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Doug Marrone wants Marquise Goodwin to get more chances

By Tim Graham

Doug Marrone wants to give Marquise Goodwin more work.

Marrone wants T.J. Graham to work more.

As colleague Miguel Rodriguez wrote earlier today, the Buffalo Bills' speedy receivers have been shut out over the past two games.

After they combined for eight catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns in a big victory over the New York Jets with leading receiver Stevie Johnson sidelined, Goodwin and Graham have been targeted nine times -- all unsuccessfully -- in losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Goodwin had zero targets Sunday.

"We could get them more involved," Marrone said today at One Bills Drive. "I think those guys have talent. No doubt, they have talent. They have, obviously, better-than-average speed.

"We have to get a way to get the right group of people in the game that can be productive. That's what we're looking at with anybody."

Asked specifically about Goodwin and Graham having zero catches in back-to-back games, Marrone noted he has spoken to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about getting one of them more opportunities.

"Marquise Goodwin -- and I've talked to Coach Hackett about this -- we have to get him in there more," Marrone said. "I think T.J. has to keep working and become more consistent."

Goodwin, a third-round rookie, has 16 receptions for 261 yards. His three receiving touchdowns are tied with Johnson for the team lead.

Graham, a third-round draft choice last year, has 18 catches for 272 yards and one touchdown.

Bills enter last quarter of the season quite healthy

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills will be healthy for Sunday's road game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bills coach Doug Marrone announced only receiver Marquise Goodwin (calf) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles) are on the final injury report, and each is probable.

Tight end Scott Chandler was back at practice after his wife gave birth to another girl Thursday night. Chandler will make the trip to Tampa.

Marrone revealed Thursday that newly signed tight end Tony Moeaki likely will not play Sunday.

Marquise Goodwin, Scott Chandler added to Bills' injury report

By Jay Skurski

Rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin suffered a minor calf injury that forced him to leave today's practice early, Bills coach Doug Marrone said earlier today.

Marrone, though, expects Goodwin to be available to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Tight end Scott Chandler missed today's practice, but it was not injury related. Marrone said Chandler's wife, Alissa, is expecting a baby.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams returned to practice on a full basis after getting his usual rest day Wednesday.

On the Buccaneers' side, receiver Vincent Jackson was limited for a second straight day because of a hamstring injury.

"You never know," Schiano told Tampa reporters about Jackson's availability. "When you have a leg injury and you're a receiver, your legs are your life and you've got to be able to run. We'll see when we give it a go, which I don't know when that will be -- if it will be tomorrow, or Saturday or Sunday. Vince is a pro. He'll know if he can do it or not, so it will be up to him."

Bucs receiver Chris Owusu was added to the Bucs' injury report as a limited participant today because of a hamstring injury.

NFL Sunday Outtakes: Rules taking club foot out of kicker's bag

By Tim Graham

Where have all the kick returns gone?

They've become mostly immaterial.

Only three kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns this year. The NFL is on pace for four kickoff TDs by season's end, fewest since 1993.

The Buffalo Bills are among three teams on track to challenge the 1944 New York Giants for fewest kickoff returns. Those Giants made 17 returns in a 10-game season.

For this week's NFL Sunday feature in The Buffalo News, I dialed up legends Brian Mitchell, Mel Gray and Abe Woodson -- 29,802 kickoff return yards, 8,708 punt return yards and 29 return touchdowns among them -- for their perspectives on a part of the game that's not as thrilling as it used to be.

Bills coach Doug Marrone and returners Leodis McKelvin and Marquise Goodwin also shared their thoughts about a supposed team strength that has been nonexistent.

Here's another perspective. Kickers are being impacted, too.

"The reason they're getting fazed out is a safety issue," Bills kicker Dan Carpenter said. "They're trying to eliminate or cut down on the high-end collisions."

With concussions a hot-button issue, the NFL has made it more difficult for return men to make plays. Blocking wedges larger than two players were eliminated in 2009. The kickoff spot was moved from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line in 2011.

Kickers are driving the ball. Return men are more reluctant to bring out kicks that fall deep in the end zone.

Touchbacks occur on 53 percent of kickoffs now, up from 16.4 percent in 2010. They happened about 8 or 9 percent of the time from 2000 through 2005.

The NFL has considered eliminating kickoffs completely.

"It's tough when you only do certain things in your job title," Carpenter said. "The thought that one of those things might be taken away ... Obviously, the game would change. Our position and what teams are looking for in a kicker would change."

Carpenter probably would benefit if kickoffs vanished. He's an accurate field-goal kicker but isn't consistent at deep kickoffs.

He has made 92 percent of his field goals this year and three of his four tries from 50 yards or longer. His touchback percentage is 10 points below the league average.

"Kickers probably could hang around longer," Carpenter said. "There are only a couple reasons teams cut kickers. Either you miss too many field goals or you can't kick the ball as far as you once used to."

And if kickoffs were phased out?

"Guys who kick the ball will be accurate for field goals and not worry about kicking off," Carpenter said. "You won't have to work on that anymore. You won't get those young guys who come out and just crush the ball because it won't be as relevant.

"It will come down more to fundamentals than strength. It's like with golf. If every hole was less than 300 yards, nobody would own a driver. You'd throw them away. There's no point in having those clubs."

