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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.

Stevie Johnson: It's all about accountability, sort of

By Jerry Sullivan

TAMPA, Fla. -- By now, I've come to learn that you never know what Stevie Johnson is going to do or say next.

After Sunday's 27-6 loss to the Bucs, he talked about the importance of players being accountable -- seconds after shrugging off a question about a pass that deflected off his hands for an interception.

Early in the second quarter, the Bills had a second-and-3 at their own 44. EJ Manuel threw a pass over the middle that bounced off Johnson's hands and was picked off by Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. The throw was a bit high, but Stevie should have caught it.

Here's what he had to say about the play later:

"That was early in the game and that's all I have to say about that. That don't really matter."

On the very next question, Johnson was asked what Doug Marrone's primary message had been to the team after the loss.

"Just accountability," Johnson said. "He came out and said we've got to be accountable for what's going on. We can't be afraid to speak our minds to each other. That's how you know you're playing with each other, when you got guys who can say whatever, not be just -- quote, unquote -- yes men. Got to be real with each other. That's what he was saying."

Evidently, suggesting that an interception didn't matter is Stevie's idea of being real and accountable. And you wonder why critics are saying the Bills should get rid of the guy.

Game ball: Buccaneers 27, Bills 6

Second-quarter analysis: From bad to worse

By Jay Skurski

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's season-long struggles on the road are continuing today in Raymond James Stadium.

Manuel threw a pair of interceptions in the second quarter, and the Buffalo offense is mustering very little against the Buccaneers, who lead 24-3 at halftime.

Buffalo turned the ball over three times in the second quarter -- including two interceptions from Manuel. The first was a good throw to Stevie Johnson that bounced off the receiver's hands, while the second was an absolute disaster of a throw intended for T.J. Graham.

Manuel is a brutal 6 of 15 for 54 yards and those two interceptions for a passer rating of 10.8. 

Glennon not much better: It hasn't been a great day for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon on the other side, either. Glennon went 8 of 20 in the first half, also throwing two interceptions. Glennon, however, has two touchdown passes, the second of which went to tight end Timothy Wright and gave the Bucs their 24-3 lead.

It's good: Buccaneers kicker Rian Lindell buried a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter. That had to fel good for the former Bills kicker, who last season was not counted on for 50-plus yard field-goal tries by the team's former coaching staff.

Tough call: Bills safety Jairus Byrd was hit with a personal foul penalty for roughing the passer late in the second quarter. Byrd came in on a blitz and tackled quarterback Mike Glennon. Officials ruled that Byrd hit Glennon below the knees.

Stevie Johnson on Darrelle Revis: 'We'll see who's the better man'

By Jerry Sullivan

Stevie Johnson will attempt to bounce back from his late, crucial fumble against the Atlanta Falcons when the Buffalo Bills travel to Tampa this weekend to take on the Buccaneers. He'll get a pretty stiff test --against his old nemesis, Darrelle Revis.

Johnson had a lot of success visiting Revis Island when the star cornerback was playing for the Jets. He couldn't say how much he'll see of Revis against the Bucs' zone defense.

"Who knows?" Johnson said. "I know we'll be competing. I feel like we'll match up more times than not, and when we do, we'll see who's the better man throughout the game. But once again, my concern is about getting the win, not an individual person."

Johnson is having his worst season in his four as a starter. Due to injuries and a dip in production, he has only 46 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns. He would need to average 119 yards a game to reach 1,000 for the fourth year in a row. Considering that Stevie hasn't had a 120-yard receiving game since November of 2010, that's not likely.

Bills coach Doug Marrone, who met with Johnson last week to discuss the wideout's general frustrations, said he met with him against after Johnson's fumble late in regulation cost the team dearly in Toronto.

Marrone wouldn't characterize either meeting as a "clear the air" session, but more so as a chance to reassure Johnson that things will be fine as the team moves forward.

""Yes, we did have another meeting," Marrone said. "You have to appreciate that my meetings with the players are private. But it's the same thing. What I'm trying to do is push this team forward, making sure that when we look back we learn from our mistakes, no matter what they may be."

Analytics site shows EJ Manuel is NFL's least-accurate passer

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills essentially are into evaluation phase for the rest of the season.

No player needs to absorb experience over the last four games more than rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.

The Bills and their weary fans still are learning about Manuel, who missed four games while recovering from a knee injury. He has looked good at times, and showed a flair for the dramatic with his game-winning touchdown drive against the Carolina Panthers in Week Two.

But one area of concern is his accuracy. Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com says Manuel has been the NFL's least-accurate passer this year.

Manuel ranks dead last out of the 30 quarterbacks who've handled at least 50 percent of their teams' pass plays. When the field is broadened to include quarterbacks who've handled 25 percent of their teams' pass plays, he is tied for 36th out of 38, ahead of only St. Louis Rams backup Kellen Clemens.

PFF's "quarterback accuracy percentage" metric takes a deeper look than standard completion percentage.

PFF gives the passer credit for dropped passes and does not consider the following incompletions: throwaways, spikes, batted passes or attempts while being hit.

Manuel's adjusted accuracy percentage is 66.4 percent, two-tenths of a percent worse than that of New York Jets rookie Geno Smith, who has completed 29 passes over his past four games.

On Manuel's 249 attempts, PFF counts 15 drops (he gets credit for a completion on those) plus two throwaways, one batted pass and four while being hit (he doesn't get faulted for any of those).

PFF's data tags Bills receiver Stevie Johnson for a team-high five drops, although that total also includes passes thrown by Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. Tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Robert Woods have four drops apiece.

But Manuel is in decent company at the bottom of PFF's chart. Tom Brady is ranked 20th, Colin Kaepernick 24th, Andrew Luck 25th, Eli Manning 26th and Joe Flacco 27th.

