For the second week in a row, the Buffalo Bills were able to convert turnovers into a victory. All of the change of possessions and shortened fields helped the Bills do what they have never been able to do before: beat the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Now halfway through the season, the Bills have a winning record and head to the bye week as the AFC's sixth and final playoff team. Before they get some time off, first is a look at the victory over the Jets. With the help of NFL.com's Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, 'Upon Further Review' brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.
Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Ed Wang (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player's plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (55 total plays)
- Even though he only had to do minimal things against the New York Jets, it appears as though the Bills have found themselves a competent quarterback in Kyle Orton (55, 5, 3.3). Orton only had to complete 10 passes total on Sunday, but that's all that was necessary due to the type of throws he was making. His biggest strength is seeing the field, and allowing that vision to make the right read in the offense. He also displayed anticipation on some of his throws as well, with the touchdown pass to Scott Chandler coming to mind most prominently. Orton, in comparison to how many passes he threw, took quite a few shots deep down the field. Even if he missed he didn't get discouraged, and then came right back and fired a strike. The 84-yard reception by Sammy Watkins was a phenomenal throw that hit the wideout in stride, and it was just two plays removed from a bad misfire. As long as Orton limits his mistakes and continues to make the right reads, he is the right man to steer the ship for the Bills. There won't be many games where they are plus-six in the turnover battle, but Orton has shown that he can make a big play when he needs to.
- It was a largely frustrating day for the running game for a few separate reason. First, the ball carriers made some poor reads and didn't maximize their yardage. Second, the offensive line had another day to forget. And third, the Jets' defensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Anthony Dixon (41, -4, 1.7) got his first crack at starting for the Bills and was quite disappointing. He didn't display the same type of burst or vision that he did earlier in the season and averaged 2 yards per carry. Bryce Brown (14, 0, 2.3) was just as inefficient, and despite a pair of solid runs up the middle in which he followed his blocks, he channeled his inner C.J. Spiller, too. On two separate plays, Brown didn't take what was given to him and instead kept trying to bounce them to the sideline in hopes to cut it up field at one point. It didn't work. The Bills had the lead for almost the entire game, and with a run-heavy approach to try and sustain the lead, it was a bit of a surprise that fullback Frank Summers (11, -1, 2.3) didn't get more playing time. Summers missed a couple of key blocks in the first quarter that stopped plays before they reached the line of scrimmage. To his credit, he had the Bills only rushing touchdown.
- Sunday wasn't a high volume day for the wide receivers on the team mostly due to holding the lead for much of the game. When Sammy Watkins (53, 2, 3.3) needed to make a play, he delivered. Many will remember the 84-yard reception on a fly route, and the subsequent slowing down to celebrate a perceived touchdown while getting caught from behind by a defender. However, his third and final catch of the day was his most impressive reception. Watkins took a simple slant, saw a tiny crease from the safety and exploded upfield in one cut, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown. He truly has special characteristics that are evident each week he plays. Robert Woods (18, 2, 3.0) was limited with an injury but made his presence felt early on with a pair of catches, one of which for a touchdown. On that scoring play, Woods had to adjust to a pass thrown a bit behind him, but shielded the defender properly and brought in the reception. Chris Hogan (24, 0, 2.3) and Mike Williams (12, 0, 2.3) each had time on the field, but combined for one reception and 14 yards.
- In a bit of a surprise, second-year tight end Chris Gragg (37, 0, 2.3) had the most time on the field at the position. Like he has in many other weeks, Gragg failed to make a big impact despite receiving so much time on the field. Scott Chandler (30, -2, 2.3) was used more sparingly, likely due to the run game taking over the second half, but when given one of his two opportunities in the pass game, Chandler roped in a perfect anticipation throw from Orton in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. His blocking still seems to be a problem, and one that the Bills recognize by their personnel groupings. Lee Smith (33, 1, 2.7) is known for his blocking and displayed it on Frank Summers' touchdown. Smith pulled from the right side of the line to the center and cracked down on an oncoming Jets defensive linemen so hard that he knocked him clean over. Smith also caught a touchdown pass on an elaborate play call on the doorstep of the end zone.
- The Buffalo Bills are winning the majority of their games in spite of the play of their offensive line. Once again, the front five was a major weakness for the team and they needed to overcompensate for their inability to get a push in the running game. Center Eric Wood (55, -5, 1.7) turned in his fourth performance out of the last five games that has yielded a negative plus-minus. Wood was unable to secure his blocks and was the sole reason a handful of plays were blown up in the backfield. Coming into the season he was depended on to be a calming force, and unfortunately he hasn't been able to do it just yet. The debut for Kraig Urbik (55, 1, 2.7) went fairly well. Against a strong defensive front Urbik held his own and really only slipped up a couple of times. He was a tremendous upgrade over rookie Cyril Richardson. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (55, -2, 2.3) hasn't been able to capitalize on two straight games of positive play during Weeks 5 and 6, and graded out negatively once again. Glenn has looked average in 2014, there is no other way around it. He was beaten around the edge and is having some trouble with twists and stunts in front of him. The right side pair of Erik Pears (55, -3, 2.0) and Seantrel Henderson (55, -3, 2.0) predictably struggled against a powerful Jets defensive line. Pears was beaten by power when trying to run block a few separate times, while it was mostly speed that turned Henderson's performance into a negative one. Chris Hairston (2, 0, 2.3) was in for a pair of goal line plays, and that was the extent of it.
DEFENSE (84 total plays)
- For the first time this season, the Bills featured a four-man rotation that gave all players involved a high percentage of snaps on the field. Also for the first time this year, Mario Williams (40, 3, 3.0) received less snaps than Jarius Wynn (44, 3, 3.0) in a single game. Between the two, there wasn't much of a difference: both played at an extremely high level. Williams' most impressive rep was a bull rush that pushed right tackle Breno Giacomini back into Michael Vick as he was attempting a pass, which forced an errant throw. Of the two, Wynn made more 'wow' plays. He has been flying under the radar for much of the season, but for two weeks in a row he has been playing at an extremely high level with heightened reps. Jerry Hughes (53, 1, 2.7) once again was a terror off the edge against the pass, but lapsed in setting the edge against Vick, who is the most mobile quarterback they'll likely face all season. Manny Lawson (31, 3, 3.0) has seen his snap count dwindle recently, but with extended time Lawson showed what makes him an asset: setting the edge and batting down passes because of his length.
- After two weeks of average play, Kyle Williams (49, 8, 4.0) loudly declared, 'I'm back!' Williams went up against Oday Aboushi, who was making his second career start, for much of the game and was in the backfield constantly. It didn't matter if it was against the pass or the run, Williams was forcing the issue and even helped create a pair of turnovers. With a highly productive game under his belt and a week to rest his knee injury, Williams should be in top form to start the second half of the season. Marcell Dareus (43, 2, 3.0) didn't flash nearly as much as Williams, but that's because he had to take on double teams nearly all game long. Even against the double team Dareus held his ground, and there was even one rep that he disengaged from both blockers, spun around and made the tackle on the ball carrier to plug the running lane. Just like the defensive ends, the backup defensive tackles got quite a bit of time on the field. Corbin Bryant (39, -1, 2.3) and Stefan Charles (34, -4, 1.7) each got opportunities against the Jets. Bryant was the more impressive of the two due mostly to his forced fumble, but he was even pushed around in the run game up the middle in the second half. Charles didn't seem to play at his normally high level, and like Bryant, was pushed around in the run game.
- Following yet another strong performance from rookie linebacker Preston Brown (84, 4, 3.3), it's getting safer to say that he just needed to get adjusted to speed of the NFL. Simply put, Brown has been outstanding since taking the starting job from Keith Rivers (1, 0, 2.3). The rookie was once again a leading force in limiting the Jets' rushing attack and now his coverage abilities are coming along as well. The difference between the starting lineup with him in it as opposed to Rivers is quite noticeable. At first glance, one would think Nigel Bradham (79, -3, 2.0) had an atrocious game. However, that simply isn't true. Was it a performance that was below the standard he has set this season? Yes, it was. However, for the on-field results and abilities, Bradham played fairly well. The biggest point of contention from his afternoon were the three personal foul penalties he was assessed by the officials, which is indicative by his grade for the week. Once Michael Vick entered the game, the Bills didn't use Brandon Spikes (29, 0, 2.3) much more. Spikes is a good linebacker against the run, but he can't change direction well and struggles against speedy players in space. Vick is in that mold, which led to Spikes watching much of the game from the sidelines.
- On Sunday, it was a banner day for the secondary against the New York Jets. One could argue that the quarterback play wasn't exactly sterling, but the cornerbacks still had to make the most of their opportunities — and they certainly did. Leodis McKelvin (75, 4, 3.3) had the top day of the group, showing poise against both the pass and the run against the Jets. He almost added a fifth interception to his season, but after review, it was ruled to be incomplete. He was in the hip pocket of his assignment much of the time. Stephon Gilmore (66, 2, 3.0) showed quite well at MetLife Stadium, starting the game with an interception and then used a continued effort to limit big plays from a Jets team that was desperately trying to claw back in the game. The only man in the secondary that really struggled was Nickell Robey (56, -1, 2.3), and his issue was mostly missed tackles in the open field. Ron Brooks (3, 0, 2.3) played sparingly, but failed to make any impact.
- The neck injury to Aaron Williams (46, -1, 2.7), which was re-aggravated last week versus Minnesota, didn't allow their top safety to take all his reps this week. When he was in the game Williams didn't provide much against the run, but he made his biggest contribution by forcing one of six turnovers. His interception was a great display of concentration and athleticism, and very nearly resulted in a defensive touchdown. Da'Norris Searcy (55, 1, 3.0) also got into the interception column in the second half. Searcy provided support to the running lanes as well, but it was largely unnecessary because of the job by both the defensive line and linebackers. Corey Graham (50, 2, 2.7) played a majority of the game very quietly. Serving at safety, Graham did well with open-field tackles that could have resulted in more yardage for the offense. Providing depth and starting potential, Duke Williams (47, 3, 3.0) was able to provide some big hits and even helped out in coverage. Since his poor game against New England, Williams has really settled in as a solid rotational safety.
Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Last week's rank)
Over the span of the first eight games, the number one target that has drawn ire from the fan base of the Buffalo Bills was quarterback EJ Manuel. In a very close second is a man that had his success tied to Manuel for the first quarter of the season: offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
On Sunday the Bills claimed a 43-23 win over the New York Jets, but a predictable game plan in the second half and a lack of yards gained stoked the inner fire of some of the team's faithful. Buffalo gained a total of 280 yards which is 15.1 yards below the lowest league average in 2014.
That's why Hackett, now in his second year as the offensive coordinator, opened up his press conference with an enthusiastic remark:
"Everybody's going, 'hey we've gotta get more offensive yards!' I'm going, 'hey, we're getting so many turnovers, it's hard!'"
To a certain degree, Hackett was right. On six turnovers, the Bills' average drive start was at the New York Jets' 26-yard line. The Bills could and likely should have come away with more points than they did, but the yards gained by the Bills (280) against the Jets is a bit skewed by 40-percent of their drives starting in Jets territory.
The lack of yardage, combined with the lack of conversions for touchdowns, and perhaps a touch of predictability led some fans to continue to call for him to be fired, despite the offense posting 43 points on the afternoon.
"I love it. I love it," Hackett said with a smile of the criticism. "It's a challenge. You win by 20 points, you score 43 points. What, I think we had five offensive touchdowns? I mean, I want more too. I hope everybody does, because otherwise why are we doing this stuff? The defense played outstanding. I'm up there cheerleading for them the whole time going 'Get another one! Get another one!' So it's great, we all love it."
Over the first four weeks of the seasons with Manuel as the quarterback the Bills averaged only 320.8 yards of offense per game. That total, compared to the team averages over the first eight weeks of the season, would be the sixth-worst total in all the NFL.
In the three games before the one against the Jets, the offense under Kyle Orton averaged 350.7 yards per game, which would be the 18th-best average in the league by the same standards. Even with the offensive output against the Jets, the offense is still averaging more per game with Orton than with Manuel.
Still, many weren't enthralled during the Jets game about the, at times, refusal to throw the ball on a secondary that had been struggling all season. Hackett said with the lead, they had a bigger goal in mind than racking up passing yards.
"I don't want to turn the ball over," he remarked. "I think that was the big thing that we stressed as a group, as an offense. We said, we've been a turnover machine for the past three games and as long as we don't turn the ball over we're gonna be in every single game with the people that we have on this team. I think that was something we wanted to focus in and you've gotta run the ball to do that."
Hackett and the Bills will get the rest of the week off and return to work to start preparations for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and Monday.
The rookie season for Buffalo Bills undrafted free agent safety Kenny Ladler ended before it really even began. The Bills placed Ladler on the Injured Reserve list Tuesday which will end his season prematurely, barring an injury buyout.
The safety was promoted off of the practice squad during the week leading up to the team's victory over the Minnesota VIkings. The game against the New York Jets was only the second of his career, but his afternoon and season were both claimed by an arm injury.
Ladler originally signed with the Bills in May of 2014 as a highly decorated defensive back from Vanderbilt. He was released by Buffalo on the final cutdown day, but was brought back that same week on the team's practice squad.
The Bills have yet to make an addition to their roster in place of Ladler, which means the roster is now at 52, one shy of its maximum allotment. The team will get the rest of the week off and return to practice next Monday.
For only the fourth time since 2000, the Buffalo Bills carry a 5-3 record through the first half of the season and the last two times it happened for the organization -- 2008 and 2011-- the team collapsed and ended the year with a losing record.
Especially with the bye week on the way for Buffalo, it could serve as a breeding ground for complacency. But the current Bills squad knows that the job isn't close to complete.
Most of the veteran leaders on the team aren't allowing the team's current place in the AFC Wildcard standings get into their heads.
"The great thing about the NFL and the tough thing about the NFL: there's always a game next week to get ready for," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said Monday. "I think that guys have been around a while, the guys that have been here, the message will be that we have to move on. Obviously we're gonna enjoy it, we're gonna enjoy our bye week. But when we come back, we know that we've got some big games in front of us, and I really don't think what we're talking about is gonna be an issue."
Williams is one of 14 members on the active roster that saw the 2011 Bills win five games in the first half of the season, only to lose seven of their final eight games and finish with a 6-10 record. He's also one of only three active players, Fred Jackson and Leodis McKelvin are the others, that have been with the team for the 2008 fall down the standings in the second half of the year as well.
What is it about that second half of the season that made it such an issue for those two Bills teams? Head coach Doug Marrone outlined what makes it so tough:
"Pressure," the head coach succinctly said. "It gets harder as it goes. [You] start competing against teams that are in the same position you are. When you're not, you're competing against teams that want to knock you off and we're not even in that position yet. We've got a long way to go before we get into that type of position."
The Bills very well could have been in that position that Marrone alluded to if a few more things went their way in the first half of the season. Safety Aaron Williams still thinks the Bills' start should have yielded a superior record.
"We're happy, we're not satisfied. We know this record should have been a lot better than 5-3. If we didn't hurt ourselves the last couple of games, we would be in the first place position right now," Williams remarked. "We're happy where we're at right now. We're gonna take this time to relax and let our body heal a little bit and then get ready for these two big games coming up with Kansas City and Miami."
Williams was another part of the 2011 team that finished the season with a 1-7 record. He and his other teammates face a November schedule that could very well shape the landscape of the 2014 playoff race.
The Bills will be up against three teams over the next four weeks that have a 4-3 record, which is only half a game back from the Bills current place in the AFC Wildcard standings. Kansas City, Miami and Cleveland could either make or break Buffalo's 2014 campaign — and the Bills know it.
With a tough December schedule ahead (Green Bay, Denver and New England), the time to rack up wins for a push to the postseason is in November. It's a month that has plagued the Bills, who have sported a 6-18 record in the month since the fateful 2008 season.
"I don't think [being over-confident is] the case at all when you haven't been to the playoffs in such a long time," Marrone said. "I think the one message I tried to tell them today that it doesn't get easier, it gets harder."
The Bills will be on campus at One Bills Drive on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and then have Thursday through Sunday off for the bye week.
The Buffalo Bills captured a victory at MetLife Stadium over the hapless New York Jets and answered some personnel questions along the way.
There were a few changes along the starting lineup and even some of the usages were interesting. What are some of the notable percentages from Sunday's snap counts?
Some tidbits from the 43-23 Bills' victory:
- Many were wondering how the running back situation would shake out, and the Bills made a statement by their usages of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown. The Bills significantly favored Dixon, giving him 75-percent of the snaps while Brown got the remaining 25-percent.
- A shift in the starting lineup has continued for the second straight week at linebacker. Keith Rivers as a starting player seems to be a thing of the past unless there is an injury. Rookie Preston Brown received 100-percent of the defensive snaps against the Jets, as opposed to Rivers who was only on the field for one play total.
- The general snap counts with the tight ends usually give Scott Chandler the majority, while Lee Smith and Chris Gragg get a near even amount of time on the field. On Sunday, Gragg was the leader in the clubhouse with 37 snaps to Smith's 33 and Chandler's 30.
Here are the rest of the playtime percentages in full:
QB Kyle Orton - 55 (100%)
LT Cordy Glenn - 55 (100%)
LG Kraig Urbik - 55 (100%)
C Eric Wood - 55 (100%)
RG Erik Pears - 55 (100%)
RT Seantrel Henderson - 55 (100%)
WR Sammy Watkins - 53 (96%)
HB Anthony Dixon - 41 (75%)
TE Chris Gragg - 37 (67%)
TE Lee Smith - 33 (60%)
TE Scott Chandler - 30 (55%)
WR Chris Hogan - 24 (44%)
WR Robert Woods - 18 (33%)
HB Bryce Brown - 14 (25%)
WR Mike Williams - 12 (22%)
FB Frank Summers - 11 (20%)
OL Chris Hairston - 2 (4%)
LB Preston Brown - 84 (100%)
LB Nigel Bradham - 79 (94%)
CB Leodis McKelvin - 75 (89%)
CB Stephon Gilmore - 66 (79%)
CB Nickell Robey - 56 (67%)
S Da'Norris Searcy - 55 (65%)
DE Jerry Hughes - 53 (63%)
CB Corey Graham - 50 (60%)
DT Kyle Williams - 49 (58%)
S Duke Williams - 47 (56%)
S Aaron Williams - 46 (55%)
DE Jarius Wynn - 44 (52%)
DT Marcell Dareus - 43 (51%)
DE Mario Williams - 40 (48%)
DT Corbin Bryant - 39 (46%)
DT Stefan Charles - 34 (40%)
DE Manny Lawson - 31 (37%)
LB Brandon Spikes - 29 (35%)
CB Ron Brooks - 3 (4%)
LB Keith Rivers - 1 (1%)
It wasn't always pretty for the Buffalo Bills. In fact, at times, it was damn near ugly... again.
But with only their fourth 5-3 start of the millennium on the line, they took advantage of the disinterested, unraveling and self-destructing New York Jets to assure a winning record through the first half of the season.
Even with as many things that went their way early on in the game, the Bills couldn't seem to finish off the Jets. When push came to shove, the Bills at last clinched the 43-23 victory.
How did it all happen? Some observations from the Week Eight win:
Defense, defense, defense
- If the Bills defense was only having an average day rather than a great one, the Jets, for as bad as they were, stood a fighting chance in the contest. As it stands, the defense was nearly flawless against an offense that was begging to get beaten. The biggest part of the game, and the one that the Bills very nearly didn't take enough advantage of, was all the turnovers they forced. Buffalo ended the day plus-6 in the turnover battle due to four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and an additional two fumbles that were forced by the defense. They dominated the line of scrimmage, didn't give the receivers an inch and held the Jets' top two running backs to 50 yards on 16 carries. It was as suffocating an effort as the Bills have had defensively, and if it weren't for a lack in preparation to contain backup Michael Vick from scrambling, the Bills would have had a perfect game on that side of the ball.
