall of Fame quarterback, rather than fault Buffalo's defense.

"Give them credit," Marrone said. "They had some good man-beaters when we were in man. There's a lot of times when we were right there. Sometimes when you play this game, and I've always been like this as a coach, you tip your hat off to them.

"Tom Brady and Amendola have that type of ability, and they did it."

Nobody could cover Amendola.

Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com noted Amendola made at least one catch against seven different Bills defensive backs. He made two apiece on Justin Rogers, Aaron Williams and Nickell Robey and one apiece on Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Da'Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard.

McKelvin was the only Bills defender to record a pass breakup while covering Amendola. PFF credited Amendola with 32 yards after the catch.

Here's a look at the third-down passes from Brady to Amendola:

  • Third and 7: Complete for 24 yards (first down)
  • Third and 10: Incomplete
  • Third and 4: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 3: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 6: Complete for 19 yards (first down)
  • Third and 10: Complete for 13 yards (first down)
  • Third and 3: Complete for 6 yards (first down)
  • Third and 8: Complete for 8 yards (first down)

Jairus Byrd on watching from the sideline: 'To be honest, it hurt'

By Tim Graham

For the first time in his career, Jairus Byrd watched his team play from the sideline.

"Different," Byrd said of the experience. "It was a really a weird feeling, actually.

"To be honest, it hurt. It's not a good feeling to watch a game like that. It's not cool. The way we lost made it worse."

The Bills were ahead of the New England Patriots with nine seconds left. The Patriots won, 23-21, on Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal.

Continue reading "Jairus Byrd on watching from the sideline: 'To be honest, it hurt'" »

Bills bring back Jim Leonhard

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills are rolling six deep at safety.

Coach Doug Marrone said today that the Bills will sign safety Jim Leonhard, provided he passes a team physical, which he was taking this afternoon. 

"We're waiting for the physical, but he's in the building," Marrone said.

Update: The Bills announced Leonhard's signing via email shortly after 3 p.m.

Leonhard should come in much further along than a normal player signing six days before the season opener. That's because he has plenty of experience playing on a defense run by coordinator Mike Pettine. 

After beginning his NFL career with the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2005, Leonhard signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. He spent one year there, then followed Pettine and coach Rex Ryan to the New York Jets in 2009. Leonhard spent three years in New York, and along with his season with the Ravens, that four-year stretch marks the most productive of his career. During that time, Leonhard started 53 of 56 games, made 254 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 sacks and 21 passes defensed.

"Yeah, that's a bonus," Marrone said of Leonhard's experience with Pettine. "He's played well."

Leonhard made a free-agent visit to the Bills prior to the 2012 season, but ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos, starting one game. Leonhard was in training camp with the New Orleans Saints, but was one of the team's final cuts.

Leonhard joins Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks on the Bills' 53-man roster.

Why it's important Bills clear room for some of Mike Pettine's Jets

By Tim Graham

When Rex Ryan left the Baltimore Ravens to become head coach of the New York Jets in 2009 and Mike Pettine came along as defensive coordinator, a significant part of their master plan was to sign former Raven defenders who could communicate the system to their new teammates.

The top two targets were linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard, who speak the same language Ryan and Pettine do. Scott and Leonhard made the on-field calls and explained the adjustments.

The Jets' defense thrived right away.

A similar transition could be in the works for the Buffalo Bills. A few weeks after hiring Pettine to be their defensive coordinator, the Bills today released linebacker Nick Barnett and safety George Wilson.

Continue reading "Why it's important Bills clear room for some of Mike Pettine's Jets" »

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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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