After Worst Week Yet, Bills Try To Make Most of What’s Left

Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood says that he hopes last Sunday’s loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers “was rock-bottom for this team.” Head coach Doug Marrone hasn’t seen anything as bad as Sunday’s performance.

“Last week was as poorly as we’ve played, no doubt about it,” said Marrone. “None of us are proud of what we put on tape.”

The team’s first game of the season without an offensive touchdown included a tough game from rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, who threw four interceptions, which equaled the amount he had thrown in his previous eight starts.

“When I watched it on film, I did some uncharacteristic things,” said Manuel. “No TDs and 2 FGs is extremely disappointing as the QB.”

Photo by Ed Runyon
Eric Wood

Manuel’s teammates, including Eric Wood and receiver Stevie Johnson, along with Coach Marrone were willing to shoulder the blame and burden.

“There’s a lot being thrown at him (Manuel) right now, but we’re here for him no matter what,” said Johnson.

“He (Manuel) had an off week last week, but a lot of us did,” said Wood.

“At the end of the day you have to have a solid cast around you,” Marrone said about the development of Manuel. Marrone said on Monday that “EJ is going to take a lot of the heat because of the position. We need help from everyone else around him.”

One player that will get more opportunities to help out Manuel is rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin, who Marrone said on Monday will get increased playing time. Marrone said on Wednesday he wants to give both second-year receiver T.J. Graham and Goodwin more chances to make plays.

Photo by Ed Runyon
Marquise Goodwin

“We have to find ways to get them (Graham and Goodwin) the ball, ” said Marrone. “And more than just throwing ‘Go’ routes.”

Goodwin has made a few big plays early in his career, including the game-tying 40 yard touchdown catch against the Bengals in week 6, and a 43 yard touchdown catch against the Jets in Week 11. Goodwin has compiled 16 receptions for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

Goodwin has always been considered a speedster at the position, with only 116 career receptions at the University of Texas and two NCAA championships in long jump (2010, 2012) and four selections as an All-American in track and Field. But Goodwin believes he can do more than just deep routes.

“I play receiver, so any route you can think of, I feel like I’m capable of running,” said Goodwin.

A rookie performance Marrone has singled out is linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is on track to make the Pro Bowl. Marrone said Wednesday that Alonso was limited in practice with a knee injury, but was not concerned about his ability to get ready to play or his effort.

Photo by Ed Runyon
Kiko Alonso

“As a rookie he’s (Alonso) more in time with his body than anyone I’ve been around,” said Marrone. “We talk about not confusing effort with results. With him (Alonso) you see the effort and the results.”

The Bills are still in contention to make the postseason if they win their last three games. If Buffalo were able to finish their season at 7-9 and tied with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins, they would have the tiebreakers needed to be ahead of them. Marrone knows that any chance of that scenario occurring rests on the Bills’ performance first.

“What we can control is winning a game,” said Marrone. If not, it’ll be 14 years. 14 years is too damn long, and we’re gonna change that.”

Marrone said on Wednesday that defensive tackle Kyle Williams and guard Kraig Urbik did not participate. He also said that Urbik, who is nursing a foot injury, will be a game-time decision. If Urbik can’t go, J.J. Unga will start.

Unga was signed off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad in November. Unga was an undrafted free agent out of Midwestern State who played tackle in college. Unga’s size (6’5”, 320 pounds) compares well to Urbik (6’5”, 324 pounds). Marrone said on Monday that Unga had played well and was likely to see more reps, but Unga could be making his first career start on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars

Running back C.J. Spiller perfectly described the Bills’ season.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can rebound this week,” said Spiller. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

The question is will the team feel better for the ride when the season ends?

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