Sammy doing Sammy things
- The song remains the same: when the Bills get Sammy Watkins involved into their offense good things tend to happen. For the third time in four weeks Watkins has set his career high in receiving yards — this time with 157 on only three receptions. In five wins, Watkins has averaged six catches for 102.8 yards and a touchdown. It's isn't a coincidence that when he gets touches, the Bills tend to do well. In an encouraging development for the Bills, they kept giving the rookie chances to make a big play: a prime example of that — which is something they shied away from with EJ Manuel at the helm — was after they missed on a deep throw to Watkins, they loved the matchup and went right back to it two plays later and converted on an 84-yard reception that should have been a touchdown. Still learning as a professional, the rookie likely won't make the same mistake to ease up and celebrate before he gets into the end zone like he did on Sunday. That play could have ended up far worse than it did, or it could have even kept the Bills out of the end zone entirely. Luckily for him it was merely a teaching moment and nothing more and the Bills converted on the touchdown try in the red zone. With the offense stumbling to finally grab a hold of the game for good, Watkins took things into his own hands with a 61-yard, yards after catch infused touchdown reception. Only halfway into his rookie season, the 21-year old is already a legitimate number one wide receiver in the NFL.
Run game disappears once more
- Heading into the game against the Jets, the Bills had a distinct disadvantage in the offensive line going up against New York's extremely young and talented defensive line. The Jets are one of the best run defending units in the NFL, and even though they had to face a high volume of carries against the Bills, they turned the former identity of the offense into a shell of itself. Granted, the top two running backs on the roster were injured last week and inactive for Sunday's game, but there isn't usually that distinct of a drop off in yards per carry production unless the opposing team had a talented front and a good day. That was the case Sunday with the Bills only gaining 59 yards on 29 carries, which averages to a pedestrian 2.0 yards per carry. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown were stymied throughout the game by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, which held the Bills back from finishing the game in the way that they wanted to.
Predictability and the R.R.P. theory
- In the NFL — especially on offense — it behooves head coaches to stay ahead of the curve and keep their opponents guessing while predictability in play calling is usually universally frowned upon. Against the Jets, the Bills really didn't seem to care about how predictable they were being. Throughout the game, the Bills ran a sequence of run, run and pass on first, second and third down seven separate times. Of those seven times, five resulted in a fourth down. Another featured a defensive penalty that kept the drive alive, while the final of the seven was a touchdown after the first two runs. The Bills were playing with the lead the whole time, but it reeked of conservatism rather than burying the opponent while they were down. Quite simply, Buffalo was playing not to lose. Who does that fall on? Is it offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett? Is it head coach Doug Marrone? When you analyze both individuals, one should always err to the philosophies of the head coach. In more decisions than just play calling, Marrone has showed that he is one of more conservative head coaches in the NFL. To this point it has not backfired on the head coach, but if any common media member or fan can pick up on their tendencies with a lead, a head coach on a different team will do the same. The Bills were overthinking their approach in the second half to a large degree, mostly because the Jets' secondary is atrocious and was waiting to be picked apart. The wasted possessions could have burned the Bills, but they got out of MetLife Stadium with the victory.
The secondary's statement
- Two weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills secondary allowed 361 yards through the air and let one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history pick them apart. For the second straight week, the secondary appears to have rectified those errors. The Jets could only complete 12-of-26 attempts to their wide receivers for 87 yards. Not only that, but the Bills secondary did something that has evaded them: they forced turnovers. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had an interception, safety Aaron Williams had an interception, safety Da'Norris Searcy had an interception and cornerback Leodis McKelvin had one that was reviewed and later ruled incomplete. That positional grouping now has five interceptions in their past two games, which is as much of a reflection on the job defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson is doing as anything.
Bradham's mental errors
- The start to Nigel Bradham's season couldn't have gone much better. He was the fast, aggressive linebacker the Bills were looking for without the injured Kiko Alonso. The past two weeks, though, Bradham has struggled to maintain the same form and it was especially evident against the New York Jets. Bradham was missing tackles, taking improper angles and allowing yardage to happen on the perimeter once again. To exacerbate all those problems, the linebacker took three separate personal foul calls that put the Bills in poor positions on the field. Marrone said after the game that he couldn't repeat exactly what he said to Bradham about all the penalties, insinuating that it wouldn't be appropriate for public consumption. It's safe to assume Marrone's message largely circled around the 'be smarter' principle. The third-year pro is a better player than what he has exhibited each of the last two weeks and they'll need him to be a huge piece of the puzzle in the second half of the season.
Bills' MVP: WR Sammy Watkins
- Three receptions, 157 yards and one touchdown that probably should have been two. Watkins is the best player on offense, bar none. It's a shame they only targeted him six times.
Bills' LVP: LB Nigel Bradham
- Three personal foul penalties and a whole bunch of tackles, but a few key missed tackles along the way, too. He needs to get back to his beginning of the year form.
Up Next: The bye week! The Bills will rest up, get a few days off and return for their Week 10 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.
- The Buffalo Bills have made it interesting over each of the past two weeks, but really, it doesn't matter how they did it. The Bills are 5-3 and enter the most crucial stretch of the season in November. The next four games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are all against teams that they should conceivably beat. The Bills can take the bye week to reflect on the first half of the season and get back to work for what they hope to be the franchise's first postseason berth since the Music City Miracle. Despite some of the limitations this team might have, the defense has been overwhelming and Kyle Orton has rejuvenated the passing attack to be the team's strength on offense. The mission is simple: beat teams that you should beat. If they do that, the Bills could have 8 or 9 wins by the time December comes along.
The Buffalo Bills can do something on Sunday that they have only done three times since the 2000 season: The Bills can finish the first half of the regular season with a winning record.
The 2014 version of the team can match the 2002, 2008 and 2011 teams with a 5-3 record to start the season. A victory on Sunday would also ensure another milestone for the Bills as well.
Since the New York Jets have started playing their home games at MetLife Stadium, Buffalo has yet to come away with a victory. Can the Bills defy the odds and further the disappointment of the 1-6 Jets?
Some keys to the game:
1) Here comes the pass attack
- Coming into the season the Buffalo Bills thought they had their identity pegged. They had a full stable of running backs, a revamped offensive line (in their minds) and a young quarterback that needed to depend on the rushing attack. They wanted to be a ball control, run-based attack that kept ahead in the turnover department. That was their formula. Just like most things, it didn't go according to plan. EJ Manuel took a step back, the offensive line couldn't get the proper push in front of the running backs and one of their top two ball carriers was not a fit for the scheme. With that — and a change at quarterback — comes a change in philosophy that the Bills will utilize until they need to adjust once more. Get ready for the pass-heavy Bills in Week Eight, at least. Both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are sidelined with an injury, which could pave the way for Kyle Orton and the Bills to attack the porous Jets secondary on Sunday. The Jets are in the top half of pass defense from a yards perspective, but don't let the season totals fool you: this roster is deficient of a true stopper in the secondary. The Bills can find advantages in picking on cornerback Antonio Allen, rookie safety Calvin Pryor and others when given the opportunity. Given how good their defensive line is attacking through the air, with dynamic rookie Sammy Watkins, may be the best policy.
2) Another plus matchup for the DL
- It seems like every week the Bills line up against a new opponent, they have a distinct advantage over that team's offensive line. That could be a statement about just how dominant the team's defensive line has been in 2014, the widespread state of poor offensive line play across the NFL, or, more likely, a distinct combination of the two. The Jets are no different than the other teams the Bills have faced in 2014: they struggle mightily at certain spots along their offensive line. The right side of their line has been a disaster, with both guard Willie Colon and tackle Breno Giacomini performing at a low level since the season began. The Jets also have a player, left guard Oday Aboushi, making only his second career start at left guard. Even left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has seen a decline in his play. It all adds up to one thing: the Bills should dominate the line of scrimmage once again and turn the Jets into a one-dimensional unit. They were not able to do that against Minnesota and nearly lost the game because of it. Ferguson, despite his struggles, is still a solid pass blocker and will be a challenge for Jerry Hughes, which means the key matchup to get heat on Geno Smith will be Mario Williams against Giacomini. It will be critical for Buffalo's defensive line to dominate the game.
3) Run D's new challenge
- Along the same line, the run defense took a minor step back against the Vikings. Minnesota challenged them on the perimeter, got their linebackers moving and found some open space outside of the edges. Once they established that, the Vikings ran it right up the middle and were able to pick up yardage that way, too. It will be a big week for linebacker Nigel Bradham to prove that last week was just a fluke, because he struggled against the perimeter-based rushing attack. Another player to keep an eye on is Kyle Williams, who hasn't played to his normal level since returning from a knee injury two weeks ago. The Bills will likely see the Jets try to follow the Vikings' blueprint and attack the perimeter with Chris Johnson, while allowing Chris Ivory (107 yards last week) to take the work between the tackles.
4) Harnessing Harvin
- It's yet to be seen how much, and in what capacity, the Jets will use wide receiver Percy Harvin in his AFC debut. New York just acquired the mercurial wideout after their Week Seven, Thursday night loss to New England that dropped their record to 1-6. Head coach Rex Ryan hinted that Harvin might only see a handful of plays in his first week with the team, but those plays could be designed just for him, whether it be as a runner or a receiver. Despite his off-the-field concerns, Harvin is as dynamic a player as you'll find on offense and needs to be accounted for at all times. When he's on the field, look for the Jets to try and attack struggling nickel corner Nickell Robey with Harvin. At the very least, he'll take pressure off of Eric Decker when on the field.
5) Monstrous Muhammad
- The Jets feature one of the most young and talented defensive lines in all the NFL, and its led by defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. The 25-year old is a matchup nightmare with his combination of size, speed and length and dominated the Bills in both meetings in 2013. Wilkerson ended up with 14 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and multiple tackles for loss as the two teams split the season series. Wilkerson was one of the key reasons that led to the downfall of former starting left guard Colin Brown, which points the responsibilities at the brand new starting left guard Kraig Urbik this week. Urbik replaces rookie Cyril Richardson, and will have his hands full with both Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.
Injuries Buffalo OUT: HB Fred Jackson (groin), LB Ty Powell (ankle) DOUBTFUL: WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: S Aaron Williams (neck), WR Marcus Easley (knee) PROBABLE: WR Sammy Watkins (groin), DE Mario Williams (thumb), LB Brandon Spikes (ribs), CB Ron Brooks (groin)
New York Jets QUESTIONABLE: WR Greg Salas (ankle), LB Trevor Reilly (knee) PROBABLE: WR Eric Decker (hamstring), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB David Harris (shoulder), G Willi Colon (knee), HB Chris Johnson (ankle), G Oday Aboushi (shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (knee), HB Bilal Powell (foot), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), CB Phillip Adams (groin)
Prediction: Jets over Bills
- Just like the Kansas City Chiefs were a fluke of an undefeated team around this time last year, the New York Jets look the part of a fluky 1-6 team. They have more talent than most will give them credit for and have played a very hard schedule over the first seven weeks. Second-year quarterback Geno Smith will not get the opportunity to throw at Justin Rogers like he did last year, but he also has better wide receivers this time around. This game will be determined by which defensive line and scheme is more dominant. That edge could go slightly to the Jets defensive line, who will be going up against the worst of the two offensive lines featured in this contest. Rex Ryan always has unique blitzes up his sleeve, so Kyle Orton could be forced into some poor throws as the game goes along. These teams are much closer than the records indicate so the edge, in a division game, is given to the home team.
The Buffalo Bills officially won't be with the top two running backs on their roster Sunday against the New York Jets.
As expected, the Bills announced that Fred Jackson would not be available for the team's upcoming game after the runner suffered a groin injury last Sunday. Both Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who was placed on the short-term Injured Reserve list earlier this week, will be unavailable for the Bills in their AFC East showdown.
Without the duo, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown step into the lead back roles against the Jets. New York have been the eighth best team in the NFL this year against the run.
It could be yet another game missed for second-year wide receiver Marquise Goodwin as well. Goodwin had to leave practice last Thursday with a hamstring injury and has not been an on-field participant since. He was inactive against the Vikings and is listed as 'doubtful' for the game with the Jets.
Safety Aaron Williams (neck) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) were both labeled as 'questionable' for the upcoming contest. Williams re-injured his neck against Minnesota and has been limited at practice all week. Head coach Doug Marrone said giving Williams some rest over the next day would be beneficial for the safety.
Easley returned to practice for the first time in four weeks since sustaining at sprained MCL. Marrone said the special teams contributor didn't have much soreness in his first three days back at practice, and that the team will work him out ahead of the game to determine if he can play.
Cornerback Ron Brooks suffered a minor groin injury at Friday's practice but was listed as probable to play against the Jets. Brooks, wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and defensive end Mario Williams (thumb) are all probable as well. Linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) has been declared out.
The Bills and Jets square off Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills came into the year depending on Aaron Williams to become the top safety on the roster. When he has been on the field, he's taken to the role quite well. The only problem is over the past three weeks, a neck injury has limited Williams in what he can do on the field.
Since initially suffering the injury in practice leading up to the Bills' Week Six contest against New England, the safety has had to miss snaps on the field during practice. In fact, the injury even cause him to miss that game against the Patriots.
Williams was able to come back to practice the next week and suited up versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7, but once again, the neck injury didn't go away completely. He aggravated the ailment during the Bills' win and had to miss some time on the field.
As a result, the Bills have limited Williams' reps at practice once again this week, with Thursday being the second consecutive day with that specific course of action. His status for Sunday's game against the New York Jets is not yet known.
Williams and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) were the only two limited players at practice Thursday. Easley has participated in the last two days after missing four weeks of action due to a sprained MCL. Head coach Doug Marrone said he's running and progressing well with the injury, but that they're going to monitor his level of soreness before making a decision for Sunday.
The Bills were without running back Fred Jackson (groin), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) at practice for the second straight day. If all three do not practice for a third straight day on Friday, there won't be a strong likelihood that any will play against the Jets on Sunday.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and defensive end Mario Williiams (thumb) were full participants at practice for the second straight day. Barring a setback, all three are expected to play against New York.
There isn't much debate as to what Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin brings to an offense. His speed is notable and can take attention away from some of the other players on that side of the ball — that is, when he's actually on the field.
Since entering the NFL as a third-round draft pick of the Bills in 2013, Goodwin has suffered eight separate injuries that led him miss either time on the practice field, or more importantly, in a game. Fortunately for the young wide receiver it hasn't been one nagging injury, but all of the ailments have added up over the last year.
It isn't only the fans and media that have taken notice of Goodwin's increased amount of absences. Head coach Doug Marrone acknowledged it on Thursday, after Goodwin missed yet another day of work.
"Availability is a big thing. It's very difficult, especially when they occur early in your career, to continue to get better and better," Marrone said. "It's almost like when those things happen, I don't want to say you start back at square one, but there's definitely a move back before you can go ahead and start working to get forward. He's definitely frustrated with it and that's part of this game. One of the things that, it's not a secret, you talk about players with all the time is availability. He hasn't been available as often as he would like to be or as we would like him to be."
Most recently Goodwin suffered a hamstring injury at practice last Thursday, missed Friday's practice, the game on Sunday and both practices this week as well. His status for Sunday looks cloudy at the moment and he could miss his third game of 2014. Since being drafted, if Goodwin misses Sunday's contest, he will have missed seven regular season games and two preseason games.
Here is a detailed look at the injuries he has suffered since last season:
- Sunday, October 8, 2013 - Suffered a broken hand, missed four games
- Sunday, October 27, 2013 - Elbow injury, left game early, missed practice time but played the next week
- Sunday, November 3, 2013 - Hamstring injury, left game early, missed practice time but played the following week.
- Thursday, December 5, 2013 - Tweaked calf, missed practice time but played in game
- Sunday, December 22, 2013 - Knee injury, left game early, played the next week
- Friday, August 1, 2014 - Hamstring injury, missed two preseason games in three weeks
- Sunday, September 21, 2014 - Concussion, missed practice and game against Houston
- Thursday, October 16, 2014 - Hamstring injury, suffered in practice, has not returned since.
Marrone hasn't officially ruled out Goodwin of the upcoming contest with the New York Jets just yet, but said they'll see how it goes on Friday. If he is unable to participate in practice, Goodwin will likely miss his third game of 2014.
The biggest loss stemming from the Buffalo Bills' game against the Minnesota Vikings was undoubtedly the injuries suffered by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the top two running backs on the roster. With their absence it brings on a bigger role for backup Anthony Dixon, and could take him out of his normal role on special teams.
That's why the Bills were happy as could be to see one of their top special teams players back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time in weeks. Wide receiver Marcus Easley, coming off a knee injury that kept him out for the past four weeks, returned to practice in a limited capacity on the grass field outside the ADPRO Sports Training Center.
Easley was expected to miss anywhere from four-to-six weeks with a sprained MCL. He and safety Aaron Williams (neck) were the only two that missed some reps in practice due to their ailments.
Running back Fred Jackson (groin), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) did not participate in the session. Jackson was expected to miss the practice due to injury suffered on Sunday, meanwhile Goodwin and Powell are still trying to battle back from injuries from previous weeks.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), defensive end Mario Williams (thumb) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) were listed on the injury report, but were full participants on Wednesday.
The fans that wanted the Buffalo Bills to free Kraig Urbik from the shackles of the bench can now feel vindicated. As of Wednesday, Urbik ran with the first-team offense at left guard for the first time this season.
Urbik, 29, started at right guard for the Bills from 2011 through 2013. He was battling with a bevy of options for the starting job at right guard before head coach Doug Marrone ultimately decided to move former right tackle Erik Pears inside.
With his move to the starting lineup, Urbik takes the place of rookie fifth-round selection Cyril Richardson. Richardson started the past four games but has largely been inefficient since taking over for the injured Chris Williams.
Will the change be a permanent one? Head coach Doug Marrone didn't fully commit to the idea on Wednesday after practice.
"He may, he may. We're trying to get better so we're looking at a couple of options," Marrone said. "Experience is the first thing [he brings], then we just have to see how he plays and practices.
Urbik, who started at right guard for much of his Bills career, said he's been cross-training at left guard since training camp started. In unfamiliar territory on the bench for the first seven weeks, he said he's eager for the chance.
"Yeah definitely ready," Urbik replied. "Every week I'm preparing like I'm the starter. Being a backup that dresses every game day you can be one play away from starting so I prepare every week like I'm gonna be starting. I'll be ready."
The Bills square off against the New York Jets on the road Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills were able to shake off the loss to their AFC East rivals and came away with a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Even though they barely escaped Ralph Wilson Stadium with a win on Sunday, they still have a winning record after the first seven weeks.
The Bills can help their playoff chances with a win over the New York Jets on Sunday. Before they do that, we must first turn the page on the team's victory over the Vikings. With the help of NFL.com's Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, 'Upon Further Review' brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.
Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Mansfield Wrotto (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player's plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (70 total plays)
- A ho hum afternoon turned into a spectacular one for the Buffalo Bills and Kyle Orton (70, 3, 3.0) -- that is, when he was given enough time in the pocket to operate. Some early pressure almost caused a few turnovers throughout the game, but outside of one bad overthrow that turned into an interception, Orton's place in the lineup was mostly a beneficial one to the Bills. He earned his keep on the final drive of the game, specifically on three main throws. The touchdown throw to Sammy Watkins and the completion to Chris Hogan at the two-yard line were the obvious ones, but the attempt that really made Orton's day stand out came on 4th-and-20. With pressure coming up the middle, Orton anticipated Scott Chandler's route right over the middle of the field, and fed it right in between defenders and on to the tight end's hands. If the pass was remotely inaccurate at all, it likely would have fallen incomplete. Orton and some key throws late in the game have been the difference in two of the three contests he has started in.
