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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).

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.

Bills getting healthy; C.J. Spiller off injury report first time in 7 weeks

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' injury report is notable for names that don't appear on it.

Only three players didn't practice today, and all of them could play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
  • Wide receiver Robert Woods (ankle)
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles)

Everybody else was a full participant. Nobody was listed as limited.

That means quarterback EJ Manuel, running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, receiver Stevie Johnson and defensive end Mario Williams are healthy.

Manuel has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Spiller (ankle), Jackson (knee), Johnson (hip) and Mario Williams (hip) all were listed on last week's injury report.

Today was the first time Spiller hadn't been on the injury report since before the Week Four game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"That's exciting," Marrone said. "The more we can get his hands on the ball, there's an opportunity for him to make a big play. That's something we're always striving to do."

Kyle Williams regularly sits out Wednesday's practice to cool his heels.

Goodwin and Woods are recovering from injuries suffered in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their availability is less certain.

Marrone said "I don't feel as good about Robert Woods being able to play," but said Goodwin is expected to practice some Thursday.

Woods is a versatile receiver who can play inside and outside. If Woods doesn't dress, then Chris Hogan would pick up some inside duties, and Marcus Easley could help on the outside.

Mario Williams on injury report; C.J. Spiller's return probable

By Tim Graham

Amid today's quarterback talk, Buffalo Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams slipped onto the injury report.

Williams is considered probable for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a hip injury.

Bills coach Doug Marrone also announced today running back C.J. Spiller is probable after being held out of last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints with an ankle injury.

Out

  • Quarterback EJ Manuel (knee)

Doubtful

  • Quarterback Thad Lewis (ribs)

Questionable

  • Wide receiver Chris Hogan (back)

Probable

  • Running back Fred Jackson (knee)
  • Running back C.J. Spiller (ankle)
  • Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hip)
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (elbow)
  • Right guard Kraig Urbik (knee)
  • Defensive end Mario Williams (hip)
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles)
  • Linebacker Manny Lawson (hamstring)

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" »

Game ball: Saints 35, Bills 17

Mario Williams named AFC defensive player of week

By Mark Gaughan

Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams has been named AFC defensive player of the week for his two-sack performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Of course, that included a forced fumble against Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill that set up the winning field goal by the Bills. It's the second time in seven weeks Williams has won the honor.

Williams' 10 sacks are tied for second in the NFL with Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston. Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis has 11.5 sacks.

The Bills' single-season team record for sacks is 19 by Bruce Smith in 1990. Smith's second-best total was 15 in 1986. Bryce Paup had 17.5 sacks for the Bills in 1995.

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" »

Audio: Reviewing big Bills victory with Shredd and Ragan

By Tim Graham

There was a lot to take in from the Buffalo Bills' impressive 23-21 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

This morning's segment with Shredd and Ragan on 103.3 The Edge included a lot more happy talk than usual after a Bills road game.

  • Fred Jackson as a mythical Western New York figure.
  • Undrafted rookie Nickell Robey's inspired play.
  • What to make of Thad Lewis.
  • Mario Williams coming up big at the end of the game.
  • Whether the Bills missed out by not returning Brandon Gibson's interest.
  • How few alleged Dolfans actually give a damn about their team.

The audio file is 23 minutes of auditory euphoria. If you choose to listen, your life will be impacted in ways you never could've imagined.

Game ball: Bills 23, Dolphins 21

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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