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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.

Injury updates on Thad Lewis, C.J. Spiller, rookie receivers

By Jay Skurski

EJ Manuel's potential return dominated the majority of coach Doug Marrone's press conference today, but the Buffalo Bills' coach also provided injury updates on several key offensive players.

The rundown:

• Backup quarterback Thad Lewis went through a throwing session and is expected to return to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs because of bruised ribs.

"He's getting better each day," Marrone said.

• Running back C.J. Spiller made it through Sunday's game without worsening his high-ankle sprain.

"I talked to C.J. afterward and he said he felt good," the coach said. "The one concern was when someone landed on it, how would he feel? He said one of those big defensive tackles landed on it. I told him, 'Well heck, if a defensive tackle, one of their defensive tackles, lands on it and you're ok, you should be fine.' "

• Rookie receivers Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) and Robert Woods (ankle), both of whom left Sunday's game, will be evaluated Wednesday when the team returns to practice.

On Goodwin, Marrone said: "When you have that, we've just got to get him out on the field and see how he is, so I don't really know right now. I'll know a lot when we get on the field and he can go ahead and test it."

As for Woods, the situation was much the same.

"We'll rest him through the next two days, today and tomorrow, and then see him on the field," Marrone said.

Third-quarter analysis: Jeff Tuel's pick-six swings momentum

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills were on the doorstep of a 17-3 lead today against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel threw an ill-advised pass that was intended for T.J. Graham. The ball was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith, making it a tie game, 10-10. That completely deflated the sell-out crowd here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Tuel's interception came after Fred Jackson was stuffed twice on run plays from the 1-yard line. It ended a drive that featured a 61-yard run by C.J. Spiller on the first play of the third quarter.

Continue reading "Third-quarter analysis: Jeff Tuel's pick-six swings momentum" »

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" »

Game ball: Bills 23, Ravens 20

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" »

Third-quarter analysis: Second round looking strong

By Jay Skurski

It’s early, but it’s looking like the Buffalo Bills may have hit a pair of home runs in the second round of this year’s draft with linebacker Kiko Alonso and wide receiver Robert Woods.

Woods stepped up after halftime for the Bills, making a pair of catches that covered 43 yards on the team’s opening drive of the third quarter, helping to set up a field goal. Later in the quarter, Woods made a terrific catch to complete a two-point conversion following Fred Jackson’s touchdown. That tied the game at 14-14.

Costly flag: The Bills have had plenty of issues with penalties this season, but the costliest flag so far may have been the one issued to fullback Frank Summers in the third quarter. Summers was called for defensive holding before a Carolina punt, giving the Panthers an automatic first down. Four plays later, Cam Newton connected on a 40-yard bomb with Ted Ginn Jr. for a touchdown.

Injury issues: The Panthers have been hit hard by injuries in the secondary. Cornerback Josh Thomas suffered a concussion in the second quarter, then the Panthers lost cornerback Josh Norman and safeties Charles Godfrey and Quintin Mikell in the third quarter. Mikell later returned to the game.

First turnover: Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's first career turnover came late in the third quarter. Manuel was sacked by Mikell, fumbling in the process. The ball was recovered for Carolina by former Bill Dwan Edwards.

13 penalties pockmark valiant Bills effort against Patriots

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills committed a penalty on the first play of their season opener.

The Bills committed a penalty on their sixth offensive snap.

The Bills committed seven penalties before the New England Patriots were charged with one.

Subtract all those yellow flags and the Bills might have pulled out an improbable victory today in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Instead, the Patriots stayed closed enough to win, 23-21, on a field goal with five seconds to play.

"There's some self-inflicted things we did today that you can't do against a team like that," Bills running back Fred Jackson said.

Continue reading "13 penalties pockmark valiant Bills effort against Patriots" »

Points after: Patriots 23, Bills 21

Tom Brady and the Patriots rallied in the closing minutes. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel played a clean game, and the Bills' defense capitalized on some fortunate bounces to nearly propel them past the heavily favored defending AFC East champions.

Bills star of the game: With running back C.J. Spiller struggling to gain yards, Fred Jackson became the featured offensive player. He finished with 13 carries for 67 yards and four catches for 41 yards.

Patriots star of the game: Wide receiver Danny Amendola made several clutch receptions and kept the chains moving. He finished with 10 catches for 104 yards.

Play of the game: Patriots running Stevan Ridley fumbled while making a cut but wasn't touched. Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy picked up the ball and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown with 8:25 left in the second quarter.

Swing moment of the game: With barely more than a minute left in the first half and the Bills down by 10 points, cornerback Justin Rogers made a fantastic interception at the Patriots' 37-yard line on a Tom Brady pass intended for tight end Zach Sudfeld. Two plays later, Manuel threw his first NFL touchdown and Robert Woods caught his first NFL touchdown. Then the Bills scored on the first possession of the second half -- Manuel to Stevie Johnson -- for a 21-17 lead they very nearly held onto.

Stat line of the game: Manuel completed 18 of his 27 throws for 150 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his NFL debut. He also ran three times for 23 yards.

Stat line of the game II: The Bills' first quarter consisted of 38 yards of offense, a fumble, a near-interception and four penalties for 35 yards.

Penalties a problem: The Bills committed 13 penalties. Ten of them were accepted for losses of 75 yards.

Preliminary injury report: Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin left right before halftime with a hand injury and did not return. ... Searcy missed much of the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury.

Coming up: The Bills will host the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. next Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

For Bills' bubble receivers, preseason finale an unfair catch

By Tim Graham

A few Buffalo Bills wide receivers went into Thursday night's preseason finale fighting for their livelihoods. They needed opportunities, as many plays as possible, quality passes to catch.

With less than eight minutes left in a 35-13 loss to the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium, Bills wide receivers had three catches for 12 yards.

Roster aspirants Brad Smith, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Brandon Kaufman haven't had it easy. They spent the summer catching passes from two rookies and a veteran journeyman who has missed much of camp with injuries and a family funeral.

Then, with their jobs on the line Thursday night and 53-man roster cuts due at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Bills used a pair of quarterbacks who weren't on the team four days earlier.

Continue reading "For Bills' bubble receivers, preseason finale an unfair catch" »

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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 |

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 |

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 |