Game ball: Bills 37, Jets 14

Points after: Bills 37, Jets 14

6556026  McCoy Sports Bills

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' decisive victory over the New York Jets in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills snapped a three-game losing streak and avenged an ugly Week Three loss to the Jets. The Bills still are in the AFC East basement at 4-7, but they have to feel good about how they played. Bills rookie EJ Manuel returns to "future franchise quarterback" material (for the time being, anyway) with a strong bounce-back performance.

Players of the game: Bills safety Jairus Byrd and defensive tackle Kyle Williams were studs. Byrd had a sack and two interceptions. He dropped Geno Smith on a third-and-3 play in the second quarter to forcing a punt and grabbed an interception for the second straight week to set up a field goal right before halftime. He picked off another in the third quarter. Williams had two sacks in the first half and forced a fumble to set up a touchdown.

Manuel transmission: Geno Smith won the rookie QB showdown in the first game, but Manuel was far superior today. Manuel was 20 of 28 for 245 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. Smith completed eight of his 23 yards for 103 yards and no TDs with three interceptions and a lost fumble. Matt Simms replaced Smith with 12:55 left in the game.

Play of the game: After the Jets scored their first touchdown to make it 20-7 in the third quarter, Manuel responded with a 43-yard strike to Marquise Goodwin and put the Jets back in their place.

Milestone TD: Bills fullback Frank Summers, playing in his 13th NFL game since he got drafted in 2009, scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. It was the first TD of his career.

Preliminary injury report: Fred Jackson writhed on the ground 2:27 into the second half with an apparent left knee injury. He returned to the game on the next series. ... Defensive tackle Kyle Williams went to the locker room with 7:18 left in the third quarter but came back quickly after getting retaped.

Coming up: The Bills are on their bye week. They will return to action Dec. 1 against the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto.

Third-quarter analysis: Bills dial up the deep ball

By Jay Skurski

If the rest of this Buffalo Bills season is about looking for improvement out of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, the third quarter today at Ralph Wilson Stadium would be a good place to start.

Manuel hit consecutive deep passes to T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin, covering 83 yards in just two plays to give the Bills a 27-7 lead at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Manuel first hit Graham down the left sideline after the receiver beat rookie Dee Milliner in coverage. The play was reviewed after the Jets challenged whether Graham was in bounds, and was upheld.

On the next play, Goodwin smoked Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie down the right sideline and hauled in a 43-yard touchdown catch. The drive lasted all of 27 seconds.

Pick six: The Bills went ahead, 34-7, on a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Da'Norris Searcy. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has turned the ball over four times, losing one fumble and throwing three interceptions.

Still Byrd watching: Safety Jairus Byrd is having the type of game that shows why he's one of the best players in the NFL at his position. Byrd again read Smith perfectly, and picked him off for the second time. Near the end of the quarter, Byrd came in on a safety blitz and labled Smith a split second after he threw the ball.

Fred down, then back up: Bills running back Fred Jackson provided a temporary scare early in the third quarter when he was hit on the left knee by Jets safety Dawan Landry. Jackson stayed down after the hit, and was attended to by the team's training staff. He walked to the sideline under his own power, however, and returned to the game later in the quarter.

Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods had 23 targets in first Jets game

By Tim Graham

The last time the Buffalo Bills played the New York Jets, quarterback EJ Manuel targeted Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods 23 times.

Johnson and Woods have been ruled out for Sunday's rematch in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said they would go with their four healthy receivers.

T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley will need to pick up the slack. Goodwin is the only one of that group with a touchdown this year. Easley made his first NFL catch last week.

Tight ends Scott Chandler and Chris Gragg will be even more important. Gragg also caught his first NFL passes last Sunday, but one of them was a touchdown.

Johnson leads the Bills with 41 catches, 471 yards and three touchdowns. Woods is second among wide receivers with 26 catches, 349 yards and two touchdowns.

Stevie Johnson's chances of playing Sunday not looking good

By Jay Skurski

Stevie Johnson missed his second straight practice Thursday, putting his availability for Sunday's game against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium in serious doubt.

"I don't feel as good about him being able to play, but I can't officially rule him out yet," coach Doug Marrone said after practice.

Johnson injured his right groin in a Week 10 loss at Pittsburgh.

Marrone said the team will not call up a receiver from the practice squad, meaning the options for EJ Manuel at the position will be T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley. Rookie Robert Woods has been ruled out because of an ankle injury.

Safety Da'Norris Searcy returned to practice on a limited basis today after sitting out Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.

"I have no issues there. Unless he has a setback during the week, he should be in great shape," Marrone said.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles) was also back as a full participant at practice today after taking his usual rest day Wednesday.

Second-quarter analysis: Steelers control the clock

By Jay Skurski

The Pittsburgh Steelers played keep away from the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter today at Heinz Field.

The Steelers dominated time of possession,with an 11:42 to 3:18 advantage, opening up a 10-3 halftime lead on the Bills.

Pittsburgh scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery, who once again beat Stephon Gilmore in coverage. 

That capped a nine-play, 86-yard drive. 

Williams comes through: Kyle Williams came up with a big defensive play for the Bills when he sacked Roethlisberger on a third-and-goal play from the 7-yard line. That forced Pittsburgh to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. 

Still looking: Tight end Chris Gragg is still without a catch for the Buffalo Bills in his rookie season. Gragg had a great chance in the second quarter, but dropped a good throw from rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The drop negated what would have been a positivef play for the Bills, as Gragg had room to run. 

Wind whipping: Suisham's field goal from 36 yards hit a wall of wind, which seems to be swirling. Kicking off in the same direction, Suisham was able to power it through the end zone, negating an opportunity for Marquise Goodwin. 

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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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