- All was seemingly lost as soon as both Fred Jackson (10, 1, 2.7) and C.J. Spiller (9, 0, 2.7) went down with an injury early in the game. Jackson had his normal role filled during his 10 snaps, accounting for six touches and 28 total yards. He uncharacteristically whiffed on a pass blocking attempt, but that was his lone negative play. Spiller only had two touches in his nine snaps, with the most notable being his 53-yard run that might have ended his season. With both players out, Anthony Dixon (49, 2, 2.7) picked up the slack and got the majority of the team's 19 total carries. Dixon, when given the opportunity from the offensive line, had above average vision and got up the field quickly. Frank Summers (20, -2, 1.7) even got two touches but was a non-factor. He struggled in pass protection, and in one of the most head scratching play calls of the game, Summers was the recipient of a screen pass deep in Minnesota territory. The Bills don't have the offensive line capable of getting out in space for a screen, and even if they did, the slow-footed Summers is an incredibly peculiar choice to be the target of a designated screen play.
It's not a coincidence that when Sammy Watkins (70, 7, 3.7) is heavily involved in the offense, the Bills tend to do rather well. Watkins accumulated nine catches on 14 targets, 122 yards and two touchdowns which is good for the stat sheet, but his day stood out for more than just those numbers. Watkins is a ferocious route runner and set up his defenders before stopping on a dime and continuing on his route. He was mostly unable to be covered by a Vikings defensive back. Chris Hogan (37, 1, 2.7) came up big for the second straight week, and despite an early fumble, accounted for one of the biggest plays of the game. His high-wire type reception to put the Bills at Minnesota's two-yard line with five seconds to go was an incredible display of body control. Robert Woods (64, 1, 2.3) was on the field a great deal but wasn't a huge part of the offense. He also had a fumble which further hindered his four-catch, 10-yard day. Mike Williams (5, 1, 3.0) inexplicably rode the bench once again, but had one of the key blocks on C.J. Spiller's 53-yard run.
- Against New England, Scott Chandler (41, 2, 3.0) was the first Bills tight end to reach 100 yards in a single game since 1992, but the Bills didn't need that type of output for a second straight week. Chandler's big contribution to the day was bringing in the 24-yard reception on the 4th-and-20 play during the game-winning drive. That reception atoned for a drop just two plays before. Lee Smith (26, 3, 3.0) had his best day of run blocking in 2014. He was a reason for a few of the bigger gains the Bills had on the ground game, despite only carrying the ball 19 times. Chris Gragg (19, 0, 2.3) didn't have much of a role, but managed two receptions on both of his targets.
- The offensive line has largely struggled for the Bills in 2014 and the poor play has become contagious. First, it was only an issue with the two starting guards. After that, the right tackle really started to play poorly. Then over the past two weeks, the starting center fell into the same pitfalls, and now this week, the ailment has gotten to left tackle Cordy Glenn (70, -2, 2.0). Glenn has been solid each of the last two weeks while the rest of his teammates struggled, but he could not overcome it against the Vikings. Everson Griffen combined with whichever defensive tackle that was lined up next to him to stunt against a Bills' passing attempt. Glenn and left guard Cyril Richardson (70, -5, 1.7) were often no match, surrendering a lot of territory and almost all the sacks Buffalo allowed on Sunday. Glenn's run blocking was much more dependable, but perhaps he would benefit from a more practiced hand beside him on the line. Richardson was once again the biggest liability on the offensive line and almost single-handedly cost the Bills the game on the final drive. Right guard Erik Pears (70, -4, 1.7) continued to struggle in run blocking, but as the team shifts into more of a pass-oriented philosophy, he is the stronger pass blocker between the two guards. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson (70, -2, 2.0) was seen chasing his man around the edge after a bad beat a few times in the game, but did show some flashes in one-on-one opportunities against Brian Robison. Center Eric Wood (70, 0, 2.3) struggled early on, but bounced back — specifically in run blocking — as the game wore on.
DEFENSE (64 plays total)
- It seems like every week that Jerry Hughes (51, 3, 3.3) is on the field he's adding more money on to the next contract he is going to sign. If it weren't for another member of the defensive line, Hughes would have been the most dynamic defender against the Vikings. He was consistently in the backfield and provided not only multiple pressures, but a very good awareness against the run. The Vikings still fooled him a couple of times, and he even lost a one-on-one matchup a time or two again in passing situations. However, like many did before him in 2014, Hughes exploited left tackle Matt Kalil. Mario Williams (37, -1, 2.3) had one of his worst performances of 2014 but still managed to chip in one sack. He wasn't quite the same edge defender as he had been in previous performances which allowed the Vikings to get out on the perimeter and ultimately have the most success of anyone in rushing against the Bills this season. Jarius Wynn (28, 4, 3.3) was simply outstanding in spot duty along the defensive line. With Williams struggling a bit, Wynn's contributions not only in forcing runners back inside but with swatting down a pass on a screen play —one that would have gone for a huge gain — was welcomed with open arms. Manny Lawson (13, -1, 2.3) continued to see his time on the field dwindle. He just isn't a fit in the 4-3 scheme for Jim Schwartz.
- Stop if you've read this before: Marcell Dareus (50, 6, 3.7) was one of the best players on the field for the Buffalo Bills. Dareus has transitioned himself from an inconsistent young player to a consistently dominant force that the offense always has to account for. Now with five sacks in his last three games Dareus has shown the ability to fight through double teams, frustrate the offensive line and has stuffed the run consistently, just as he did all game against Minnesota. Normally Kyle Williams (53, -2, 2.3) is right there doing similar things to Dareus, but over the last two weeks he has not been his dominant self. Perhaps the effects of the knee injury are still lingering, but Williams just doesn't look as explosive as he did before he had to miss time. For the second straight week, he carried just an average grade and got pushed around at the line of scrimmage. Stefan Charles (11, -1, 2.3) had an impressive rush up field that resulted in a tackle of the running back from behind for no gain. Other than that, both his day and the one had by Corbin Bryant (9, -1, 2.3) was mostly nondescript.
- It seems there has been a changing of the guard at linebacker. The Bills, for the first time since both have been healthy, decided that rookie Preston Brown (64, 4, 3.3) should be the man getting the snaps at weakside linebacker. How did he respond? He only had his best performance as a member of the team, and showed exactly why the team loved him enough to select him in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Brown filled his run game responsibilities beautifully, and provided one of the biggest flash plays of the game defensively. He sniffed out a screen play, ran down the running back that he had in man coverage and dropped him after the catch for a big loss. Brown has now graded positively in three out of seven games, which is far better than the man he replaced Sunday: Keith Rivers (7, -1, 1.7). Nigel Bradham (56, -3, 2.0) could not get a grasp on Minnesota's rushing attack for much of the contest. He reacted to the play too quickly and rushed the wrong gap, only for Jerrick McKinnon to cutback to a secondary hole and pick up a solid gain. It was Bradham's first step back of the season. Brandon Spikes (39, 1, 2.7) showed well against the run once more, but had to leave the field in obvious passing situations like usual.
- One of them was a product of being at the right place at the right time, but Leodis McKelvin (57, 1, 3.0) came away with two interceptions. The two turnovers doubled his season total for interceptions, which also set the highest single-season mark in his career. His second interception featured a tremendous break on the ball and a toe tap to ensure the turnover. McKelvin's ball skills, which have been an issue for quite a long time, were a strength for him Sunday. Stephon Gilmore (64, 0, 2.3) excelled in covering up Cordarrelle Patterson when matched up against his former high school rival, but he also got too ahead of himself in some softer coverages of Minnesota wideouts. He has been average to above average in his third season, which is nowhere near the level that the Bills expected him to be when they drafted him. The light needs to go on for Gilmore, but he isn't struggling so much that he needs to be replaced. Nickell Robey (32, -3, 2.0) was burned for three separate passes that resulted in big plays for the Vikings offense. He was once again a victim of intersecting routes and lost a few steps to his assignment, and a big gain, as a result.
- Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn't take too many deep shots down the field against the Bills, which largely left the safeties to be unnoticeable in that part of the game. Against the run, though, is where Da'Norris Searcy (54, 0, 2.7) showed his ability like he has many times before. Searcy returned in full from a knee injury that slowed him the last two weeks, but provided a good secondary attack to any rusher that broke into the second level. Aaron Williams (47, -1, 2.3) has been getting caught flat-footed a few too many times the last two weeks, and he even missed some tackles against the Vikings. Corey Graham (14, 1, 2.7) once again took the majority of his snaps at safety and provided some good run support after the running back was slowed in the backfield. Duke Williams (18, 0, 2.7) didn't do much in his time on defense, but provided the big hit on Cordarrelle Patterson on the final play of the game to end the mirackle kickoff return hopes.
Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Last week's rank)
The results of C.J. Spiller's surgery are in, and the Buffalo Bills felt they'll be without the running back for a substantial amount of time. The team announced on Tuesday that Spiller has been placed on Injured Reserve with the designation to return.
The running back underwent surgery on Monday morning to repair a fractured collarbone that he suffered in the Bills' 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings. It occurred on his only carry -- a 53-yard run -- which resulted in Spiller being tripped up from behind and he then fell awkwardly on his shoulder area.
The short-term IR designation means the earliest the running back can return to the team for a game will be in Week 16 game on the road against the Oakland Raiders. By rule, the player must miss a minimum of eight weeks but is allowed to return to practice, if cleared by the medical staff, two weeks ahead of their official return to the field.
There is no immediate timetable for Spiller's return, but with time running out for the Bills to use the IR-DtR, the team left the option for the running back to return if he is able to. The former first-round pick is also in his contract year.
With the vacated roster spot, the Bills have signed running back Phillip Tanner. Tanner, 26, signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and stayed with the team for three seasons. He had brief stints in the summer with both the Indianapolis Colts and then again with the Cowboys before being released ahead of the start of the 2014 regular season.
Tanner will serve as the team's third running back behind Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown while Fred Jackson is still recovering from a groin injury. In his career, he has rushed for 149 yards and held a yards per carry average of 2.7.
The Bills square off against the New York Jets on Sunday, and then have the following weekend off for their yearly bye.
The Buffalo Bills stuck with it and somehow came away with a victory over the Minnesota Vikings, despite putting themselves in several adverse positions that they needed to battle back from. Regardless, the Bills are now 4-3 and have a chance to start the first half of the season with a winning record.
There were some notable personnel moves against the Vikings, and a spike in usage once some injuries had occurred. Some of the most notable takeaways from the league issued snap counts:
- Rookie Preston Brown, at least for one week, appears to have taken over the starting linebacker role over veteran Keith Rivers. Brown received 100-percent of the snaps, while the man he replaced only had seven snaps total — the lowest of any defender on the Bills roster. Rivers was described by general manager Doug Whaley as a "four-down player," but he might be relegated to only special teams duty before too long.
- Wide receiver Mike Williams dressed and was active, but it seemed like more of a formality than anything. Williams only received five offensive snaps and was a non-factor once again. A week after being benched, the Bills likely only activated him Sunday because of the injury to Marquise Goodwin.
- Coming into the game, defensive end Mario Williams had received 72.62-percent of defensive snaps throughout the season. Williams didn't come close to that figure against the Vikings, only receiving 58-percent of snaps. He didn't appear to be injured on the sidelines at any point of the game, either.
Here are the rest of the snap counts in full:
QB Kyle Orton - 70 (100%)
LT Cordy Glenn - 70 (100%)
LG Cyril Richardson - 70 (100%)
C Eric Wood - 70 (100%)
RG Erik Pears - 70 (100%)
RT Seantrel Henderson - 70 (100%)
WR Sammy Watkins - 70 (100%)
WR Robert Woods - 64 (91%)
HB Anthony Dixon - 49 (70%)
TE Scott Chandler - 41 (59%)
WR Chris Hogan - 37 (53%)
TE Lee Smith - 26 (37%)
FB Frank Summers - 20 (29%)
TE Chris Gragg - 19 (27%)
HB Fred Jackson - 10 (14%)
HB C.J. Spiller - 9 (13%)
WR Mike Williams - 5 (7%)
LB Preston Brown - 64 (100%)
CB Stephon Gilmore - 64 (100%)
CB Leodis McKelvin - 57 (89%)
LB Nigel Bradham - 56 (88%)
FS Da'Norris Searcy - 54 (84%)
DT Kyle Williams - 53 (83%)
DE Jerry Hughes - 51 (80%)
DT Marcell Dareus - 50 (78%)
S Aaron Williams - 47 (73%)
LB Brandon Spikes - 39 (61%)
DE Mario Williams - 37 (58%)
CB Nickell Robey - 32 (50%)
DE Jarius Wynn - 28 (44%)
S Duke Williams - 18 (28%)
CB Corey Graham - 14 (22%)
DE Manny Lawson - 13 (20%)
DT Stefan Charles - 11 (17%)
DT Corbin Bryant - 9 (14%)
LB Keith Rivers - 7 (11%)
The Buffalo Bills lost not one, but two running backs to injuries that will cost them time on the field. Along with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson will be forced to miss some game time due to the injury he sustained Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Just how much will he be forced to miss? Jackson detailed his prognosis on WGR Sports Radio 550 Monday morning, and more importantly, revealed that no surgery is required.
"It's typically a four-week injury, but we'll try to do some things to get it sped up," the running back said. "I like to think of myself as somebody that can come back before typical, so, it's just gonna be on me to get in there and rehab, and see the team doctors, and do what it is they want me to do and hopefully I can get back a lot sooner than that."
It isn't likely that Jackson will be able to play against the New York Jets this coming weekend, but with the benefit of the team's Week Nine bye, the normally quick-healing runner could be back without missing as much time as his doctors initially diagnosed.
The pain for Jackson was instant, and he described the play that it happened in full.
"I took the handoff from Kyle [Orton], and as soon as I took the handoff I felt a pop in my groin," he told WGR. "They said I pulled it off the bone about a centimeter, and that's what the popping sensation was. Right as I took the handoff from Kyle it just popped and I wasn't able to move. He said as soon as he gave me the handoff he could tell something was wrong."
Like Spiller, Jackson was quite emotional as he was being carted off the field. It's a normal human reaction to fear the worst when some adversity hits and professional athletes aren't immune from those feelings either. Jackson said he thought about everything in those few moments after the medical staff uttered the words that no player wants to hear.
"Every thought possible races through your mind as soon as you hear those two words, 'you're done.' Am I done for this quarter, am I done for my career," he pondered. "Immediately the first thing you think of is, 'was that my last play?' You never want that to be the case. But it's a frightening term to hear, 'you're done,' when you're a player because you know you are one play away from not being able to go out there and do the thing that you love."
Without Jackson and Spiller, Buffalo will turn to Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown to lead the way at running back. The Bills square off against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday.
C.J. Spiller's 2014 regular season has been a tumultuous one.
Just one game removed from getting his lowest snap count in the past few years, Spiller unleashed a 53-yard run against the Minnesota Vikings which likely would have vanquished much of the frustration. At the tail end of the run, the running back landed awkwardly on his shoulder and writhed in pain before being carted off the field.
There were reports of the injury being a broken collarbone before Sunday night had finished. The exact injury hasn't been confirmed by the Buffalo Bills just yet, but his teammate and one of his closest allies confirmed the fears:
Spiller's season is likely over, according to Bills running back Fred Jackson.
"I saw him as soon as he came in. It was one of those things where the injury itself kind of let him know, he was well aware of what was going on and how significant it was," Jackson said on WGR Sports Radio 550 Monday morning. "It's always tough though, anytime you get a season-ending injury like that, it's one of the hardest places to be in as a professional athlete."
Jackson revealed that Spiller was scheduled to go through surgery on Monday morning. The running back was said to be in good spirits considering the circumstances.
If the injury is in fact season-ending, Spiller could be placed on Injured Reserve to open up a roster spot for the team. That might also mean the 53-yard run that ended in immense pain could have also ended the running back's tenure with the Bills.
Spiller, the team's first-round pick in 2010, is a potential unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Bills already have Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown signed through next season.
That decision will be made in time, but Jackson knew there wasn't much he could say to Spiller as he came off the field with a devastating injury. The former was already in the locker room after he suffered a groin injury and described the interaction with the latter as he was brought in by the team's medical staff.
"At the time I really didn't say anything to him. I just gave him a big hug, put my arm around him and told him that I was here for him," Jackson said of Spiller. "It's one of those things where you don't really have the right words to say. The best thing to do is just to hug him and let him know that you're with him and that they're not going through it alone."
The Bills also have the option of using the IR-Designated to Return on Spiller, which opens up a roster spot for eight weeks. Based on the minimum timetable of it, the Bills have only two more weeks to use that designation. If the Bills did use it on Spiller, he would be eligible to return to game action in Week 16.
Jackson said he expects Spiller to be visible around One Bills Drive an even if he can't play again this season.
Against all odds, somehow, some way the Buffalo Bills came away from their matchup against the Minnesota Vikings as the victors.
It wasn't pretty. In fact, at times — well, most the time — it was damn near ugly. That didn't thwart the Bills at any point, which ultimately led to a last second 17-16 win over the Vikings.
As a result, Buffalo is now 3-0 against the NFC North. How did they collect their fourth win of the season?
Some observations from the game:
Kyle and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad drive that somehow turned great
- The Buffalo Bills snatched victory out from the jaws of defeat and on their way to doing so, they led one of the most improbable game-winning drives imaginable. At four separate points on the touchdown drive that left only one second on the clock, the Bills looked like they were dead in the water. They were sacked twice in a three-play stretch that brought about a 4th-and-20 attempt, they took a false start penalty that cost them an additional five yards and the quarterback even took an intentional grounding penalty. The fluctuation of the Bills' win probability during that drive is as stark as you'll come across, with the Bills having just a 4-percent chance of victory ahead of their 4th-and-20 attempt, shortly followed by an 83-percent chance of winning when they had 1st-and-Goal at the two-yard line. With the help of AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com, this is the chart of the Bills' win probability, play by play:
A few individual efforts stood out throughout the game-winning drive. Scott Chandler corralled a 24-yard reception on that low percentage, 4th-and-20 conversion attempt, the high wire reception by Chris Hogan on 2nd-and-20 to put the Bills at the two-yard line, and then, of course the catch and throw between rookie Sammy Watkins and Kyle Orton. To the team's credit, they didn't crumble at any of the moments that they likely could have and saved the Bills from a loss to an inferior opponent that would have haunted them.
From stocked cupboards to tapping into the reserve stash
- The Bills came away with the victory and are back in the realm of teams with winning records, but it might have cost them a big part of what they thought would get them to the promised land that is the postseason. All in the first half, Buffalo saw both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller get carted off the field due to an injury. Jackson suffered a groin injury with an unknown severity, but was almost inconsolable as he was wheeled off the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium. On his first carry of the day -- a 53-yard run he has been waiting for the entire season -- Spiller landed awkwardly on his shoulder and sustained a serious injury. Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com reported the initial diagnosis for Spiller is a broken collarbone, which would likely keep the running back out for an extended period of time. If both players have to miss time, the Bills will lean on offseason acquisitions Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown to lead a rushing attack that has struggled for much of the season. Fred Jackson is undoubtedly the leader of the locker room and his absence would be missed beyond just his accomplishments on the field. Against a not-so-stellar Vikings run defense, Dixon carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards (3.9 yards per carry).
Run defense leaky for the first time in 2014
- As long as we're on the topic of rushing attacks, for the first time in 2014, the Bills defense was unable to thwart the run game and couldn't turn their opposition into a one-dimensional unit. Rookie running back Jerrick McKinnon gained 103 yards on just 19 carries, helping the Vikings to gain 5.4 yards per carry and 158 yards total. The Vikings offensive line wasn't anything special and it even suffered two injuries to its interior, which should have played into the Bills hands. Except... it didn't. The Vikings were able to run right up the middle of the field because they challenged Buffalo's defense on the perimeter early in the game. As Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham said afterwards, they can expect to see that same approach from teams until they prove they can stop it. The regular season is all about adjusting to the trends teams throw at you, and the Bills defense now has the responsibility to figure out how to effectively nullify those perimeter attempts.
