September 22, 2014

NFL Story
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: September 12, 2013 09:54:43 AM


Bills' Manuel transmission not yet in gear

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills spent the entire offseason installing an offense they hoped would and up-tempo. In the season-opening loss to the Patriots, it really was not either of those things.
In rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's first NFL start, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett kept things fairly vanilla, and there were two reasons for that: One, with Manuel still nursing, ever so slightly, a knee injury, he limited the number of read option calls because he didn't want Manuel running around too much. Two, he didn't seem fully prepared to trust Manuel to throw the ball downfield as only six of his 27 pass attempts traveled further than 10 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage.
As for the tempo, the Bills had some pace, but their primary problem is they didn't have the ball long enough for their up-tempo style to have much of an effect on the Patriots. Buffalo possessed the ball a little more than 22 minutes and ran only 61 plays because it failed to convert on third down, suffered two key turnovers, and committed some costly penalties.
Thus, the focus this week when the Bills host the Panthers is to clean up those mistakes, and find a rhythm to the attack.
"We just have to make more plays to stay on the field and I think that'll solve that," center Eric Wood said of the inability to sustain drives. "I don't think we're going to win a lot of time of possession battles this year and we're fine with that. We just need to run more plays. When we were able to put drives together, I felt like our tempo was great. When we do go three and out, our defense can be hung out to dry."
Carolina provides a similar test for the Buffalo offense as New England did. The Panthers are sturdy in the front seven with players like Charles Johnson and Star Lotuelei on the line and Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Jon Beason in the linebacking corps. The Bills didn't have much success with New England's big guys like Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo.
Defensively, the Bills will have to be better on third downs. New England converted 11 of 20, and that played a major role in the Patriots running 89 plays and keeping the Buffalo defense on the field for interminable stretches.
With so many new faces in the secondary, the Bills had a tough time with New England's myriad passing plays and they couldn't keep pace with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. The way to combat the coverage problems is to generate pressure, and while the Bills got to Tom Brady twice -- once on a safety blitz by Da'Norris Searcy and another by DT Kyle Williams -- there weren't enough times when they pushed the pocket and forced Brady off his mark. In fact, the saving grace was that at times Brady was not accurate as he threw 23 incompletions in the game.
The Bills know Cam Newton will present different problems than Brady. Newton is coming off a sub-par game -- career-low 125 yards passing -- and the game plan against Seattle featured far more short passes than would have been expected. In fact, only three balls traveled further than 10 yards. However, he's dangerous with his legs, and if the Bills get too aggressive and don't sack him, their young linebackers could be caught out of position when Newton takes off and runs


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