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Bills fans, remain calm!

The Buffalo Bills are making progress.  They suffered yet another heart breaking opening day loss, their sixth in the last 12 years, but I didn't walk away from Ralph Wilson Stadium seething with anger or incredibly depressed.

I saw some things I liked from rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, who guided the offense to 14 points and didn't account for either of the Bills two turnovers. Manuel ended up 18-27 for just 150 yards with two passing touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.

Manuel's highlight of the day was an 11 play, 80 yard touchdown drive on the first possession of the third quarter.  Manuel, who guided a two play, 37 yard TD drive on the Bills last series of the first half, completed his only two passes on the series including a picture perfect 18 yard toss to Stevie Johnson who got separation from Kyle Arrington.  Manuel also had a 19 yard run on that series.

He wasn't able to connect on any deep balls in the game though.  An attempt for Robert Woods was almost picked off by Alphonso Dennard and his other attempt, for TJ Graham, ended up going out of bounds.  If it was thrown inside instead of outside, Graham would have had a chance to make a play on the ball.

I saw some things I didn't like from new Head Coach Doug Marrone, who punted on 4th and two from the New England 44 yard line with his team down 10-0 in the second quarter.  Boos reigned down from the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd and I think I detected a collective moan from the Buffalo media in the press box when Shawn Powell ran out on the field. 

Marrone also opted not to huddle up or take more time off the play and game clocks when the Bills got the ball with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter, nursing a one point lead.  The offense went three and out and when the Patriots got the ball back, only one minute and 20 seconds had been taken off the clock.

The defense showed some positive signs while spending more than 37 minutes on the field for 89 New England offensive snaps(the Bills ran just 61 plays and had the ball for only 22:17).  Buffalo held Tom Brady and company to just a pair of touchdowns in five red zone possessions.  They took the ball away three times(one interception and two fumble recoveries) and scored a touchdown as Da'Norris Searcy returned a fumble recovery 74 yards.

The Patriots had first and goal on two different possessions in the second half but didn't get into the end zone.  The first one ended with Brady uncharacteristically fumbling on 4th and goal while the other produced a field goal.

The run defense still needs some work.  The Bills, who gave up an average of 148 yards rushing a game last season, yielded 158 in this one.  New England had six rushes of at least ten yards.

There were too many penalties for the Bills, who ended up with 10 that were accepted.  Another three were declined by the Pats.  Some of those penalties were critical.  Cordy Glenn got called for hands to the face, wiping out a 19 yard pass to Robert Woods.  The same penalty on Kraig Urbik negated a 15 yard pass to Fred Jackson.  The defense was called for having 12 men on the field on two separate occasions.

Jackson, by the way, was the better looking running back for the Bills on this day.  Jackson provided a spark on the TD drive that opened the third quarter and put the Bills in front 21-17.  CJ Spiller never really got going and ended up with just 41 yards on 17 carries(an average of 2.4 yards per carry).  His longest run was nine yards.  Spiller wasn't much of a factor in the passing game either with five catches for 14 yards. He also lost a fumble on the first offensive possession of the game.

Even though Stevie Johnson caught a touchdown pass, he had a quiet day with just three catches for 39 yards and was responsible for a critical drop.  It looked like the Bills were about to convert a third and one at their own 49 with just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter but Johnson couldn't hold on to a Manuel pass that wasn't perfect but still should have been caught.

The Bills got nothing from the kick return game although I did enjoy hearing the Queen song "Flash" played at the stadium as Marquise Goodwin awaited the kickoffs.  New England wisely kicked towards the side of the end zone, effectively cornering Goodwin in and forcing him to take a touch back on the first two kicks to the speedster from the University of Texas.  On the third kick to Goodwin, it was much more returnable but he declined to bring it out.  Goodwin would leave the game with an injury and on his one return, TJ Graham fumbled the ball and hesitated as he ran it out, which left the Bills with a drive start at their own 12 yard line.

As expected, the play of the cornerbacks, without Stephon Gilmore, left a lot to be desired.  Justin Rogers was beaten on a regular basis, although he did have the team's lone interception when a pass bounced off Zach Sudfeld.  Rogers was also bowled over a few times while attempting to stop a run play.  Leodis McKelvin was the most effective of the bunch and actually came up with two key break ups on the series prior to the Pats game winning field goal drive.

I feel like I have seen this game before.  I go into the day not expecting the Bills to win and there I am in the fourth quarter, with the game in play, thinking "they can actually win this!" Yet, when the scoreboard reads zeros, the Bills were on the losing end.  It marked the sixth time since 2005 the Bills lost to the Patriots by seven points or less.

It also joins heart breaking opening day defeats like: 2002- NY Jets, 2004- Jacksonville, 2006- New England, 2007- Denver and 2009- New England.


Has the preseason affected your expectations for the Bills season?
  Yes, they'll be much worse than I thought
  Yes, I'm upping my expectations
  No. The preseason means nothing.
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