- With due respect to his performance against the Miami Dolphins in Week Two, rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins had his best game as a pro. He set career highs in receptions (9), yards (122) and touchdowns (2) on the way to the Bills' 17-16 victory over Minnesota. Not surprisingly, his effectiveness can be correlated to the team's victories: in four wins, Watkins has averaged 6.75 catches, 89.25 yards and a touchdown. In three losses? The rookie averaged only 2.7 catches for 25.3 yards and no touchdowns. Memo to head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett: when you get the most talented player on your roster involved on offense, good things tend to happen. A concerted effort needs to be made in each game the Bills play moving forward to make Watkins the focal point of their offense, especially if both Jackson and Spiller are going to miss time on the field.
Richardson begging to be replaced
- As one rookie shined, another was the worst player on the field between both the Bills and the Vikings. Fifth-round draft pick and left guard Cyril Richardson has struggled since being inserted into the lineup for the injured Chris Williams, and might have had his worst game of his young career against the Minnesota Vikings. Normally, a young player would get a pass if it happened only one time. This isn't just a first-year player having a bad week, though. Richardson had one of the worst performances in recent memory against the Detroit Lions in Week Five, and hasn't graded out positively in any of his three previous starts this season. Against the Vikings, Richardson played a role in at least five of the six sacks the Bills allowed. Marrone, for the first time since being pressed on the matter for much of the past three weeks, admitted that he was going to "look at it closely," which might facilitate a replacement along the offensive line. With Kraig Urbik sitting on the bench it would be wise to make the move next week, ahead of playing the dominant defensive line that the New York Jets employ.
McKelvin bounces back
- It was clear as day, the secondary was torched last week against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and was one of the biggest reasons that the Bills lost the game. They still allowed some big gains down the field against rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but they got stops when they needed to and Leodis McKelvin was one of the biggest reasons for that. He capitalized on two abysmal throws by Bridgewater and turned it into an interception both times. Considering the bad beat that Brady and Brandon LaFell put on him late in the game last week, McKelvin really played a big role in ultimately helping the Bills to a victory.
- The Buffalo Bills are the only team in the NFL that carries a 'kickoff specialist' on their team. In order for that player to be worthy of not only a roster spot, but to be active on game day when players along the roster are injured, he must be a valuable asset and pin the opposition at least at the 20-yard line a relatively high percentage of the time. Over the past two weeks, when the Bills have benched two valuable offensive commodities that could have helped them, Jordan Gay has not been worth the spot on the game day roster. On seven total attempts (the squib at the end of the Vikings game notwithstanding), Gay has only pinned the opposition at or inside the 20-yard line three times. A 43-percent conversion rate is not getting it done, meanwhile Mike Williams and Bryce Brown sat idly by over the last two weeks when the Bills really could have used them. That decision falls at the feet of Marrone.
Bills' MVP: WR Sammy Watkins
- The rookie was everywhere and garnered 14 targets for the Bills. He's as talented as you'll find on the roster and proved it once again with clutch catches against Minnesota.
Bills' LVP: G Cyril Richardson
- The fifth-round rookie is begging to be replaced with his play, and it may just happen after his hapless performance against the Vikings.
Up Next: Sunday, October 26 at MetLife Stadium against the 1-6 New York Jets.
- In every sense of the word, the Bills eked out a victory even though their chances looked grim for much of the afternoon. It wasn't as pretty or as overwhelming as many would have preferred, but Buffalo managed to win a game that they were supposed to. The Vikings challenged them and put some interesting concepts on tape for future opponents to use, and it's now on Marrone, Hackett and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to adjust enough to make new theories on how to beat the Bills become null and void. Marrone wasn't happy after the game for a reason, and even though they won the contest, there could be some changes on the way before the Bills play their third divisional game of the season. Either way, the Bills have assured themselves of at least an even start to the first half of 2014, which will keep them in the playoff discussion when the year shifts into its next phase.
The Buffalo Bills have had a roller coaster start to the 2014 season. At 3-3, the Bills are still alive in the playoff discussion and have a need to stack up wins against beatable opponents.
The Minnesota Vikings, the next opposition for Buffalo, qualify under the beatable team category that a hopeful team must take advantage of if they have postseason aspirations. What are some of the key matchups to keep an eye on?
Some things to watch for when the Bills and Vikings square off at Ralph Wilson Stadium:
1) Run game return?
- The Bills haven't been able to get their run game established for each of the past two weeks and it has head coach Doug Marrone frustrated. The push along the offensive line has not been good when Buffalo elects to hand the ball off, and it has led to many negative plays and short gains on first down. That group has been so inefficient that the Bills had to abandon the run game last week, and averaged a mere 2.3 yards per attempt on first downs throughout the game. Fortunately, the Minnesota Vikings' front seven might be just what the doctor ordered to fix what the Bills hoped to be the strength of their offense. The play along the defensive line has been average to poor, which will open up some big holes for both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Spiller has been quelled for the past two games, gaining only 27 yards on 16 carries. Against a weaker and less physical front, he could have one of his best games of 2014. Minnesota could get Chad Greenway back from injury, but even if they do, the talent they have defensively does not stack up with the rest of the league.
2) Getting to Teddy
- The Vikings have a similar problem to the Bills: the play of the offensive line. Four out of five starters along the Minnesota line have had poor seasons to this point, including former top-10 pick Matt Kalil. The left tackle has had a season to forget and grades out as the worst tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Kalil, guards Charlie Johnson and Vladimir Ducasse and center John Sullivan have been picked on all season, so it would be fair to expect the Bills' stout defensive front to keep up the same trend against a rookie quarterback and inexperienced running backs. Bridgewater was sacked eight times by Detroit last week and wasn't allowed to go through his progressions like he wanted to. If the Bills can keep up a similar pattern, Bridgewater will have a tough time once again.
3) Familiar foes meet once again
- Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson have more in common than just what round they were drafted. Gilmore and Patterson each went to high school in Rock Hill, South Carolina and played against one another as rivals. As a senior, Gilmore led South Pointe High School to a 15-0 record, which also collected a win over Patterson's Northwestern High School that season 28-7. The two will likely see a lot of each other on Sunday as the top player at their respective positions.
4) Bryce and Mike watch
- The Buffalo Bills have made two decisions that have left many scratching their heads. The first: the decision to keep Bryce Brown inactive all six weeks to start the season despite looking like a potential threat in the preseason. The second started just this past weekend, when Buffalo elected to bench wide receiver Mike Williams for the team's game against New England in favor of a three tight end package on offense and some special teams players. During the week, both Brown and Williams sounded frustrated with the current situation presented in front of them but alluded to it being the coach's decision. With Spiller struggling and Marquise Goodwin injured, there is a chance both players dress for the game on Sunday. It's likely that Williams will dress as one of only four healthy wide receivers available for the Bills, but if he isn't, that would be quite a statement by the head coach.
5) A switch in principles on the horizon?
- Going into the season, the identity of the Buffalo Bills was going to be run the ball on offense, and to allow the defense to rest and cause turnovers whenever they're on the field. Without the necessary production from their offensive line, principles could be shifting for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. That was the formula for an offense with EJ Manuel as their quarterback, but Kyle Orton is opening up some new doors for that side of the ball. With Orton, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, the Bills have found some success throwing the ball over the past two weeks. This may not be the week that the Bills really start to throw more often than not because Minnesota is weak up front, but don't be surprised to see them go more pass heavy if the Vikings get some stops early on.
Injuries Buffalo OUT: WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), LB Ty Powell (ankle), WR Marcus Easley (knee) PROBABLE: S Aaron Williams (wrist/neck), DT Kyle Williams (knee), S Da'Norris Searcy (knee), LB Brandon Spikes (ribs), LS Garrison Sanborn (knee)
Minnesota OUT: LB Gerald Hodges (hamstring), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin), DE Corey Wootton (back) QUESTIONABLE: LB Chad Greenway (hand/rib), DT Sharrif Floyd (elbow/ankle) PROBABLE: TE Chase Ford (foot), DT Linval Joseph (ankle), LB Michael Mauti (illness), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (hip), CB Jabari Price (hamstring), S Harrison Smith (ankle)
Prediction: Bills over Vikings
- This isn't a game that the Bills should win, this is one that they need to win. The Vikings have endured injuries, suspensions and a rookie quarterback that has left them with a roster that is void of above average talent at most positions on the field. Buffalo has advantages over Minnesota all over the field — specifically at defensive line — and should be able to win this contest handily. If they can't pull off a victory over this Vikings team as currently constructed at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they're a lot farther away from being a playoff team than some may have initially thought.
Stephon Gilmore has come under fire by some fans frustrated with his play.
The expectations of the former first-round selection of the Buffalo Bills are high… and for good reason. Not only is it the fans that feel they should be getting something closer to a true 'shutdown cornerback,' but so does the man that has coached him for the past 21 months.
Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson said until Gilmore plays with the type of consistency they're expecting of him, the fans aren't totally off base.
"Absolutely. Well-deserved," Henderson said.
"Absolutely. And we talk about that, too," he continued. "If you want to be a shutdown corner in this league, you've got to play technique and you gotta play your guy. That's how we talk about it in my room. I don't beat around the bush. I tell them straight that if you want to be a shutdown corner, you take your man out of it by working technique and making sure you get yours covered."
To this point in the season Gilmore has been above average, but he hasn't been as sterling as one would expect out of a first round pick. He has even been the man responsible for a few big plays in the first six games.
One of those occurred last weekend, when New England wide receiver Brian Tyms caught a long pass in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Gilmore was draped all over him but couldn't get his hand on the ball, and even though Corey Graham was there to help him, the big play ultimately fell on him.
"That's Stephon all the way," Henderson said. "He just, s***, you gotta make the play. He's on top, that's just him by himself."
The big question is, what does Gilmore have to do to get to the level that many are hoping he can achieve? To his positional coach, it's all about understanding who he is as a player and then never resting on his laurels.
And to Henderson, Gilmore is a press-man corner that should be jamming his assignment at the line of scrimmage more often than not.
"That's his skill level. That's where he needs to be at. When he's on the line of scrimmage, and like I tell him, he's got to know his game. His game is a press corner on the line of scrimmage where he can be physical with the receiver and run with him," he said.
"That's all technique. You've got to feel comfortable enough to do it every time. And that's what's so hard about this game. You've got to do and work your technique every snap, because the minute you take a snap off... touchdown."
Gilmore and the entire Bills secondary will attempt to bounce back from a performance that allowed 361 yards through the air to New England.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin started the week off just like the rest of his teammates, with the full expectation that he'd be in the lineup on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. That was, until Thursday afternoon came and went, leaving Goodwin on the trainer's table with an injured hamstring.
Goodwin was unable to practice on Friday because of it, and for the second time this season (and for the sixth time in his young career), will be forced to miss a game due to an injury. The Bills concluded practice for the week and the wide receiver was one of three players that were ruled out of Sunday's contest.
Goodwin, linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) will all be unavailable to Buffalo when they square off against Minnesota at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Powell left the game against New England early with his injury, while Easley is set to miss his fourth straight contest.
On the bright side for the Bills, starting safety Aaron Williams is likely to be back in the lineup on Sunday. Williams missed the game against the Patriots due to a neck injury, but is listed as 'probable' for this weekend's tilt.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs), safety Da'Norris Searcy (knee) and long snapper Garrison Sanborn also received the 'probable' designation, reserved for players that have at least a 75-percent chance of playing in the upcoming game.
For Minnesota, they'll be without tight end Kyle Rudolph, linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive end Corey Wooten, while starting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Chad Greenway are questionable.
The Bills and Vikings get started at 1 pm on Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills have certainly had their share of wide receiver drama this week. In addition to the trade request of Mike Williams on Monday, now the Bills are dealing with an injury to one of their healthy wideouts.
During Thursday's practice on the grass field outside the ADPRO Sports Training Center, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin injured his hamstring and could not continue through the rest of the workout. Head coach Doug Marrone said the injury occurred near the end of the session.
"You're always concerned when they take him in afterwards," Marrone said. "I haven't been back inside yet and they haven't given me any report yet. I think you just go look at it and see what they say and work it day-by-day."
If Goodwin is unavailable for the team's game on Sunday, that would leave them with only four healthy wide receivers on the roster. Officially, the wideout was listed as a limited participant on Thursday.
The Bills also had four other players that received the 'limited' distinction after the practice. Safety Aaron Williams (wrist/neck), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (knee) all could not take the full amount of reps.
For the second straight day the Bills were without both wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle). Long snapper Garrison Sanborn (knee) returned to practice in full after being limited on Wednesday.
The Bills will resume practice Friday morning at One Bills Drive. They'll square off against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills have started to come around on one of the more popular refrains from their fans. To this point, second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio has been kept at offensive tackle and head coach Doug Marrone dismissed the notion of moving him to guard earlier in the season.
The head coach was asked for an update on Kouandjio's progress, and as it turned out, his tune has changed a bit.
"We feel very comfortable with the tackles that we have right now. We do have him playing some guard," Marrone revealed. "We did move him in there, so he's playing guard on the scout team and we're working on developing him."
Kouandjio, 21, has been widely viewed as a disappointment for not only the inability to start, but for not even being active on game days through the first six weeks.
What changed for the rookie? He said it was just a matter of changing his mentality.
"I just made the decision and stuck with it. I didn't look back on it. I just made a conscious decision to keep pushing forward and believing in myself," the offensive lineman remarked. "The next day I came out there, you know, I threw off all my burdens and just played like I did in high school. It's going well, I'm getting better and better. I'm not there yet, but I'm doing a lot better."
Kouandjio received first-team reps at right tackle when he first arrived to One Bills Drive for Organized Team Activities. After that first week though, the Alabama product was relegated to the second team and hasn't gotten a snap with the first unit since.
His struggles during both training camp and the preseason have been well-documented, leading to the Bills to keep him out of the lineup in each of the first six games. That's when Kouandjio woke up.
"It was after the first game, when I had to sit down and watch my teammates go out there and have a good time. I felt like a spectator, I felt like I was in the crowd," he said. "I decided that's not who I am -- I decided to wake up and do something about it. I understand that there was a chance that I might fail, but I wasnt afraid of that. I'm going to keep pushing. LIke I said, I'm not perfect, but I'm getting a lot better. I'm breaking down barriers one by one."
Kouandjio started 26 games at left tackle for the Crimson Tide in his college career, and although ripe with experience at tackle, he hasn't played guard in his life before Buffalo. The Bills switched him inside just last week.
"I think he's done a nice job," Marrone said of the transition. "From any of the players that haven't been playing, I'd rather put it that way, I see him as one of the most improved from what you've seen in the preseason and what you've seen of him when you watched it. His movement skills right now, it's truly been a 180 from what we saw in the preseason. I'm really excited about that. Now, since that has increased, we're looking to see where we can develop him and where he can fit."
Still early into his development at guard, it isn't likely that Kouandjio is active for the team's game against Minnesota on Sunday. The head coach did hint, however, that something could break for the rookie down the line.
"Two weeks ago I had told Pat [Morris], 'He's really moving well,'" Marrone remarked. "I said, 'We need to move him around and see if we can develop him into playing tackle and guard.' If he keeps going the way he's going, we can get a spot for him somewhere, just like a lot of other people."
The Bills have been riddled by poor play along the offensive line, particularly at both guard positions and at right tackle. For now, the Bills will try to develop Kouandjio as quickly as possible.
The man who has been one of -- if not the most -- important players on the Buffalo Bills roster was nowhere to be found at practice inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center Wednesday. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus did not participate in the team's opening session of the week.
Luckily enough for the Bills, it wasn't an injury that kept Dareus away from practice.
"I knew about it last week. He had something come up that was personal for him, so I excused him," head coach Doug Marrone said. "It's nothing related to anything that has to do with him. It's family."
Marrone added that the defensive tackle is expected back at practice on Thursday.
Dareus was one of only three players that did not participate in Wednesday's practice, joining only wide receiver Marcus Easley and linebacker Ty Powell with that distinction. Easley is still dealing with a knee injury, while Powell is resting an ankle injury he sustained Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Safety Aaron Williams, who missed Sunday's contest due to a neck injury, was a limited participant once more with both the neck and a wrist ailment. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs), safety Da'Norris Searcy (knee) and long snapper Garrison Sanborn (knee) were also limited.
The only new addition among that group is Sanborn, who is the only player of his kind on the roster. Even the remote possibility of him not being able to play got the Bills' pro personnel department working the phones.
"We protected ourselves. We brought in two guys today to work out," Marrone revealed. "Our expectation is that we expect him to be in there, but again we just have to cover ourselves and we had two guys in today."
The Bills will resume practice on Thursday in Orchard Park.
Once the Buffalo Bills found out Friday that they would have their stud defensive tackle available for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, the team made a decision, and then all hell broke loose. The Bills benched wide receiver Mike Williams, which then led to a multitude of speculation.
Had he fallen out of favor with the coaching staff? Might it be about a personality conflict?
The answer to both of those questions was a succinct 'no.' The decision to make Williams one of the inactive players on game day came down to wanting to have both a three tight end set and the team's kickoff specialist (Jordan Gay) available to them. That was the reason that was given publicly, and a league source confirmed that it was, in fact, the real reasoning for Williams being benched.
Predictably, it created a bit of controversy — so much so that his agent, Hadley Englehard, placed a call to general manager Doug Whaley asking permission to seek out a trade. The request became public and led to Whaley proclaiming that they weren't actively shopping the wideout.
In the throes of an important season to the coaching staff, drama is the last thing head coach Doug Marrone wants. And that's exactly what this became: a dramatic turn that has left Marrone to admit he's annoyed by how it has unraveled.
"Yeah, I mean, I'm not gonna lie. Absolutely [it's annoying]," he said. "Someone else's problems all of a sudden become my problems."
Both Marrone and Williams claimed that the request came from the wideout's agent and not the actual player. For the first time since the trade request from his agent, Williams spoke with the media.
He claimed Englehard was just doing "what an agent's supposed to do," and that it wasn't stemming from any conversation the two shared after he was benched. In fact, Williams said, he has since told his agent to calm it down and that he, not Englehard, was the one in charge.
"Yeah, I had to because it started getting out of hand. He was trying to see other options but then it got public, and everybody found out and everybody started going crazy," the wideout remarked. "So I had to tell him, like, I don't want to be traded. I told him that. You're right, at the end of the day you've got to tell him, like, I'm the boss and I want to be here. So that's what I had to do."
The first bit of public outcry came from Williams himself. Hours before the game, he tweeted a picture through Instagram of his jersey and told fans he would be inactive, using the hashtag '#WastedJersey' at the end of the post. He deleted the post on Instagram on Sunday.
Perhaps a bit of the discord that was created was due to Williams preparing all week as though he would be in the lineup against the Patriots. It wasn't until Saturday — a day after the Bills found out defensive tackle Kyle Williams would be available to play — that they told the other Williams of their decision.
The wideout admitted it was a bit odd to find out so late in the week.
"Yeah. You usually find out [Wednesday] or [Thursday], or things like that," Williams said. "And me, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I go out and practice as hard as I can, and that's where it really hurt me, really, because I practiced so hard that week, I ran, did all the scout team, did all the first-team offense and then find out Saturday I'm not playing, that's really what is the frustrating thing with me."
Even a heads up that it could happen from the coaching staff during the week would have kept some of the frustration from getting to Williams.
"Yeah. That's what I wanted to hear. But, you're not gonna hear that. This league, they do what they want," he said. "They're the coaches. They're playing who they think the best to win and last week I wasn't one of the players they thought was better to win."
