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First-quarter analysis: Red-zone struggles on full display

By Jay Skurski

A 6-0 lead after the opening quarter sounds pretty good for the Buffalo Bills, but it’s easy to be disappointed by it.

The Bills twice have had to settle for field goals inside the red zone today against the Baltimore Ravens at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with Dan Carpenter converting both times from 27 yards out.

The Bills are now failed to score a touchdown in their past five trips inside the red zone, settling for Carpenter field goals each time.

The Bills’ first drive of the game covered 64 yards in 11 plays and took 4:43 off the clock. The big play was a 26-yard completion from EJ Manuel to T.J. Graham on a third-and-9 play from the Baltimore 40-yard line, setting the Bills up at the Ravens’ 14. The drive stalled when on third and 3 from the Baltimore 7, Manuel was sacked by Terrell Suggs.

The Bills’ next drive also stalled when Manuel scrambled on a third-and-7 play from the Baltimore 14-yard line, sliding down 2 yards short of the first down.  After missing his first field goal of the season, Carpenter has now made nine straight.

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Red-zone struggles on full display" »

First-quarter analysis: Defense can't get off the field

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills’ defense couldn’t get off the field to start today’s game against the New York Jets.

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith led the Jets’ offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession of the game, converting third downs of 7, 17 and 3 yards along the way. Smith finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper up the middle. He got a boost over the goal line by Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, who made a poor play by pushing the Jets’ quarterback into the end zone.

Later in the quarter, the Jets converted a third-and-13 situation.

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Defense can't get off the field" »

Snap counts: Nigel Bradham gets all of one play against Carolina

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone made sure to let everyone know after the season opener against the New England Patriots that he was pleased with linebacker Nigel Bradham's performance, despite him playing just 19 snaps.

That number was drastically reduced Sunday, as Bradham was on the field for just one defensive snap.

"I really didn't expect that, but it just happened that way," Bradham said today of his playing time. "As the weeks go on, we'll see what happens. Hopefully I get more reps."

Bradham said he had no idea that he would be used so sparingly against the Panthers.

"I've just got to control what I can control and keep focusing on trying to become a better linebacker," he said.

Other items of note from the Bills' snap count numbers against Carolina:

Continue reading "Snap counts: Nigel Bradham gets all of one play against Carolina" »

CB Johnny Adams called up from practice squad; Jay Ross released

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills added another cornerback to their 53-man roster this afternoon by promoting rookie Johnny Adams from the practice squad.

Adams, 24, is a 5-foot-11, 177-pound rookie out of Michigan State. He originally signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft, and also spent time with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with the Bills' practice squad earlier this month.

Adams started 39 games and played in 54 for the Spartans, making 157 tackles, 35 passes defensed and 11 interceptions. He becomes the fifth healthy cornerback on the Bills' roster, behind Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Nickell Robey and Brandon Burton. The Bills also have the injured Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot) on the roster.

To make room for Adams, the Bills released defensive tackle Jay Ross. Ross, 25, was a healthy inactive Sunday. He spent most of last season on the practice squad, appearing in one game.

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)

Cornerback depth could become an even bigger concern

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills cornerback Ron Brooks did not speak with the media this morning, but he did make a brief stop in the locker room -- on crutches.

Brooks left Sunday's 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots with a foot injury, coach Doug Marrone said after the game. The second-year man from LSU -- who missed the first half of his rookie season because of a broken foot -- played just 10 defensive snaps, although that had as much to do with his spot on the depth chart as it did the injury.

Rookie undrafted free agent Nickell Robey played ahead of Brooks in the team's nickel package as the third cornerback behind starters Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers. Brooks, however, came in on certain dime packages.

Continue reading "Cornerback depth could become an even bigger concern" »

Doug Marrone says replacing Stephon Gilmore a four-player job

By Jay Skurski

When Justin Rogers sat out last week's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, it was assumed he'd be starting opposite Leodis McKelvin at cornerback in Sunday's season opener against New England in place of the injured Stephon Gilmore.

While that still may be the case, Bills coach Doug Marrone has pumped the brakes on calling Rogers, McKelvin or anyone else on the roster a starter.

"We have four corners that we're rotating through right now depending on what packages and what personnel groups are out there," Marrone said, referring to McKelvin, Rogers, Nickell Robey and Ron Brooks. "We'll make that decision as the week goes on who takes the first snap."

McKelvin and Rogers did line up with the first team Monday at practice. The Bills also claimed Brandon Burton off waivers from Minnesota. Marrone said the team likes Burton's size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and ability to play press coverage.

But with less than a week to learn a new defensive scheme, it would seem the Bills will be leaning on McKelvin, Rogers, Brooks and Robey to defend Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense. New England has averaged 40 points per game in their last six against Buffalo, going 5-1 in that time.

"I feel we're going to get great production out of those guys we put out there. Right now we're planning on putting people out there rotating through and getting the same amount of production," Marrone said. "Obviously it’s difficult; Stephon Gilmore is a very good player for us. We have to try to get that same productivity out of a couple of players now rather than what we were getting out of one."

Brandon Burton coming to Bills, as per Brandon Burton

Burton
The Bills have reportedly added former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Brandon Burton to their 53-man roster. (Associated Press)

 

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly filled one of the three holes on their 53-man roster with cornerback Brandon Burton.

While there has been no official announcement from the team, that report comes directly from the player himself, on his verified Twitter page.

Burton, 24, is a former fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2011. He played in 14 games over the past two seasons with the team, including one start, before being released Saturday. Burton, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, played collegiately at Utah.

The Bills now have five healthy cornerbacks on the roster: Burton, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks and Nickell Robey. No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore is also on the active roster as he recovers from a broken wrist.

Stephon Gilmore out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills will be without top cornerback Stephon Gilmore for 6-8 weeks because of a broken wrist.

Coach Doug Marrone delivered that sobering news following practice today. Gilmore, 22, was hurt during the Bills' 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday.

"We felt really good about him and he's put a lot of work in to try to be the best player at his position. I give him a lot of credit for that," coach Doug Marrone said. "He's really had an outstanding camp and has really played extremely well for us. It’s unfortunate the amount of work that he’s put in, but to be in a situation now where he’s not going to be able to participate for a period of time.

"Whenever you lose a player like that -- we consider a very good player -- someone has to step up and play that position."

Continue reading "Stephon Gilmore out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist" »

Doug Marrone sees red over penalties

By Jay Skurski

PITTSFORD -- Doug Marrone's patience regarding the Buffalo Bills' propensity to take penalties officially ran out this morning.

Marrone temporarily paused practice and absolutely lit his team up after there was movement along the offensive line inside the red zone.

His frustration is understandable. Through the first two preseason games, the Bills have been flagged a whopping 23 times for 180 yards.

Continue reading "Doug Marrone sees red over penalties" »

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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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