Niagara Gazette

Sports

September 12, 2013

Bills Notebook: Panthers present new challenge

Niagara Gazette — Three days into the regular season, the Buffalo Bills find themselves toward the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

Offense wasn’t supposed to be the issue heading into Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots, not after adding highly-touted offensive minds in head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to a roster with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson) and a three-time 1,000-yard receiver (Stevie Johnson), and certainly not after spending a first-round draft pick on quarterback E.J. Manuel.

But after one week’s worth of games, the Bills sit 24th in total yards, 28th in first downs, 28th in passing yards and second in punts, and at practice Wednesday outside Ralph Wilson Stadium multiple offensive players said they were working to turn it around.

“There’s always something very small and minute that (doesn’t) necessarily cost you the game, but those long drives that you want to get,” said Manuel, who finished with 150 yards through the air against the Patriots. “Those third and twos, that we may not have converted, those 3rd-and-sixes that we didn’t convert. There’s always something very minute that we may not have gotten.”

The biggest issue may have been the team’s performance on third downs. The Bills converted only 31 percent (4 of 13) on Sunday, good for 26th in the league.

Marrone and Hackett worked to install an up-tempo offense over the offseason, a style made famous by Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly during his time at the University of Oregon. In Kelly’s debut Monday, the Eagles went 7 for 15 (41 percent) on third down and finished with 77 plays from scrimmage, compared to 61 for the Bills.

Manuel said part of that is due to the gameplan against the high-powered Patriots, adding that he expects to open up the playbook and push the tempo this weekend against the visiting Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. Sunday).

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