Despite the benching Williams said he wants to be in Buffalo, playing for his hometown team. He acknowledged that being inactive for the game was a disappointment, but that his sole focus is to regain his status as one of the active players on Sunday.
Even though it created quite a stir, Marrone was noncommittal on if the self-proclaimed "touchdown scoring machine" would be in the lineup against Minnesota.
"That is a decision of inactives and stuff, we'll see how the week goes because I don't want to get myself in a bind," the coach said.
Without Williams the Bills went with just four receivers against New England, using only Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan and Marquise Goodwin on game day. For now, like the past two weeks of practice, Williams remained with the scout team during practice.
The Buffalo Bills shocked many in their upset of the Detroit Lions in Week Five of the 2014 regular season, but couldn't seem to capitalize on a big chance against an AFC East division rival. The New England Patriots continued their dominance over the Bills with a 37-22 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium
The Bills will lick their wounds and move on to face their third NFC North opponent in seven weeks. Before they do that, let's close the book on the Week Six loss to New England. With the help of NFL.com's Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, 'Upon Further Review' brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.
Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Justin Armour (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player's plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (69 total plays)
Kyle Orton (69, 1, 2.7)
Fred Jackson (52, 4, 3.0)
C.J. Spiller (12, -2, 2.0)
Anthony Dixon (8, 0, 2.3)
Frank Summers (4, 1, 2.7)
The Buffalo Bills pushed aside a two-game losing streak, went into Detroit and pulled an upset that many didn't expect them to. With a brand new quarterback at the helm, the Bills beat the Lions on the road 17-14.
They moved on to square off against an AFC East division rival. But before we get to that contest, first we'll close the book on the Bills-Lions ordeal. With the help of NFL.com's Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, 'Upon Further Review' brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.
Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Aaron Merz (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player's plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (71 total plays)
Kyle Orton (71, 3, 3.0)
Fred Jackson (46, 5, 3.3)
C.J. Spiller (25, -2, 2.3)
Frank Summers (19, -1, 2.0)
Sammy Watkins (70, 7, 3.3)
Robert Woods (67, 1, 2.7)
Mike Williams (26, 0, 2.3)
Marquise Goodwin (14, 1, 2.7)
Chris Hogan (9, 0, 2.3)
Scott Chandler (43, 2, 2.7)
Lee Smith (26, -2, 2.3)
Chris Gragg (9, 1, 2.7)
Cordy Glenn (71, 5, 3.3)
Cyril Richardson (71, -12, 0.7)
Eric Wood (71, -5, 1.7)
Erik Pears (71, -3, 2.0)
Seantrel Henderson (71, -10, 1.0)
Chris Hairston (1, 0, 2.3)
DEFENSE (62 total plays)
Mario Williams (47, 7, 3.7)
Jerry Hughes (45, 5, 3.3)
Jarius Wynn (26, 2, 2.7)
Manny Lawson (11, 0, 2.3)
Marcell Dareus (57, 8, 3.7)
Stefan Charles (36, 4, 3.3)
Corbin Bryant (20, 1, 2.7)
Brandon Spikes (51, 3, 3.0)
Preston Brown (62, -1, 2.3)
Keith Rivers (17, -2, 2.0)
With Sunday's loss the Buffalo Bills have lost the past six contests to the New England Patriots, and like many of them before the 37-22 outcome, the game was beleaguered with disheartening ways to lose the game.
The Bills couldn't establish their rushing game on offense, and the pass defense was suspect at best. Tied into the game were some interesting decisions by the coaching staff of the Bills and how much playing time some of their players received.
Some notable developments from the Patriots game:
- Running back C.J. Spiller got a season-low 12 snaps on offense. He has been largely inefficient in 2014 with only a 3.4 yards per carry average, and the Bills seem to be getting frustrated by his penchant to bounce runs outside. Fred Jackson (52) received over four times the amount of snaps of what Spiller was given.
- The Bills made Mike Williams inactive and Chris Hogan received the biggest bump of snaps in a single game that he's gotten all year. Hogan was on the field for 30 of the 69 snaps, getting 16 more than teammate Marquise Goodwin.
- The snap count for Manny Lawson is dwindling as the year has gone by. Lawson was given only 11 of 62 snaps against Detroit, and this week against the Patriots only receiver 12 of 71 total defensive snaps. With the way Mario Williams has played, the Bills haven't had a reason to keep the backup defensive end's role the same.
The rest of the playtime percentages, in full:
QB Kyle Orton - 69 (100%)
LT Cordy Glenn - 69 (100%)
LG Cyril Richardson - 69 (100%)
C Eric Wood - 69 (100%)
RG Erik Pears - 69 (100%)
RT Seantrel Henderson - 69 (100%)
WR Sammy Watkins - 68 (99%)
WR Robert Woods - 62 (90%)
TE Scott Chandler - 53 (77%)
HB Fred Jackson - 52 (75%)
WR Chris Hogan - 30 (43%)
TE Chris Gragg - 22 (32%)
TE Lee Smith - 19 (28%)
WR Marquise Goodwin - 14 (20%)
HB C.J. Spiller - 12 (17%)
HB Anthony Dixon - 8 (12%)
FB Frank Summers - 4 (6%)
OL Chris Hairston - 1 (1%)
CB Stephon Gilmore - 71 (100%)
S Duke Williams - 70 (99%)
CB Corey Graham - 69 (97%)
CB Leodis McKelvin - 68 (96%)
DT Marcell Dareus - 64 (90%)
DT Kyle Williams - 58 (82%)
LB Nigel Bradham - 57 (80%)
DE Mario Williams - 55 (77%)
DE Jerry Hughes - 53 (75%)
LB Brandon Spikes - 44 (62%)
LB Keith Rivers - 41 (58%)
LB Preston Brown - 31 (44%)
CB Nickell Robey - 24 (34%)
DE Jarius Wynn - 22 (31%)
S Da'Norris Searcy - 19 (27%)
DT Stefan Charles - 15 (21%)
DE Manny Lawson - 12 (17%)
DT Corbin Bryant - 6 (8%)
LB Ty Powell - 2 (3%)
A week ago at this time, all was well at One Bills Drive. The team was on the verge of closing its sale to the Pegula family, the Buffalo Bills were coming off an impressive road win in Detroit and many viewed their upcoming game against New England as a winnable one.
One week later the Bills lost in disheartening fashion, and now one of their top wide receivers has asked permission from the team to seek a trade. Hadley Englehard, the agent for wideout Mike Williams, has asked the franchise for the go ahead to call around the league to try and facilitate a trade out of Buffalo.
General manager Doug Whaley made a rare appearance down in the team's locker room just moments after the news broke and took questions from the media. In Whaley's conversations with Englehard, the two seemed to have a differing perspective as to what type of player Williams is.
"The agent called me and asked if they could have permission to talk to other teams. I said we like Mike Williams, we expect him back and we expect big things from him," Whaley remarked. "But like anybody, if he gets me compensation worthy of a No. 1 wide receiver which he claimed he is, then we would entertain it."
The Bills haven't used Mike Williams much like a number one receiver. He has been the third man in behind rookie Sammy Watkins and second-year player Robert Woods, receiving only 50.46-percent of offensive snaps heading into Week Six.
Williams was benched in the AFC East showdown with the New England Patriots due to a numbers crunch and a need, from what head coach Doug Marrone said after Sunday's loss, for more players that contributed on special teams. The wide receiver does not participate in that phase of the game, and with the late addition of defensive tackle Kyle Williams to the lineup, the Bills elected to not dress the pass catcher.
That wasn't just a convenient reason for the Bills to pass off through the media. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Williams did not dress as one of the 46 active players on Sunday because of that exact line of thinking.
"I've had zero problems with him," Marrone said. "People were asking me, the decision wasn't Chris Hogan or Mike Williams. Those are two different types of players. Chris is more of an inside guy. He had to help us on the outside yesterday. And Chris plays a bigger role in special teams. The question with sitting down was, like I said before, really was the three tight end package that we had, you know that we worked on and put the the work in during the week."
Regardless of the explanation it apparently did not go over well with the wide receiver. Just hours ahead of the game, Williams tweeted a picture of his jersey and said he wouldn't be active for the contest, using the hashtag "#WastedJersey." He has since deleted the post to Instagram.
"I want to stress to everybody: we are not seeking to trade Mike Williams. His agent asked us, and I said with everybody on this team, I want to stress, with anybody we have on this 53-man roster, if someone calls it is our responsibility to listen to what someone offers," Whaley said. "But we are not actively shopping anyone on this team."
Ahead of the report on Monday, Williams was asked to speak with reporters and he declined to do so.
Williams tweeted this at 1:30 pm:
Chill everybody I'm happy with being a buffalo bill....... I mean come on it's my dream my agent just did what a agent supposed to do ...
In front of one of the loudest crowds one will witness at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Bills had a week's worth of jubilation that surrounded them with their onlooking fans. The Pegula family officially closed on the franchise on Friday, which led to a raucous environment inside the gates at One Bills Drive.
Over the past six months, the urgency that the Pegulas displayed to assure themselves that they would get the franchise was notable. Their employees on the field, at least on Sunday, did not display a similar brand of eagerness and fell prey to the rival New England Patriots 37-22.
Where did it all go wrong? Some observations from the game:
No answer for Gronkowski
- It was a fear for the Bills as they entered the contest with the Patriots, and that fear was, in fact, a warranted feeling. Tight end Rob Gronkowski did whatever he wanted to on the field against the Bills and ended the afternoon with seven catches for 94 yards. The good news for the Bills? They snapped Gronkowski's running touchdown streak against them, having caught a ball in the end zone at least once each of the last six contests against Buffalo. Even though he was without the vaunted touchdown, Gronkowski was credited with nine official targets in the game but had even more due to penalties. One 18-yard scoring play was nullified by a holding penalty on a fullback, while two other pass interference penalties on the Bills resulted in a total of 46 yards gained. Really, Gronkowski accounted for 140 yards through the air, which only adds to his dominance over Buffalo. It didn't matter who the Bills tried to guard him with, whether it was Leodis McKelvin, Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham or Duke Willians, Gronkowski had an answer for all them. The Bills did not attempt to use linebacker Nigel Bradham on him at any times during the game, even though he is a bigger and more athletic linebacker. That could have been a potential solution for the Bills to discover, but they entrusted their secondary to get the job done, and they couldn't.
The Duke of pass interference penalties
- In reference to that struggling secondary, the Bills — and most notably second-year safety Duke Williams — couldn't get on the same page with their sterling run defense. Williams started at safety with Aaron Williams sidelined and drew the terrifying assignment of covering Gronkowski one-on-one in many situations throughout the game. The results were not pretty… and it could have been a lot worse statistically. Williams took two pass interference penalties when he attempted to cover the tight end, and even had a touchdown scored on him that was brought back due to an offensive penalty. With such a limited role in 2013, this year is more of his rookie season on defense and it hasn't gone well. Teams are picking on him when on the field, but he wasn't the only member of the secondary that was exposed, either. Leodis McKelvin gave up the 56-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell and Stephon Gilmore got turned around on a couple of pass plays. Tom Brady picked the secondary apart to the tune of 361 yards and four touchdowns. It appears the reports of Brady's decline as a premiere starting quarterback in the NFL were a bit premature.
- The Bills made Sammy Watkins a large part of their game plan against the Detroit Lions in Week Five, but knew it would be a much harder task this week with Darrelle Revis expected to shadow him wherever he went. If you were to look at the box score you would have seen that Revis, for the most part, did his job against Watkins. However, was that more of a Bills issue than a big day for Revis in limiting such a young and exciting wide receiver? Early on, there wasn't any question that Watkins struggled against Revis. As the game went on and he became more comfortable against him, though, the rookie felt he was getting open. The trouble of it was, it didn't even seem like Kyle Orton was looking Watkins' way. He is undoubtedly their most explosive talent on offense in 2014, and even against Revis, was vastly underused in a game that was begging for more substantial plays on offense.
- For the Bills, one of the brightest spots of both their game with the New England Patriots and their season was the performance of their run defense. Heading into the game, the Bills were second in the league in both yards (71) and yards per carry (3.0) against on average. With another dominating effort up front from Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams, Buffalo made those averages even better. The Bills allowed only 50 yards on 27 total carries, frustrating New England every time they tried to run it up the middle. For opposing teams, running against them has been the equivalent of bashing their heads against a concrete wall repeatedly. The pass defense is a mess, but the front four — with the help of their linebackers (Nigel Bradham, Brandon Spikes) — have cemented themselves as one of the best in the NFL.
First and third down efficiency
- The Bills offensive woes from Sunday are well documented, but one needs to delve a little deeper as to why they struggled as much as they did. One of the most important statistics for offenses is how teams start on first down, because barely any teams view obtaining the required first down as a four-play ordeal. Because most limit themselves to three plays to get the necessary yardage, how much teams gain on first down significantly raises or lowers the percentages of converting a first down based on how many yards are gained. For the Bills and Patriots, and their subsequent differences in offensive efficiency, this particular statistic tells a big part of the story. Over the course of the game, New England averaged 6.1 yards on each of their attempts on first downs. They averaged 5.7 yards in the first quarter, 2.8 in the second quarter, 14.8 in the third quarter and 3.8 in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, Buffalo averaged just 2.3 yards per first down attempt — nearly four yards less than New England on every try. Broken down into quarters, the Bills averaged 2.2 in the first, 2.4 in the second, 0.7 in the third and 4.2 in the fourth. Along the same lines, the third down defense in the second half dipped significantly, leading to the Bills falling more and more behind the Patriots. After they limited New England to converting on only 30-percent of their third down attempts in the first half, their opponents obtained a first down on four of their five (80-percent) third down tries. Through and through, those two statistics show just how the Bills were let down on Sunday on both sides of the ball.
Guards doing anything but, well, guarding
- It's been six weeks for the Buffalo Bills and the play of their guards on the offensive line just hasn't improved at all. In fact, it may have gotten even worse. Rookie Cyril Richardson and Erik Pears struggle on a weekly basis and are often picked apart. The poor play is taking its toll not only on the comfortability of Kyle Orton in the pocket, but it's also limiting one of the team's perceived strengths as well. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, once thought to be a feared duo for differing styles of running, were largely held in check against New England and the guards deserve a lot of the blame. The worst part is, there isn't a lot of hope remaining on the roster. Richardson was the one ray of light because he's a rookie, but now with Chris Williams on injured reserve and the team's refusal to flip second round pick Cyrus Kouandjio to guard, the Bills are seemingly stuck with what they have. Perhaps Kraig Urbik could be a consideration, but head coach Doug Marrone deliberately tried to get him out of the starting lineup since December of 2013. Desperate times could call for desperate measures, however.
Bills' MVP: TE Scott Chandler
- A largely disappointing performance for the majority of the team hid what was a career day for tight end Scott Chandler. He caught six of his nine targets for 105 yards and became the first Bills tight end to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Pete Metzelaars did so in 1992. Something about that little fun fact screams that 22 years is far too long for a team to wait for a tight end to gain that yardage in a single game. Despite that, Chandler was the most consistent offensive piece on Sunday and he kept Buffalo afloat with key receptions.
Bills' LVP: HB C.J. Spiller
- The start to C.J. Spiller's contract year couldn't have been much worse. Spiller's six carry, 19-yard performance on Sunday helped bring down his season yards per carry average to 3.4. The running back has just 234 yards on 68 carries, and over the past two weeks, he has gained only 27 yards on 16 carries. The past two weeks have yielded a yards per carry average of 1.7. If he wants to prove that he's worth the kind of money that he's after, then he needs to turn it around down the stretch of the season in a hurry.
Up Next: Sunday, October 19 versus the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium
- With due respect to the penalties (all eight of them for 107 yards), the game was not lost for the Bills because of four questionable calls. What the Bills did — or in this case what they didn't do — on the 97-percent of the other snaps during the game should be the focus. The Bills, quite simply, did not do enough offensively to get themselves out of the early hole they dug themselves into, and the pass defense let them down as the game wore on. Tom Brady picked apart Buffalo's secondary and the offensive line couldn't get out of their own way — two of the biggest reasons why the Bills were always a step behind their AFC East rivals. The good news is that the season is only six weeks old and the Bills still have four more divisional games to rectify their poor performance. However, as long as they continue to struggle against the class of the AFC East, they'll always be playing for second place. Back to the drawing board they go.
The Pegula era of the Buffalo Bills is officially underway. Fittingly enough, the first foray is against a bitter rival with first place on the line — the New England Patriots.
The Bills shocked many last week with a three-point victory over the Detroit Lions and have similar designs on an upset in Week Six. Will the Bills be able to do something they've only done twice since 2003 and beat New England?
Some things to watch for:
1) Who's got Gronk?
- Before last week, many were looking at the Patriots' offensive attack and asking if they were down for the count in 2014. Tom Brady and company answered back with a huge effort against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, and a big part of that was the resurgence of Rob Gronkowski. The tight end concluded the evening with a 100-yard performance on six catches and a touchdown. He isn't the same player as he once was — at least not yet — but he is still Brady's most trusted target on offense. Gronkowski is still an effective route runner, and his body type gives the Patriots a matchup advantage almost every week. As long as Gronkowski is running as well as he did against the Bengals, the Bills will have trouble with him. All three linebackers aren't quick enough to stay with him, the safeties aren't big enough to have a huge impact on his day and the Bills may need to employ more zone looks to deal with him over the middle of the field. Specifically with the emergence of another tight end (more on that later), it could create further discord with the defense and how they defend Gronkowski.
2) Bills and Patriots share a problem
- The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots both have a glaring problem on their rosters, and it is a commonality between them. Both teams have problems protecting their quarterbacks and their runners from the inside out. For Buffalo, Erik Pears and Cyril Richardson have not performed up to an average standard five games into the season. While Vince Wilfork is still someone to take note of, his best years are behind him and there isn't much to speak of inside beside him. It's more of a problem for New England, who has to deal with the likes of Marcell Dareus, Stefan Charles, and if he's healthy, Kyle Williams as well. Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell have underwhelmed and Brady hasn't felt comfortable for the majority of the season as a result. If the Bills can get some pressure on him from up the middle, his accuracy will dip quite a bit.
3) Sammy vs. Revis
- The Bills got prized rookie Sammy Watkins more involved in their Week Five win over Detroit, with the wide receiver making an incredible catch on a poorly thrown ball to set up the game-winning field goal. Watkins hinted throughout the week that he might be receiving the Darrellle Revis treatment from the Patriots. Revis hasn't been the same cornerback with the Patriots that made him such a name in New York, but he is still capable of putting a stop to potential big gains. Watkins will likely be shadowed all game by Revis, and regardless of his declining abilities in coverage, the rookie will go against one of the biggest tests of his young career.
4) Fred Jackson to loom large
- The Patriots aren't one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run, but they are susceptible to getting burned on the ground. Between the two running backs that the Bills have, Fred Jackson has been the superior runner and is the more likely of the two to have a big impact on the game. The Patriots struggle with physical runners more than anything, and Jackson's style lends itself to that line of thought. Spiller has been trying to bounce far too many runs to the outside and left yardage on the field, which has given more opportunities and playing time to Jackson. As long as he is able to play, which he is expected to, Jackson could be one of the keys to the Bills potentially pulling off a win against a favored opponent.
5) The Wright factor?
- The Patriots were the first team to employ a true two tight end approach, and since the days of Aaron Hernandez, they have yet to find the complementary player to Gronkowski. Just ahead the start of the regular season, the Patriots acquired Timothy Wright from Tampa Bay to potentially serve as the 'move' tight end role. Wright has seen his snaps steadily increase since getting into town and had his best game with the team in 2014 just last week. A more athletic type, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound tight end collected five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati. If the Patriots are attempting to establish a similar approach — mostly because they lack the boundary receivers to really make a big impact — it could keep Brandon Spikes and others that struggle in coverage on the field more than the team would like.