Aaron Rodgers ranks first, followed by Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

Doug Marrone: 'I'm struggling' to deal with anxiety of 4-8 record

By Tim Graham

Doug Marrone admitted that some questions provide a fleeting moment of relief.

When reporters remind him this was supposed to be a rebuilding season anyway or ask about the bounces that could've put the Buffalo Bills in the middle of the playoff race, Marrone conceded those are easy exits ramps to escape his angst.

Marrone, though, said he's not like that.

Marrone closed his eyes, rested his head in one hand and kneaded his forehead while fielding questions at Sunday's postgame news conference. He was glum again this afternoon for the postmortem of a 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto.

"My expectations are extremely high," Marrone replied at One Bills Drive today when asked about acceptable growing pains. "I'm very disappointed in myself, with where we are, and it starts with me.

"I've got to find a way to get it better because I really believe that if I come across as the head coach and don't have those expectations, then we'll fall short of our goals at the end. I want to make sure that we're accountable, starting with myself, and keeping those things extremely high and keep fighting for that. We can do that.

"That's where I'm struggling. We have players here that are capable of winning games. We have coaches here that are capable of winning games, and we're not getting that done. That's where I'm struggling, to get ourselves over that top and creating that consistency."

The Bills, like many teams, break down their season schedule by quarters and try to win each four-game set. The Bills are entering their final quarter and have gone 2-2, 1-3 and 1-3 over their first three quarters.

The Bills have not been mathematically eliminated from the postseason yet, but their chances are microscopic. Plus, three of their last four games are on the road.

Marrone spoke today like a coach who's motivating his players not to pack it in.

"There has to come a point where you have to go forward and work and get the foundation right," Marrone said. "It's a work in progress, and I don't want to be that guy that stands up here and says that, but it is what it is.

"We're not satisfied, obviously, with the record or where we are. Being competitive and playing close is not what we do. What we're here to do is to win. At the end of the day, we haven't gotten that done consistently."

The Bills are 1-5 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. They haven't won consecutive games since Weeks Two and Three last year, but they've had their chances to win more than four times.

They should have beaten the Falcons on Sunday, but late fumbles from Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler ended their hopes. The also lost the New England Patriots on a field goal with five seconds left, fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime and had the Kansas City Chiefs on the ropes but gave up a pair of defensive touchdowns to lose by 10 points.

"It's difficult," Marrone said. "It gives you a moment of relief to think 'What if? What if?'

"But, for me, the way I handle things, it gives me high levels of anxiety. It hurts me that we collectively -- players and coaches, and it starts with me -- can't get it over the top where you can start that run."

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.

Second-quarter analysis: Big runs get Falcons back in game

By Jay Skurski

TORONTO – A pair of defensive breakdowns have let the Atlanta Falcons back into today's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Falcons rookie running back Antone Smith went 38 yards to the house in the second quarter today at Rogers Centre, cutting the Buffalo lead to 17-14.

Smith, who came into the game with just four career carries (which he had gained 107 yards on), went untouched down the left sideline. Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso appeared to over pursue the play to give Smith a lane.

Falcons veteran running back Steven Jackson opened the scoring for Atlanta in the first half with a 27-yard touchdown run, his longest since 2011.

Atlanta tied the game at 17-17 on a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant to end the first half. The Falcons completed a big third-and-10 play on the drive with a 22-yard completion from Matt Ryan to Roddy White, who beat the coverage of Stephon Gilmore.

Long drive stalls: The Bills put together a 15-play drive on their first possession of the second quarter, but had to settle for a 29-yard Dan Carpenter field goal. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel threw short of the first-down marker incomplete to Stevie Johnson on third down.

C.J. nicked, but still going: Bills running back C.J. Spiller has carried nine times for 105 yards. Spiller, though, has had to check himself out of the lineup a few times, as it appears his left high-ankle sprain continues to give him some level of discomfort.

Presented without comment: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is in attendance, wearing a Fred Jackson jersey.

First-quarter analysis: EJ Manuel bounces back from big hit, has Bills up

By Jay Skurski

TORONTO -- Exhale, Bills fans.

Quarterback EJ Manuel looks to be fine after briefly leaving today’s game against the Atlanta Falcons in the Rogers Centre.

Manuel missed one play after being drilled by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon during Buffalo’s second offensive possession. Backup Thad Lewis handed off, then Manuel returned to lead a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Manuel has directed two scoring drives for the Bills so far, giving his team a 14-7 lead.

He finished Buffalo’s first drive with his firs career rushing touchdown – a 1-yard run on which he dove for the pylon in the front-right corner of the end zone, hitting it with the ball. Manuel was initially ruled out of bounds, but the play was reviewed and overturned.

On Buffalo’s second offensive possession, Manuel connected with Stevie Johnson twice on third-and-1 plays for first down. Fred Jackson finished the drive off with a 4-yard touchdown run, dragging three defenders in with him.

Run, C.J., run: Bills running back C.J. Spiller’s first carry went for just 2 yards. He did just a little better on the next one. Spiller ripped off a 77-yard run – the longest of his career – on Buffalo’s second offensive play, setting up a first-and-goal at the Atlanta 6-yard line.

Sack party: The Falcons lost 5 yards on their first two possessions – each of which ended with Buffalo sacks. On Atlanta’s third offensive play, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked by linebacker Manny Lawson, who was untouched coming off the right side of the Bills’ defensive line. On the Falcons’s next possession, Ryan was dropped again on third down, this time by Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes.

Where’s everybody at: The capacity for today’s game in the Rogers Centre is 46,470. There was about a quarter of that in the stands for the 4:05 p.m. kickoff. The stands have slowly filled in – there were apparently massive lines outside the stadium – but it would be a shock if more than 30,000 people are in attendance today.

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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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