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Kiko Alonso first at ILB, fourth among all D-men in Pro Bowl votes

By Tim Graham

Need more proof fans are smitten with Kiko Alonso?

The Buffalo Bills' rookie leads all inside linebackers in Pro Bowl voting. He has almost twice as many votes as Luke Kuechly and more than twice the votes of Patrick Willis.

The weekly Pro Bowl update shows Alonso has 265,232 votes, more than 72,000 votes ahead of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee in second place.

In fact, Alonso ranks fourth among all defensive players. The only defenders with more votes are Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman at 367,076, Houston Texans end J.J. Watt at 278,737 and Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas at 277,482.

Fan ballots make up one-third of the Pro Bowl selection process. Players and coaches comprise the rest.

Other Bills among the top 10 candidates in fan voting are Mario Williams (second to Watt among defensive ends), Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams (third and fourth at defensive tackle behind Dontari Poe and Jason Hatcher), Aaron Williams (sixth at strong safety), Dan Carpenter (10th at kicker) and Marcus Easley (10th among special-teamers).

Kyle Williams-Marcell Dareus pairing impresses Gerald McCoy

By Jay Skurski

There will be an embarrassment of defensive tackle riches on the field Sunday in Raymond James Stadium when the Buffalo Bills visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bills' defensive tackle duo of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus is the best in the NFL, according to Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, a good judge of talent considering he made the Pro Bowl last season at the position.

"That tandem I think is the best D-tackle tandem in the NFL," McCoy said this afternoon on a conference call with the Buffalo media. "When you get those guys going, it's hard to slow them down. Not to mention you've got Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes coming off the edge, but those two guys in the middle, that's what makes the engine run."

Williams and Dareus have combined for 108 tackles and 13 sacks this season -- most in the NFL for a defensive tackle pairing.

"Kyle, he's a vet, and he's been doing it for a lot of years," McCoy said. "Marcell, he's been dominant since college. There's a reason he was the third overall pick. I think this year is really a breakout year for him. He's starting to really show what he can be when he wants to be. When he goes, it's hard to find anybody better. So those two together, they're definitely dominant."

McCoy likewise was a third overall pick, the year before Dareus in 2010. He's already set career highs with 33 tackles and six sacks through 12 games.

"That's going to be hard for me to answer. I don't really like talking about myself, but I'll try and come up with something," McCoy said when asked what has gone right for him personally this year. "At the beginning of this season, I was asked 'how do you build off a Pro Bowl year?' I told the media I didn't want to remain stagnant. I just wanted to get better and move forward, to build off of last year. I think I've been able to do that."

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: Weather winning so far

By Jay Skurski

It’s shaping up to be a long day for the offenses of both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Neither team has gotten on the scoreboard after one quarter of play. The Jets had the best chance, but a 48-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk was pushed wide right by the wind.

Folk started the ball to the left of the uprights, but the wind carried it way right.

The Jets have punted twice on three possessions, while the Bills have punted twice. Both have been good punts by Brian Moorman – going 39 yards each time, with no return. The second Moorman punt went out of bounds at the Jets’ 6-yard line.

Geno briefly hurt: Jets quarterback Geno Smith was attended to by trainers on New York’s first possession of the game after taking a big hit by Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Smith got up after the hit, but then fell back to the turf. He appeared to get hit in the ribs. After being helped up, Smith walked off under his own power. Backup Matt Simms came in for one play, handing the ball off, before Smith came back in.

Gilmore beat again: Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to struggle this season. Gilmore had tight coverage on Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, but never located the ball and Holmes was able to grab it for a 35-yard gain, helping New York set up Folk’s field-goal attempt.

Bad penalty: Blocking tight end Lee Smith took a bad false start penalty for the Bills prior to a third-and-1 play at the New York 41-yard line. On the following play, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel’s pass was batted down by Muhammad Wilkerson. 

Points after: Steelers 23, Bills 10

19968 McCoy Sports Bills #8


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.

Third-quarter analysis: Stephon Gilmore gets picked on again

By Jay Skurski   

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to have a target on his back today against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Gilmore was victimized again by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who connected with receiver Antonio Brown for a 40-yard gain on Pittsburgh's first play of their second offensive series in the third quarter. That got the Steelers down to the Bills' 18-yard line. 

Five plays later, rookie running back Le'Veon Bell ran in from 4 yards out to give Pittsburgh a 17-3 lead.

Costly penalty: Marcell Dareus made a big play early in the third quarter when he forced a fumble by Roethlisberger on a third down, which led to a Pittsburgh punt. But Dareus made a critical mistake later in the quarter when he jumped offside on a fourth-and-3 play on which the Steelers were going to attempt a field goal. That gave Pittsburgh a first down, leading to Bell's touchdown.

Day to forget: Bills punter Brian Moorman has struggled this afternoon. Moorman's two punts in the third quarter were both mediocre. The first went into the end zone for a touchback, and the second was returned 24 yards by Antonio Brown. That meant Moorman had a net average of just 24.5 yards on the two punts.

Third-down struggles: The Bills' offense went just 1 of 4 on third downs in the third quarter, continuing a trend from the first half, when the team was just 1 of 6.

Bills must pick up statistical pace over final eight games

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' season is halfway over, and I know how to multiply by two.

So look out.

We've heard much about Mario Williams being on pace to break Bruce Smith's club record for sacks. Overall, however, the Bills are trending toward some disconcerting stats for coach Doug Marrone's first campaign.

Before we take a gander at the numbers, consider the 3-5 Bills have faced a slightly tougher schedule than they will in the second half of the season.

Continue reading "Bills must pick up statistical pace over final eight games" »

Marcell Dareus on his way to destroying last year's stat line

By Tim Graham

On the subject of breakout seasons, Buffalo Bills fans are most likely to think of rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso.

But as Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan wrote for today's paper, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus consistently has been showing elite skills so far.

The third overall pick of the 2011 draft was pretty good as a rookie but took a step backward last year while dealing with the death of a younger brother in a shooting.

Dareus is on pace to obliterate his stats from last year, when he finished with 26 tackles, five for losses and 5.5 sacks.

Continue reading "Marcell Dareus on his way to destroying last year's stat line" »

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" »

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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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