Injuries Buffalo OUT: G Chris Williams (back), WR Marcus Easley (knee) QUESTIONABLE: HB Fred Jackson (ankle), LB Nigel Bradham (knee), CB Ron Brooks (neck), S Da'Norris Searcy (knee), LB Brandon Spikes (ribs), S Aaron Williams (wrist, neck), DT Kyle Williams (knee)
New England OUT: S Nate Ebner (finger), OL Cameron Fleming (finger) QUESTIONABLE: CB Brandon Browner (ankle), DE Dominique Easley (shoulder/knee), C Bryan Stork (head), QB Tom Brady (ankle), LB Jamie Collins (thigh), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), WR Matt Slater (shoulder) PROBABLE: DE Chandler Jones (shoulder), S Devin McCourty (rib)
Prediction: Bills over Patriots
- One of the biggest Week Six games in recent memory, the Bills have a tremendous opportunity to prove to the rest of the NFL that they are, in fact, for real as a genuine threat in the AFC playoff picture. Kyle Orton, Fred Jackson and company will have their opportunities on offense and they need to take advantage. The biggest difference between the teams in this game is how much of an advantage the Bills' defensive line has over the interior of New England's offensive line. That, combined with a charged up crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the start of the Pegula era, could yield one of the biggest victories the Bills could attain in 2014.
Terry and Kim Pegula are taking over the operations in Orchard Park as the new owners of the Buffalo Bills. Any time there is a change in ownership, there are usually changes to the structure of the organization, and one of the biggest switches have been confirmed.
Jeffrey Littmann, who started with the Bills as a treasurer in 1986, became one of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.'s most trusted staff members and eventually worked his way up to the title of Chief Financial Officer, will no longer be a part of the franchise that employed him for nearly 30 years. Littmann was a critical player to the sale of the organization to the Pegulas, and along with Mary Owen, represented the Wilson family as two members of the team's newly founded New Stadium Working Group.
When asked if they would both continue on the committee, and if Littmann would stay with the team as the Pegulas took over, Terry Pegula succinctly replied to the question that so many wanted the answer to:
"By their design, no, they will not be a part of it," he said.
Littmann had long been rumored to have clashed with decision makers throughout the years at One Bills Drive, most notably with former general manager Bill Polian, who has long been referred to as the architect of the teams that went to four straight Super Bowls.
The former CFO made a very rare statement to reporters in attendance at the NFL's fall meetings on Wednesday, just moments after the Pegulas had been approved by the league as the team's new ownership group.
"Once all of that is complete, our focus for the interim time after that is going to be to do whatever we can do and whatever they'd like us to do to help ensure a very smooth transition for all of our people back at One Bills Drive and for all of our fans in Western New York.
That transition period has been completed, and for the first time since the 1980s, the Buffalo Bills will no longer have Littmann as a key piece to their organization.
The sale of the Buffalo Bills is complete and Terry and Kim Pegula ensured the safety of the franchise in western New York with their $1.4 billion purchase. It was only a matter of time before they were asked about their plans for a new stadium.
Until Friday, the Bills have been vague by design about the desire to build new facilities. The only thing that has been discussed is a 'New Stadium Working Group' established with the new lease, along with some varying undertones at this past week's National Football League owner's meetings to approve the Pegulas.
Again, that was until Friday, when Terry Pegula proudly pronounced that a new stadium was a part of their grand scheme as the new owners of the Bills.
"We will gradually proceed to plan and design a stadium for the Buffalo Bills," he said. "You know, these things take time."
Time is something that they have in their current lease with Erie County and the state of New York concerning Ralph Wilson Stadium. Still with a full eight years before the expiration of the current lease, the Pegulas can afford to plan a new center for Buffalo Bills football the right way and without the need rush into anything.
"It really doesn't change anything from the standpoint of that we're going to take the New Stadium Working Group and we're going to work with the county and the state and see what makes sense with our business partners as we move forward," Bills President Russ Brandon said. "We'd all love to have a shiny new stadium, I think everyone, we're all about trying to improve the experience. But we just spent $130 million on a renovation and we're two games in. We've got a lot of time the way the lease is constructed to make an informed decision."
"On the stadium issue, I said in the back room I hope I don't have to spend the next eight years of my life answering stadium questions," Pegula joked before dropping the line Bills fans had been waiting to hear for years.
And when he did, he answered the biggest stadium question of them all. One day in the not-so-distant future, the Bills will likely have a new place to call home in the western New York area.
When Terry Pegula and his family bought the Buffalo Sabres and was introduced on February 22, 2011, fans felt like they had a fellow fan as the owner of their favorite hockey franchise. Just like he did almost four years ago, Pegula once again had to fight back the tears as he made his introductory address, this time, as the new owner of the Buffalo Bills.
"My name is Terry Pegula, and the Pegulas just bought a football team. Actually, that's not totally correct," he said before getting choked up. "We all just bought a team. Our team. The Buffalo Bills."
A self-admitted fan of the Detroit Lions growing up, as he grew older the Bills took hold of a special place in his heart. Even though he and his wife, Kim, were quite wealthy and were the owners of another professional sports franchise, the anxiety of the future of the Buffalo Bills wasn't a feeling they could disassociate from.
Pegula hinted to reporters shortly after being approved by the National Football League as the new owners of the franchise that his desires to purchase the Bills went back farther than one would think. He expanded on that statement Friday.
"Kim and I had discussions for several years, especially since being successful with the Sabres, I guess the fear the fans had was an innate fear we had," Pegula revealed. "What's up with the Bills? Do we want this team to leave town? And the answer was obviously no."
That fear they felt was so strong that they invested a record-breaking $1.4 billion to purchase an NFL team to ensure its safety in western New York for years to come. And ultimately, the fear, excitement, hope or whichever emotion was felt when they decided to bid on the Bills, has them thinking big.
Telling reporters on February 22, 2011 that the Sabres' "reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup," Pegula made a more NFL-centric refrain for fans to cling to.
"Owning any professional team is about winning and the primary goal of our ownership will be to win the Super Bowl and to bring championships to the city of Buffalo, and myself and my family will dedicate ourselves to that," he said. "We want to bring a Super Bowl to the Niagara region courtesy of your, our, my Buffalo Bills."
He and his wife Kim will take over as just the second owners of the Buffalo Bills in the franchise's history. Terry Pegula was the only one of the pair on the stage, but he was very quick to remind that he and his wife will be part-owners of the organization.
The man they replaced, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., was not forgotten throughout the introductory news conference. In fact, Pegula couldn't help but to go out of his way to serve up glowing remarks about the team's founder and first owner.
"Ralph was 54 years. How do you follow that act? It's tough," he said. "He started this franchise, and look where it is. That's a pretty overwhelming legacy. 54 years and a year from now I'm going to be on one. I think a lot of people standing up here would have felt the same way, and that's a credit to Ralph and his legacy."
The sale has closed, the funds have been transferred and Pegula has officially taken the reins of the franchise as the fourth-wealthiest owner in the NFL, behind only Seattle's Paul Allen, St. Louis' Stan Kroenke and Miami's Stephen Ross for those honors. With seemingly all the money in the world Pegula can invest in just about anything, and anywhere, they want to.
Over the past four years, he has proverbially screamed from the mountain top that he believes in Buffalo and he will do whatever it takes to help the city and its sports teams to get to the next level.
"We can all buy many things in life. We can buy a house, we can buy a car. If you have enough money there's 32 football teams in the National Football League you can buy," heremarked. "There's only one Buffalo Bills."
And now, Terry and Kim Pegula own the very franchise that meant so very much to them, in the city that can't help but appreciate everything they have done to further it's advancement.
The Bills and Sabres are now both owned by the Pegulas, and they wouldn't have it any other way.
Based on the way the week has gone, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone is doing his best to channel his inner Tom Clancy. With a date against New England on the docket, Marrone is playing Patriot Games with his injury report.
The Patriots are known for their overall ambiguity on the weekly injury report, and the Bills appear to be returning the favor. Marrone has had seven players listed as mostly limited participants throughout the week, and all of which have been deemed 'questionable' to play against New England.
Of those seven players, six have a starting role on the active roster that could dramatically affect the game one way or another. Among them, running back Fred Jackson (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), linebacker Nigel Bradham (knee), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs), safety Aaron Williams (wrist/neck) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (knee) are all considered '50-50' to play by NFL standards. Backup cornerback Ron Brooks (neck) is also questionable to play.
Jackson was the only member of the questionable list that did not participate in practice Friday, but that was due to an illness. Despite the listing, the running back is expected to play against New England. Spikes is also likely to suit up for the game.
Both Bradham and Kyle Williams were forced to miss the Bills' Week Five victory over the Detroit Lions due to a knee injury, and their status is still in question for Week Six. Bradham is likely to be a true game time decision, and if he can't play, Preston Brown will once again start in his place. Williams also has a chance to play but is less likely than Bradham to suit up, according to a league source.
The Bills ruled two players out of Sunday's contest as well. Wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) and guard Chris Williams (back) will both miss their third straight contest due to an injury. Rookie Cyril Richardson will make his third straight start at left guard in the place of Williams.
With sole possession of the AFC East division lead on the line, the Bills and Patriots will face off at Ralph Wilson Stadium starting at 1 pm.
The start of a new era in Buffalo Bills football is underway.
The team officially announced on Thursday afternoon that Terry and Kim Pegula, the winning bidders of the franchise after the passing of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., will be introduced as the new owners of the Bills Friday at 4 pm inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center.
The press conference will be carried live by WGR Sports Radio 550, and can also be heard both on WGR550.com and on the WGR550 app.
The Pegulas purchased the franchise for an NFL-record $1.4 billion, and with the announcement of the press conference, the final steps of the sale are done and the transaction has likely closed. The owners of the Sabres and now the Bills were given final approval by the NFL on Wednesday morning.
With the craziness of the sale of the Buffalo Bills subsiding for one day at least, the on-the-field Buffalo Bills were the main focus on Thursday. The Bills have an upcoming matchup with sole possession of the division lead on the line and the injury report didn't lighten up from Wednesday to Thursday.
For the second straight day, the Bills had seven starters on their active roster that were limited participants due to injury. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), linebacker Nigel Bradham (knee), running back Fred Jackson (ankle), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs), left guard Chris Williams (back), safety Aaron Williams (wrist) and safety Da'Norris Searcy all needed to have their practice time monitored by the training staff.
Kyle Williams, Bradham and Chris Williams were all inactive for the Bills' previous game against Detroit, but head coach Doug Marrone did not say if they thought any part of that trio would be ready to play in the team's upcoming game.
Even though Williams did practice, rookie left guard Cyril Richardson took his place in the starting lineup. Marrone reiterated after practice that if Williams was fully healthy, he would be the starter over the rookie.
Jackson, Spikes, Aaron Williams and Searcy all suffered their injuries against the Lions. Their statuses for Sunday, like the previously injured players, are also unknown.
The Bills only had two other players on the injury report that were non-starters. Wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) did not participate, while cornerback Ron Brooks (neck) was a limited participant after landing on his head on Sunday.
The Bills square off against the New England Patriots on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills went through one of, if not the most, historic days in franchise history on Wednesday. For the first time in their existence, the family of Ralph Wilson, Jr., was not represented inside the closed doors of the owner's meetings as the National Football League conducted their business for the day.
Shortly into the morning during Wednesday's fall meetings, Terry and Kim Pegula were approved unanimously as the next owners of the Bills. They were the answer to the long-standing question that created anxiety and borderline panic within the fan base for years.
As humans are prone to do, the simple query of 'what's next for the franchise' is making its way to forefront of the minds of many. The question is simple, but the answer is even more complex:
With the Pegulas in place, are the Bills going to build a new stadium?
Ralph Wilson Stadium has served as their home for 41 seasons and counting, and most recently, was the recipient of a $130 million renovation project that took the entire offseason to complete. Is that enough to sustain for years and generations to come?
The way a few of the league's owners made it sound, a new stadium is still on the minds of many within the league.
"Well, you know certainly we recognize they have a need for a new stadium there," said Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on Tuesday. "They've indicated that they recognize that that's a top priority and they're going to work on it. We will support them any way we can."
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insinuated new facilities would be in the offing as well. Jones, who just built his new stadium and opened it in 2009, said of the Pegulas that he "appreciated their commitment to a new stadium."
Those weren't just two opinions coming out of thin air. Back when the sale of the Bills was in its early stages, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was adamant that new facilities would need to be established in western New York.
"We said at the time when they entered into a new lease that this is really a short-term solution," Goodell said of the $130 million renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium. "We all want to focus and get that stadium and do it the right way and get the right ownership in there to make sure they continue to be successful in western New York."
The NFL believes that they found the right owners in Terry and Kim Pegula, and now perhaps the other part to his statement in the spring may be the precursor for the next big debate in Buffalo.
There has been some discussion over the years that the Bills might want to turn Ralph Wilson Stadium into a venue like Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Chiefs have one of the more notable stadiums that went with the retrofit route, but can a similar model be sustained with the current setup in Orchard Park?
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt has seen the renovation efforts work for his team, which makes his comments on Buffalo's situation at least a tad surprising.
"Well, I think anyone who has one of the older buildings -- and certainly Ralph Wilson Stadium falls under that category -- needs to look into the future," Hunt said. "There are some stadiums that are designed in such a way that you could renovate them, and we were very fortunate with that with Arrowhead in Kansas City. It was easy to come back in after the fact, add the modern amenities if you will on the outside of the stadium and maintain the bowl, which is one of the great bowls in the National Football League to watch the game from."
"I don't think that's necessarily the case in Buffalo. I'm not close enough to it to really know, but I do know that will be a priority for the new ownership group. And I think the great thing is you've got somebody who is very much entrenched in the community and somebody who should be able to get something done here in the near term."
Despite the overwhelming sentiments delivered by different influential parties around the NFL, it's particularly prudent to point out that even if a new stadium is in the Pegulas' plans, it won't be for a while.
Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon spoke to the press on one of the various breaks throughout Wednesday's fall meetings, and reiterated why it's not just an overnight process.
"The stadium talk -- which I know is a popular discussion -- is simply that we will, and the Pegula family will, take a look as we've mentioned in a holistic view of a new facility or a renovated facility down the road," Brandon stated. "A function of the lease -- and a big part of the lease -- was to put the New Stadium Working Group together and we have time to take a quantitative approach, and like I said, a holistic approach of what's needed in our community moving forward. We're playing our third game in our brand new renovated stadium, so really that's the focus right now, but knowing that down the road we're gonna all have to take a look at both the public and private sector and what makes sense for our community."
The lease runs through the 2022 season and provides the Bills and their new owners with time to come up with best strategy for a new stadium, if that is indeed the course of action as some of their NFL colleagues have alluded to at the fall meetings. As the CEO said, the New Stadium Working Group is an advisory committee composed of up to 21 members, with the Bills, Erie County and New York State all equally represented.
The new stadium talk will only intensify as the Pegulas entrench themselves in the organization. At least for now, however, the Bills will continue to reside at One Bills Drive.
The importance of Wednesday to not only the Buffalo Bills as a franchise, but to the very city they reside in, was not lost during the proceedings at the National Football League's fall meetings.
"It's a historic day," Bills team president and CEO Russ Brandon said. "It's one of the greatest days in Buffalo history, no question."
A big reason why it is such a historic day is due to one man and a decision he made to bring a brand new football team to Buffalo. The NFL recognized just how influential Bills founder and late owner Ralph Wilson, Jr., was to the formation of the league and it's success in the city.
And before Terry and Kim Pegula were introduced as the new owners of the Bills, the NFL took a minute to salute the Wilson family one last time.
"Commissioner [Roger] Goodell mentioned the Wilson family -- Ralph and Mary -- and what they meant the 54 years that Mr. Wilson gave to the National Football League and everything that he's meant to this league and the people in that room," Brandon revealed. "No one loved being in that room more than Ralph Wilson."
It wasn't only Goodell that made his thoughts on the changing of the guard known, but one last message was sent to the NFL from the only family that has owned the Bills until Wednesday. Mary Wilson, the longtime wife of the Bills founder wrote a letter that was read aloud by the outgoing Wilson family representatives.
The contents of the letter were unknown, but it was described as an emotional moment for some in a room full of owners that have only known the Bills as a direct association to Ralph Wilson.
The 'room' is in reference to the ownership teams that represent all 32 of the league's franchises, and the very party that approved the Pegulas as the next owners of the Bills. Wilson had a trusted team around him and they, too, were honored by the NFL ahead of the new ownership duo taking over those duties.
Before the Pegulas sat down at their place at the table for the annual fall meetings, there was a round of applause for both CFO Jeff Littmann and team executive Mary Owen. In a symbolic gesture, Littmann and Owen stood up, gave their seats to Terry and Kim Pegula and walked out of the meeting to wave in the new regime.
"Jeff and Mary Owen walked out and the Pegulas walked in," said Kansas City Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt. "Jeff handed them the book for the meeting, which I thought was very, very appropriate and then we went right back to business."
"It was a nice moment when the Pegulas came in and knowing that for years to come we have Buffalo Bills football to be focused on and that's it," Brandon remarked. "It's a cementing of Mr. Wilson' unbelievable legacy and it's time to create a new legacy with the Pegula family and try to win some games on the field. That's what we're focused on."
Once the funds are transferred and the record-setting sale is complete, the Bills will officially announce the Pegulas as the new owners of the franchise. For one last time, however, the Wilsons were on the forefront of the minds of many inside the NFL owner's meetings.
Just hours after being approved as the next owner of the Buffalo Bills, Terry Pegula provided a billionaire's version of dropping the mic.
"I got a hell of a deal," Pegula said when asked of the price of admission to one of the most exclusive clubs in America. "I own the team."
It's now official -- the Bills have just their second owners in franchise history. At the National Football League's annual fall meetings Wednesday at the Conrad Hotel in New York City, Terry and Kim Pegula were unanimously approved by the other 31 owners as the winning bidders of the team.
When Pegula addressed the media, both he and his wife had beaming smiles as a dream of theirs finally came to frutition.
"If you asked me ten years ago if I was gonna own the Sabres and the Bills, I would have called you a liar," he said. "Kim and I are honored that the NFL owners have approved us as the new owners of the Buffalo Bills, and we'd like to thank the owners for their support."
The support was evident. The doors were closed at 8:32 am to begin the official league meetings with the vote to approve the sale of the team as the first item on the agenda. The Pegulas were presented to the the representatives of all 32 franchises, left the room for the vote and were brought back in to be introduced as the new owners of the Bills all in a span of 14 minutes.
The NFL approved the record-breaking sale of the Bills to the Pegulas for $1.4 billion, which leaves only the closing of the sale to be the last hurdle in the process. Team CFO Jeff Littmann issued a statement following the ratification of the Pegulas, detailing the next and final phase of the transaction.
"Now, the third step is to proceed on the closing, and we think that will be done in a very quick and easy way," Littmann said. "They have been absolutely wonderful to work with, and everything has been first class through the process, so we think this will go swiftly and we will check that box and move on our way."
"This is a significant step in us owning, but we still don't own it yet," Pegula added. "There's a small matter of having to pay some money and wires have to be sent from banks, and paperwork has to be signed and what not, but, we'll get that done."
As soon as the sale is finalized, Pegula said they could be introduced as the new owners in Buffalo as early as Friday. Their plan is to travel back to Buffalo and be in attendance for the Sabres home opener on Thursday night at First Niagara Center.
"How's everybody doing? I'm doing pretty well," Pegula said coyly as he opened with his statement to the media.
The Buffalo Bills are about to enter a new frontier with only their second owners in franchise history. If you're to believe one of the more well-connected owners in the National Football League, then an oncoming action from Terry and Kim Pegula could be for a new stadium.
"Well, you know certainly we recognize they have a need for a new stadium there," said Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who also serves as the chairman of the NFL's finance committee. "They've indicated that they recognize that that's a top priority and they're going to work on it. We will support them any way we can."
McNair was a key member of the finance committee meeting to approve the Pegulas on September 17 in New York City, which means his words could hold a bit more weight than most. The Bills underwent a $130 million stadium renovation in the offseason, and have continued to support the idea of keeping the current facilities as viable as possible.
It's an alarming trend around the league. Older stadiums are being replaced with newer, fresher and modernized facilities and since 2006, seven of the 32 teams have had a new stadium built. The Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and soon to be the Minnesota Vikings all have joined the increasing trend.
The battle that the NFL faces is to prove that the stadium experience is superior to a more readily available one, and that is an issue that the Pegulas will have to analyze when they take the reins of the franchise.
"I think the Pegulas will decide, but I do know from Jacksonville our biggest competitor is game day experience at home from your living room and the bars get raised," said Jaguars owner Shahid Khan. "I think they will respond in appropriate time."
With all the renovations done this year, the Bills are taking a page out of the book written in both Kansas City and Green Bay: two markets that didn't go the new stadium route and instead gave an overhaul to their current facilities.
It's a method that worked in those two cities, but can Ralph Wilson Stadium be sustained in the same way?
"I think the Bills and Russ Brandon, they've got to look at and figure out what's best. Obviously the Pegulas are going to weigh in on it as well," said Packers team president and CEO Mark Murphy, a western New York native. "I know they have put a lot of money in recent years in renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium. For us, obviously the renovations at Lambeau have worked very well for us, but, there's a lot of different ways you can look at it."
With the sale of the team about to conclude, the next hot topic for the franchise will be to determine if and where a new stadium would be best for the city of Buffalo. The Pegulas are expected to be ratified unanimously by the 31 other owners around the NFL on Wednesday, the second day of the league's fall meetings.
A brief statement is expected from the team's new owners in New York City, with a press conference in Buffalo to come in the not so distant future. The Pegulas need only 24 of 31 owners to approve of them, which would lead to the closing of the record setting sale that netted $1.4 billion.
All that's left for Terry and Kim Pegula to officially own the Buffalo Bills are at least 24 yea's, a lack of nay's and the keys to One Bills Drive will be theirs. The 31 owners around the National Football League will convene at the Conrad Hotel in New York City to vote on a number of topics, with the ratification of the Pegulas as the new owners of the Bills being chief among them.
Historically, the vote to approve a pending change in ownership is normally done in the morning on the second day of the meetings. Barring any unforseen changes, that is when the vote to ratify the Pegulas as new owners will occur, which targets Wednesday morning as the timeframe. It appears to be just a formality in the process with the sale of the franchise netting a NFL record $1.4 billion price tag.
The Pegulas, as is the case with all changes in ownership with the league, will need 75-percent of the NFL's current owners to approve them. As long as there aren't more than eight dissenting voters, they'll be approved and then will have the opportunity to vote on the remainder of the issues on the table for this group of meetings.
The owners are merely arriving on Tuesday, which will lead to the majority of meetings occurring on Wednesday. Keep checking back for all the latest from New York City.
The Buffalo Bills played their final game with the Wilson family as their owners in the city where it all started for Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Six months removed from the passing of the team's founder and first owner, the Bills identified a new family to own the franchise that the Wilsons cultivated from the beginning.
The Bills were able to overcome a slow start on offense to shock the Lions on their home turf, giving the Wilsons one last win just miles away from their home in Michigan.
How did it all happen? It was a bit of a blur, but here are some observations from the Bills' 17-14 victory:
The Orton difference
- After a two-week stretch of quarterback play that — to put it bluntly — cost them the opportunity to win both games, head coach Doug Marrone made the decision to switch out former first-round pick EJ Manuel in favor of veteran Kyle Orton. It wasn't immediately evident that it was the right move, but as the game wore on, the experience and poise of Orton started to ooze out. Early in the contest the Bills offense looked the same as it did against both the San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans. They were conservative, there were poorly thrown passes and the offense couldn't get out of its own way. Then, when the offense needed Orton most near the end of the game, the quarterback threw two passes that would define his afternoon as one of the difference makers in Buffalo's victory. Down 14-6, he froze defenders in place on two throws to put the Bills in scoring position in the fourth quarter. The first, a throw to the middle of the field on 2nd-and-9 that found Robert Woods for a 17-yard gain. On that play in particular, Orton did two separate things that EJ Manuel has not developed as a passer in the NFL. The veteran pump faked, and then froze the defenders to the right of the field with his eyes before diverting his attention left to Woods over the middle of the field. He did it again to the Lions defense on Buffalo's next third-down attempt. His eyes kept the safety to the middle of the field before throwing down the deep right sideline for a 42-yard Marquise Goodwin gain. That led to the Bills tying the game. Although Orton was bailed out by his wide receivers with quality catches on poorly thrown passes, his experience was a difference for the Bills in their victory. He won't be losing the starting job back to EJ Manuel anytime soon after starting off his career in Buffalo with a road victory over one of the toughest and most talented teams they'll play all season long.
- In the past two weeks, the Buffalo Bills have failed to get rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins involved in a large sense. With one half completed, it didn't appear the quarterback switch did the trick either. Watkins had only two catches for 13 yards in the first half against the Lions. Heck, even through three quarters, the rookie had only three catches for 25 yards. When the Bills turned it on offensively with Orton in the fourth quarter, Watkins was the main recipient. Over the course of four drives, the first-round pick accrued an additional four catches for 62 yards — with the play of the game among them. The Bills got the ball back with only 21 seconds in the fourth quarter and wanted to attack the middle of the field with a timeout remaining. Orton reared back on 1st-and-10, saw Watkins break open over the middle and sent a pass that was well behind his wideout. The rookie slowed up slightly, got his right hand on the ball to tip it into the air and corralled it for the 20-yard gain, putting the Bills right at their limit to try a Dan Carpenter field goal. Watkins had to use his ever so popular 'catch radius' more often than that particular reception, but it was a catch worthy of an act in the circus. If Orton can help get more of an immediate return out of Watkins like he did on Sunday, it will be the best thing for all parties.
Dareus keys the run D
- Without Kyle Williams at defensive tackle, the Bills knew they had to get some strong individual efforts to help make up for his absence. They got it and then some from fourth-year defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The statistic that stands out is undoubtedly the three sacks of Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he was much more than that all throughout the game. Even without Williams, the run defense stepped up against Detroit and allowed only 69 yards on 20 carries. Providing a helping hand to Dareus, Stefan Charles made some big plays in his first career start. Just after the Bills tied up the game in the fourth quarter, Charles made sure that the Lions went three-and-out with a superb individual effort on 3rd-and-1 to bring down running back George Winn for a loss. The Bills' defensive line is talented and has depth, which has helped them to such a strong start early in the season.
The comeback that almost wasn't
- In between their game-tying drive and their game-winning drive, the Bills squandered two separate possessions and allowed the Lions ample opportunities to put the game back within their grasp. On the Lions' last possession before the Bills took the lead, it looked like Buffalo wasn't going to get the chance to win the game. On 1st-and-10 with only 1:02 remaining, Stafford found wide receiver Golden Tate on a simple slant route. It likely should have been limited to an eight to 15-yard gain, but the speedy Tate powered through cornerback Nickell Robey and then caught safety Aaron Williams a bit flat-footed and ran past him. The wideout got a 55-yard gain on the play and put the Lions on the Bills' 34-yard line. Had the Lions employed a more competent kicker, they are the likely victors of the closer-than-advertised Week Five showdown.
Jackson wills team to victory
- In the 'not a big surprise category,' is this: Bills running back Fred Jackson was once again the most important player on offense. With C.J. Spiller doing the equivalent of spinning his tires, all Jackson did against one of the best run fronts in football was average over four yards per carry. To top it off, he caught another seven passes for an additional 58 yards. When the Bills have struggled offensively this season, they immediately turn to Jackson to be their calming force on the field and on the sidelines. After a big play, you'll see him look at each one of his teammates as he implores them to play with more urgency. It took a while, but in the second half, it worked. Jackson suffered an ankle injury in the second half but returned to action, which was yet another crisis averted in Jackson's long history of flirting with injuries that appear to be worse than they are. They needed him to help jumpstart the offense in Detroit, and yet again the oldest running back in the NFL provided the spark.
Spiller a non-factor
- As it has been witnessed over the span of his career in Buffalo, running back C.J. Spiller is prone to laying an egg against a stout defensive front. The Bills tried to establish Spiller on the inside, he kept trying to bounce runs to the outside and couldn't muster a rush longer than two yards at any point in the game. The running back ended the day with only seven yards on nine carries, yielding a paltry 0.8 yards per carry. Regardless of the opponent, the Bills continue to try and establish him as an inside runner — but that just isn't his game. He needs to operate in space, and whenever things get a little bit more physical up front, it seems Spiller is nowhere to be found. He is capable of some big plays, but his maddening inconsistency is building a case against him being kept around for what he likely perceives his value to be on the looming free agent market.
Bills' MVP: DT Marcell Dareus
- Three sacks, multiple run lanes secured up the middle and yet another dominant performance on the interior — only this time with a heightened role. Dareus has been one of the Bills' best players through five weeks.
Bills' LVP: HB C.J. Spiller
- It doesn't get much worse than 0.8 yards per carry. His effort, or lack thereof, contributed to a total yards per carry average of 2.2 for the Bills.
Up Next: Sunday, October 12 vs New England at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It will be the first game with Terry and Kim Pegula as the owners of the franchise.
- For the first time since Ryan Fitzpatrick was the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, the team enjoyed a 300-yard passer in a winning effort. Kyle Orton wasn't perfect, but he was good enough for the Bills to come away with a victory while their defense stole the show. The Bills won't want to depend on the passing attack to nearly double the amount of plays of the running game. It was a bit skewed because they were down for much of the game, but it's a trend they would like to avoid. Orton also did something in his first game with the Bills that EJ Manuel has never been able to: lead the team to a victory after facing a double-digit deficit at one point in the contest. With the victory, the Bills will stay atop the AFC East for another week. In what will be their biggest game of the season against a beatable New England team (and on one of the first days on the job for the new owners, mind you), the Bills have a golden opportunity to make a declaration to the rest of the AFC East that they are for real.
The Buffalo Bills will usher into the Kyle Orton era at quarterback, but they'll be without two key defensive starters when they do so. The Bills announced that both defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Nigel Bradham are inactive and will not play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
Williams and Bradham both suffered a knee injury in the second half of the team's Week Four loss to the Houston Texans. Each player missed the first two days of practice and could only participate on a limited basis on Friday.
In addition to the two defensive starters, the Bills also announced guard Chris Williams, wide receiver Marcus Easley, running back Bryce Brown, cornerback Ross Cockrell and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio as the inactive players on Sunday.
For the Lions, wide receiver Calvin Johnson will play despite a lingering ankle injury.
When the Buffalo Bills take the field on Sunday, it will be the last time a game is played with the Wilson family owning the franchise. Fittingly enough, the final game under the Wilson's watch will be played in Detroit — the home to the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.
The Bills will have their hands full on the field against the 3-1 Lions as they try to avoid a three-game losing streak. What are some of the key things to keep an eye on during the contest?
Some things to watch for:
1) Orton's debut
- After two straight performances that left a lot to be desired, head coach Doug Marrone made the decision to bench second-year quarterback EJ Manuel in favor of a more practiced hand. The Bills signed veteran Kyle Orton shortly before the season began and will now turn to him to improve the sad state of quarterbacking just a little over a month removed from his arrival. He has an extremely tough task ahead of him against one of the top performing teams in the National Football League over the first four weeks, but the Bills' philosophy will not change from their first four games. They'll still depend heavily on both the defense to set the tone and hope that the running game will dictate the tempo as well. The difference now with Orton is that the glaring opportunities that were missed due to inaccuracy or poor field vision will conceivably be improved with an experienced quarterback behind center. In order for that run game to be as effective as they want, the Bills will need a heavy dose of Fred Jackson against a defensive front seven that runs very well from sideline to sideline. If Jackson can get established, which is not an easy thing to do against Detroit's front four, it will take a lot of pressure off of Orton in his first game.
2) Detroit defensive dominance
- Through the first four weeks of the season, the Detroit Lions are the top ranked unit in yards against in the NFL. They have allowed only 267.2 yards per game which is 20 yards better than the next closest defense. The Lions are second against the pass and sixth against the run, but despite the rankings, their run defense is what makes them an elite unit. Like the Bills, they boast a defensive tackle duo that can not only cause some trouble in the backfield, but they can set the table for their linebackers when opponents run against them. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both can give interior offensive linemen trouble on any given play, but are also complemented nicely by defensive ends Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. They didn't get a huge push up front last week against the New York Jets, but allowed linebackers DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead to fill in the run lanes. Where they may lack in talent, they are making up for in execution as a unit.
3) Where are they weak on D?
- The Lions aren't this high-powered defensive force that are unable to be gained or scored on. In fact, they struggle in certain areas that could play into the Bills' hands if they are able to capitalize. That, of course, is a big 'if' — especially with a new quarterback at the helm. The Bills, when given the opportunities to, can do well to attack the Lions through the air, specifically at cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Danny Gorrer. Mathis is now in his 12th season in the NFL and has made up for his declining athleticism with experience and knowledge of the game, but he is able to be taken advantage of. Both players have shown the ability to make plays, but if the pass rush of the Lions' front four isn't getting there (which it hasn't been doing to an overwhelming degree), players like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods can take advantage of one or both of the cornerbacks with enough time to slip into space.
4) Beware Ebron
- Assuming that Nigel Bradham does not play, which appears to be the case after the linebacker was labeled 'doubtful' for the contest, the Bills will have their hands full with another young, super athletic tight end that just started to scratch the surface last week. The Lions will likely take a page out of the San Diego playbook and use rookie tight Eric Ebron in similar ways that the Chargers did with Ladarius Green against Buffalo. Ebron is a matchup nightmare if they match him up with a linebacker. If Bradham can't play and the Bills are left to rely on either Preston Brown or Keith Rivers to cover up the super athletic tight end, they could be asking for trouble. Detroit mostly likes to line him up on the outside as a wide receiver, so one of the safeties could be asked to take him one-on-one. Ebron is the third option for the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford, behind wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. If the Bills can't get any pressure on Stafford, especially from Mario Williams against an average right tackle in LaAdrian Waddle, there will be mismatches all over the field in favor of Detroit.
5) Lions' running back problems
- The Bills might not have defensive tackle Kyle Williams for the weekend, but they won't be going up against an overbearing rushing attack. The Lions will be without both Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, leaving C.J. Spiller's kindred spirit — Reggie Bush — as the lone runner that will be depended on to key the efforts. Like Spiller, Bush likes to bounce runs to the outside. As long as the Bills can keep the edge and keep him on the inside, Bush can be neutralized. The other issue with Bush is on third downs, because he is an average pass protector at best in the backfield. Without Bell in the lineup as the more physical runner, the Lions will become more one-dimensional. That could help the Bills pass rush to pin their ears back and attack Stafford if they stop the Lions' rushing attack early on in the game.
Injuries Buffalo OUT: G Chris Williams (back), WR Marcus Easley (knee) DOUBTFUL: DT Kyle Williams (knee), LB Nigel Bradham (knee) PROBABLE: WR Sammy Watkins (ribs), CB Ron Brooks (shoulder), WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion), LB Randell Johnson (knee)
Detroit OUT: HB Joique Bell (concussion), TE Joseph Fauria (ankle), LB Travis Lewis (quadricep), HB Theo Riddick (hamstring) DOUBTFUL: CB Cassius Vaughn (ankle) QUESTIONABLE: WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) PROBABLE: DT Nick Fairley (knee), WR Golden Tate III (hamstring), OT LaAdrian Waddle (calf), S Don Carey (hamstring), DE Devin Taylor (knee)
Prediction: Lions over Bills
- From both an offensive and defensive perspective, the Lions have advantages at positions where the Bills are weaker. The way to attack Detroit is through the air, and the Bills haven't shown the ability to do that consistently through four games in the season. On the ground, Buffalo will have to hope that Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller can open things up for the passing attack. Perhaps they'll need fullback Frank Summers, who played practically as much of a role last week (6 snaps) as Doug Goodwin back in 1966, to open up some things and help out a struggling offensive line. Even if they can, Buffalo still has to deal with a daunting offensive attack with immense talent at all the skill positions. This game could be tighter than some are expecting, but the Lions likely have a bit too much for the Bills to overcome.
The Detroit Lions have been one of the most efficient teams in the National Football League in 2014 and their offense boasts a large pool of skill players that can bust open a play. It's the Buffalo Bills' task to stop that from happening, but there is a strong chance they'll be shorthanded.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Nigel Bradham, two players that have had a big hand in the resurgence of the team's run defense, were declared 'doubtful' for Sunday's game with the Lions. Both players injured their knees in the second half of last weekend's game in Houston, and each were unable to practice for the first two days of the work week.
The pair were, however, able to get on the practice field in a limited capacity on Friday. The term 'doubtful' means the player has, at most, a 25-percent chance of playing in the upcoming game.
If Williams cannot play, he will be replaced with either Stefan Charles or Corbin Bryant in the starting lineup. Both players took first-team reps during the week, which could bring about a rotation on Sunday above all else. In the event that Bradham is unavailable, rookie Preston Brown will likely make his fourth start of the young season.
The Bills also announced that starting left guard Chris Williams will be unavailable for the Detroit contest due to a lingering back injury. The injury first started during training camp, and claimed his availability for last week's matchup with Houston as well. Rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson will make his second start in Williams' place.
The team also declared wide receiver and special teams contributor Marcus Easley (knee) 'out' for Sunday. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs), cornerback Ron Brooks (shoulder), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) and linebacker Randell Johnson (knee) are all probable.
The Bills travel to Detroit on Saturday and take on the Lions Sunday at 1 pm.
When a player gets benched in the National Football League — especially at such a high profile position like quarterback — sometimes there is a temptation to react negatively. The situation brings about adversity that most younger players haven't felt before. In the case of EJ Manuel, he isn't letting that temptation to take over.
The Buffalo Bills made the decision to sit the former first-round pick and starting quarterback on the bench in favor of veteran Kyle Orton. One of the biggest critiques of Manuel through the first four weeks of the season revolved around his aversion to risk, seemingly at all costs on the field.
He overthought some throws and chose to go short to a safer option, he ducked out of bounds rather than gaining additional yardage when it was still safe and just had a general fear of making a mistake. Those characteristics are what Manuel detailed when he said he wanted to be a different player upon his return to the lineup, and what he meant specifically.
"I just want to cut it loose. Not holding myself back," the quarterback said. "Not to say that I was, but, I think at a certain point in your career and your manhood, you just open up and just go out there and let it rip. You don't worry about the repercussions. If something happens at least you went down guns loaded, guns blowing... whatever."
Whether it's guns loaded, blowing or blazing, Manuel recognized something he wanted to do more of. It's an introspective approach to try to better himself in time for his next chance.
His statistics through four games in 2014, 838 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a 58-percent completion rate, weren't terrible. From the eye test, however, it was clear that Manuel was holding the team back — especially in the Bills' most recent back-to-back losses.
And to Manuel's credit, he's handling it with a professional attitude despite the 'bust' perception attached to him and the disappointment.
"I think for me, I'm a hard worker anyways so, when this happened obviously I was upset, I was frustrated. But at the same time, be a man. Be a pro. I think I kicked up my work ethic even more, and whatever I need to do," he said. "You fight every single day. It's hard, but life is hard. It's a hard thing to deal with, but life is hard, it's never going to be easy. And this is a hard business especially when you're a young guy, but you can't use that as an excuse. You have to continue to get better every single day, and even though I'm not starting I'm still going to make sure that I'm doing what I need to do."
For the time being at least, Manuel has been ushered into a new frontier as a professional football player. No longer is he the fawned over quarterback on the team on a week-to-week basis.
The coaching staff, in the confines of the regular season, will focus more on the starting quarterback and game planning during all the practice and film study throughout the week. For a backup, that means he has to find time to progress as a player outside of the normal practices.
Manuel has stayed after practice over the past two days to put in more work with both quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, and with Buffalo's practice squad quarterback Jeff Tuel. Until the Bills can devote time to Manuel, those are the steps he'll need to take to reach the proper progression that he desires.
"I've never been in this position," the second-year quarterback said. "Nonetheless, there's a bunch of positions that I've never been in that I had to experience. So, it's all a part of my story, it's a part of my career. I think in the long run I'll look back at it as something that I can say helped build me and helped me become a stronger man."
On Sunday the Buffalo Bills will be up against one of the most potent offenses in the National Football League, and they might have to play without two of their best defensive players. For the second straight day, the Bills were without defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Nigel Bradham during practice at the ADPRO Sports Training Center.
Both Williams and Bradham suffered a knee injury last Sunday during the second half in Houston which required both players to miss the remainder of the game. Bradham was spotted working with a member of the Bills' training staff in some drills to test out his knee. Williams has yet to do anything similar to that during the portions of practice available to the media.
After Wednesday's practice, head coach Doug Marrone said the team would continue to evaluate both players but did not have a definite answer as to their availability. Rookie linebacker Preston Brown will step in for Bradham if he can't play, and a combination of Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant will replace Williams if he is unable to suit up verus Detroit.
The Bills were also without starting left guard Chris Williams for the fifth straight practice due to a lingering back injury. Williams was unable to play against Houston and could be in doubt once again for the team's upcoming bout with the Lions. Rookie Cyril Richardson started in his place.
Buffalo did have wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) and linebacker Randell Johnson (back on the practice field once again after they missed the Houston game. Both players resumed their participation to start the week and continued down the same path Thursday, with Goodwin being a full participant and Johnson labeled as limited.
The only other non-participant on Thursday was wide receiver Marcus Easley, who reportedly will miss anywhere from four-to-six weeks with a knee injury. He has only missed one week thus far. Cornerback Ron Brooks (limited participant, shoulder) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (full participant, ribs) were the only other players listed on the injury report.
For the time being, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone made the decision to move on from former first-round pick EJ Manuel as the starting quarterback of the franchise. With Manuel stepping aside, veteran journeyman Kyle Orton takes the reins of the offense just barely over a month removed from arriving to Orchard Park.
Part of the allure with Orton is that he's seen almost every situation there is to see in his five stops around the National Football League. He has even switched teams in the middle of the season, had under a month to prepare, and made his first start with the team.
That's why that even though Orton signed with the Bills only four weeks ago, he feels as though he has a good understanding of how to accomplish what the franchise is looking for out of the quarterback position.
"I think we've got the full gamut of plays in and I feel comfortable. I've felt comfortable for the last two or three weeks," the new starting quarterback said Wednesday. "The coaches have done a good job, [quarterbacks coach] Todd Downing has done a great job with me over the four, five weeks that I've been here. I think I feel comfortable with everything in the playbook."
Since he was signed, the Bills have really only been in game planning mode upon the arrival of the regular season. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett focused mostly on getting Manuel ready along with a conducive game plan for both his own offense and against the opponent's defense.
Now that the two have to get friendly and comfortable with one another in a hurry, it's been — and will continue to be — a cramming session to try and prepare Orton for his first start with the Bills.
"Coach [Hackett] and I are gonna have a lot of dialogue throughout the week," the quarterback remarked. "He's trying to get a feel for me a little bit. Obviously as a quarterback you'd love to have a great feel for your coordinator and kind of feel what he's going to call next, just situational stuff. Really the last 48 hours, we've been working hard together."
Orton will make a start for his fifth team in the NFL, and he believes in the offensive talent to get the job done against their upcoming opponents, the Detroit Lions.
"I think we have a lot of good players, all across the board," he said. "We've got young talent on the outside, we've got two running backs that can take a lot of pressure off of us and I think when you ask the offensive line to do the right thing, they can really play hard for you and do a lot of great things. We're going up against a good defense on the road. We're going to have to play our best football to come out with a win."
The Bills will travel to Detroit and square off against the Lions on Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills named Kyle Orton their starting quarterback on Monday, and it didn't take long to find out it wasn't his first rodeo with the media. Speaking with reporters for the first time since the announcement, Orton focused on the 'one game at a time' approach and didn't bite on questions revolving around the bigger picture.
And he wasn't afraid to call out a reporter, either. Orton was asked, "Kyle, why will you run this offense better than EJ [Manuel]?"
His response? Well, let's just say he took a page out of the book from another pretty popular athlete: Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
Now, the question asked of Orton wasn't nearly as egregious as the one asked of Harper back in 2012. The new Bills starting quarterback took exception, however, and let it be known that he wouldn't play into angles like that one.
As a refresher, here was the exchange with a then 19-year old Harper with a Canadian reporter:
After they marched out to a 2-0 record to start the season, the Buffalo Bills matched that with a two-game losing streak to even out the first quarter of the 2014 regular season. The Bills lost to the Houston Texans 23-17, and found enough reason to change the course of one of their most high profile players because of it.
The Bills will be on the road once again in Week Five with a new starting player, but before they do that, the page must be turned on last week's loss to the Texans. With the help of NFL.com's Game Rewind package and the All-22 film available with it, 'Upon Further Review' brings you a detailed review at how each player on the Bills fared in that specific game.
Every week, WGR will provide you with the standouts, the duds and everything in between.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Ashton Youboty (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual player's plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (70 total plays)
- As everyone found out on Monday, the Buffalo Bills saw enough from the first four games to determine that it was time to move on from EJ Manuel (70, -13, 0.7), at least for the time being. Manuel has been replaced, and although he faced a lot of pressure from the Houston Texans, he just left too many yards on the field in a game that likely should have ended in a Bills victory.
Early on into the contest, you could tell the Bills were in for a bit of a tough time throwing the ball just as they had in their Week Three loss to San Diego. The offensive line was getting beat all too often, and Manuel didn't have the poise in the pocket to overcompensate for the woes of the front five.
In the first quarter Manuel's struggles while under duress came to fruition on a few separate plays. He couldn't get it anywhere close to Robert Woods on a third down attempt on the first drive of the game, he failed to see Fred Jackson on a clear dump-off pass right in his peripheral sightline that would have yielded at least 10 yards, but instead the quarterback froze and took a sack.
The examples of inaccuracy didn't cease to exist in the second quarter. In fact, they intensified. One of the biggest differences between college quarterbacks and NFL quarterbacks are that the latter ones that manage to find success have the ability to throw their receivers open. They anticipate the spot their receiver is going to get to, and then deliver the ball to a spot that allows the player to get additional yards after the catch.
Of the many reasons that head coach Doug Marrone elected to make the switch at quarterback for Week Five, anticipation and accuracy are chief among them. Manuel, at this point in his career, just does not throw his receivers open.
The Bills had an opportunity for a touchdown in the Houston red zone on a 3rd-and-11. Mike Williams ran a deeper slant in single coverage, cornerback Jonathan Joseph was slow to react and there wasn't a safety over the top, which meant a throw in stride could have gathered a touchdown. Instead, Manuel delivered the pass behind Williams, causing the receiver to stop his momentum to attempt to corral the pass. Even if it was caught, it would have been short of the first down. It wasn't, and the Bills kicked a field goal.
He had a few other misses in the second quarter, including a touch throw to Woods that could have brought a gain of 25 yards or more, a misfire on a deep crossing route to Sammy Watkins with room to run after the catch, and then a few more intermediate routes over the middle of the field to both the aforemnetioned targets.
In the first half, Manuel was at his best when it seemed like he stopped overthinking on one particular play and just reacted. There was a similar instance against San Diego, when the second-year player spun out of multiple tackles in the backfield and found Scott Chandler for a big reception. He did the same thing against Houston on a third down, pushed his eyes down the field and found an open Chandler along the sideline for the first down.
The Bills have made it well known that they don't want turnovers and they don't want their quarterback to get injured on a scramble play. When you watch Manuel perform, you can see all the hours of film work and numerous words spewed at him about taking the safe route. It has hindered him from being him, for the sake of trying to attain a winning formula. Plays like the one to Chandler, and a later 80-yard touchdown throw to Mike Williams are shining examples of him getting out of his own head — which is sorely needed.
In the third quarter, Manuel started off down the wrong path once more. On a predetermined throw before he even snapped the ball, the quarterback intended to throw the ball to a well-covered Fred Jackson in the flat, didn't put the required loft on the pass and the hard-charging J.J. Watt reached up, caught the pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.
That was the most egregious error from his day because it gave the Texans the lead for good, but the rest of the second half wasn't all that kind to Manuel either. He threw two errant passes in 3rd-and-long situations that could have been converted, he was hesitant to scramble even when yards were there to be taken and put the ball in places that both could have been, and in one case, were intercepted by Houston.
Manuel threw two touchdown passes amidst the barrage of Watt breathing down his neck and inaccurate throws, but the damage was done. While the young quarterback needs to endure the 'bust' perception for the time being, this decision could end up being a blessing in disguise.
He can now focus on improving as a quarterback without having to worry about the results on a weekly basis. It takes the pressure off of him for the time being and he might even be able to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
If Manuel wants to succeed in the NFL, he cannot be the type of player he showed to be in the first four games of 2014. He needs to trust his instincts, improve his mechanics and work diligently with the coaching staff to find the proper balance between being reckless and aggressive.
He'll be disappointed right now, but his story isn't written yet. Now it just has an added chapter of adversity in the form of Kyle Orton.
- Despite them being right in the game, the Bills inexplicably went away from their bread and butter against a team that had struggled to stop the run through the first three weeks. Buffalo ended up passing the ball 44 times and using only 22 designed run plays, which limited what was thought to be the central piece to their offensive attack. C.J. Spiller (31, 1, 2.7), despite getting less time on the field, led the way with 15 rushing attempts. He had a standard C.J. Spiller day, getting yards with his athleticism that he probably shouldn't have, and then missing out on yards on other plays because he tried to bounce it outside. Fred Jackson (39, 2, 2.7), who is the highest rated offensive player through the first four weeks, had only seven carries against Houston. The 14-yard run in the second quarter when he sidestepped J.J. Watt in the backfield, and then followed it up by juking Brian Cushing out of his socks, was a thing of beauty. He turned a 2-yard loss into one of the biggest gains on the ground of the day. Fullback Frank Summers (6, 0, 2.3) had his lowest snap count of the season against Houston.
- When the quarterback is struggling as much as EJ Manuel was against the Texans, there isn't much a wide receiver can do but to catch the passes that are able to be caught. The Bills did not do a good job of that necessary component to the job early in the game. Sammy Watkins (70, -1, 2.3) had three separate drops and Mike Williams (43, 0, 2.7) had two, which could have increased Manuel's completion percentage to his boundary targets. Instead, the quarterback had a 33.3-percent completion percentage to receivers for the second straight week, despite throwing two touchdown passes during the outing. The big play was the 80-yard touchdown pass to Williams in which the receiver just ran right past his defender in one-on-one coverage. Robert Woods (69, 0, 2.3) had only three catches on 12 targets. His biggest contribution came after the plays were over, when he showed his frustration with poor ball placement on more than one occasion. Chris Hogan (11, 0, 2.3) received his first snaps on offense of the season but did not make a catch, nor was he targeted.
- The devaluation of the tight end in Buffalo's offense continued in Houston. Starter Scott Chandler (54, -1, 2.3) had only two catches for 15 yards and was targeted just five times. Lee Smith (16, 0, 2.3) and Chris Gragg (10, 0, 2.3) were not targeted by Manuel once in the game, either. Over the first four weeks, the Bills have targeted their tight ends only 15 times and completed 10 for 130 yards. That works out to 3.75 targets per game, 2.5 catches per game and 32.5 yards per game. Chandler makes himself available when a play breaks down, much like he did on the third down spinout play by Manuel. Otherwise, the day was fairly nondescript for the grouping.
- If you thought it couldn't get much worse for the offensive line and their performance from Week Three, think again. One of the best defenders in the NFL, J.J. Watt, took time out to introduce himself to each starting offensive lineman that the Bills had to offer… and not in a nice way. Against San Diego, the offensive line had a collective plus-minus of minus-14. This week? Try minus-18 on for size. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (70, -1, 2.7) and center Eric Wood (70, -1, 2.7) carried the majority of balance on the day. Glenn was fairly consistent throughout, putting the poor performance against the Chargers behind him. Wood struggled early on but battled back with a strong second half to salvage the day. The issues on the offensive line for the past two weeks, though, have been with three positions in particular. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson (70, -4, 2.0), right guard Erik Pears (70, -6, 1.7) and left guard Cyril Richardson (70, -6, 1.7) all couldn't seem to get a hold of their days and were graded accordingly. Henderson had six different plays that he was beat by his man in a one-on-one setting, Pears had seven and Richardson, like Henderson, also had six. They occurred in both pass blocking and run blocking, but among the 19 beats recorded throughout the game between those three, Watt accounted for 11 of them. That unit needs to be much improved, but they went up against a truly dominant defender that was having the best game of his career. Chris Hairston (1, 0, 2.3) was once again the "declared eligible" lineman when the Bills were going with a heavy set.
DEFENSE (68 total plays)
- Even though Mario Williams (52, 5, 3.3) is on pace for his lowest sack total as a member of the Bills, he might be having his best season as a complete defensive end since he joined the team. He's reading and reacting to plays, setting the edge against the run well and helping to make stops in the backfield. Williams even made a play in coverage, disguising his assignment to shadow Arian Foster, just to bait the Texans into what they thought would be easy yardage in the flat on third down. Instead, Williams stuck right with Foster and brought him down shy of the first down marker. He had a sack against Houston in the third quarter, but it was negated due to a penalty call on Leodis McKelvin. Jerry Hughes (35, 2, 3.0) was as good as he has been through the first four weeks, specifically with getting pressure on the Ryan Fitzpatrick. Over the past few games Hughes has been losing snaps to Jarius Wynn (30, 2, 2.7), but he still shows as a capable pass rusher most weeks. Wynn is mostly the type to hold the line and help set the table for teammates to bring the ball carrier down, but he did it on his own a couple of times against the Texans. His best play was when he knifed through the line of scrimmage to help bring down Alfred Blue for a four-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Manny Lawson (19, 1, 2.7) made a couple of nice plays from the backside of rushing attempts, but he won't live down being blocked by Fitzpatrick on Houston's wide receiver reverse. Lawson failed to contain the edge on that play and it led to substantial gain in the fourth quarter.
- It's very simple when Marcell Dareus (55, 4, 3.3) gets a one-on-one matchup: he's usually going to win. Most times it's a 'pick your poison' scenario with him and Kyle Williams (27, 2, 3.0) for who will draw the double team, but Dareus has been getting the brunt of it over the first four weeks. Even though he gets a hearty amount of attention, he still manages to win at the point of attack a handful of times each game. He made Houston left guard Ben Jones look silly a couple of times, and he wasn't the only mark. Williams had to leave the game early with a knee injury, but he helped force what could have been the game-winning play for Buffalo. He tipped Fitzpatrick's first pass attempt of the second half straight into the air and linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted it, which put the Bills deep in Houston territory. As we know now, it didn't work out, but it doesn't take away from the positive play from Williams. The defensive tackle group really sets the tone against the run and clears out space for their linebackers, as long as they don't finish the play on their own first. Stefan Charles (23, 3, 3.3) looked great against the run, helping to set up a gain of zero yards, a loss of two yards and a loss of four yards in just 23 plays on the field. Corbin Bryant (31, 0, 2.3) flashed when he blew up an Alfred Blue run for no yards in the second quarter, but it never seemed like Bryant was in full control. He still gets pushed off the line of scrimmage too easily.
- The linebacker room was replenished with one extra body on Sunday, but the veteran presence of Keith Rivers (58, -4, 2.0) wasn't exactly the calming influence the team was hoping for in pass coverage. The Texans were able to capitalize on Rivers in coverage three separate times. He was slow to react to DeAndre Hopkins in zone coverage and a better throw from Fitzpatrick would have given Houston more than a five-yard gain. Later, Rivers bit on play action, let his assignment go free and fullback Jay Prosch was on the receiving end of a 24-yard gain. It almost happened again to Rivers in the fourth quarter. It was the same situation, but Fitzpatrick couldn't put the ball on Prosch that time around. Brandon Spikes (42, 2, 3.0) received his most time on the field since Week One and that's due in large part to Houston's utilization of two tight end sets. Spikes still found himself in coverage, but made most of his plays against the run. He helped limit a handful of runs to a minimal gain and then forced the fumble that gave the Bills the ball in the second quarter. Nigel Bradham (27, 3, 3.0) was on his way to having another fine performance as a starter for the team, but he injured his knee after bringing in an interception to start the third quarter. If he were to miss any time, the drop off from him to either Rivers or Ty Powell (4, 0, 2.3) would be noticeable. Bradham, and his explosive athleticism, was really starting to come into his own in all three phases of being a linebacker on the roster: against the run, in coverage and when he's sent on a blitz. Preston Brown (51, 3, 3.0) continued his 'two steps back, two steps forward' approach to the season. The rookie had a quietly effective afternoon against the run and forced a few running plays to stop before they even started. Even more encouraging, Brown offered up great coverage and recognition of running back Alfred Blue in the flat on one play in the second half. The rookie limited him to just a two-yard gain.
- As far as Week Four goes, the ballyhooed three-man rotation at cornerback was a thing of the past. Stephon Gilmore (68, -1, 2.7) took 100-percent of the snaps for the first time in 2014 and did his job quietly and well. His lone missteps were a 15-yard catch by Andre Johnson and a defensive holding penalty, which just so happened to occur on back-to-back plays. Leodis McKelvin (56, -2, 2.7) was picked on a bit more frequently by the Texans. McKelvin lost Johnson in coverage in the second quarter and surrendered a 25-yard reception. He also got whistled for two penalties in the game, with one of those being of a touchdown-saving variety. DeAndre Hopkins beat McKelvin cleanly on his breakdown about 12 yards down the field. He turned McKelvin around then took off down the sideline. All the cornerback could do was spin around and grab Hopkins to prevent him from an unimpeded scoring play. Later on though, McKelvin's interception was the talk of the secondary. Hopkins had position on him and he was still able to rise up and snatch the ball right out of the receiver's hands for a turnover. Corey Graham (8, -1, 1.7) saw minimal time on the field and gave up the only offensive touchdown of the game. Graham peaked into the backfield while running with Hopkins, and as he did that, he gave up the separation that allowed Fitzpatrick to find his receiver in the end zone for a score. Despite the bad beat, Graham still deserved more of an opportunity to play Sunday than what was given. Nickell Robey (27, -1, 2.3) has not enjoyed the same success as he had in 2013. He was only out there on a limited basis, mostly due to Houston's personnel.
- It wasn't a similar performance to the show Aaron Williams (68, 2, 2.7) put on over the two weeks before the Texans game, but the young safety still put some big hits on offensive players in the secondary. The Houston running game wasn't much to speak of, so they didn't need him to chip in with that part of the game. Da'Norris Searcy (28, 3, 3.0) is one of the most pleasant surprises of the season through four games. He has proven to be a valuable run defender and can get into the backfield quickly on a blitz attempt. He's a classic 'in the box' safety, and that's exactly how the Bills are using him. An ankle injury didn't allow him to start, which gave Duke Williams (39, -1, 2.3) the go-ahead to play. He was a liability against San Diego, but didn't make much of an impact on the game either way in Houston. One of his only downfalls was a missed tackle in the first quarter. Other than that, it appeared as though the communication issues from last week disappeared.
Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Last week's rank)