2014 NFL Preseason Week 3: Live Analysis of Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

EJ Manuel only has two more opportunities to win his first road game in 2013. Today's game against Jacksonville may be his best chance. (Photo: Kim Klement — USA Today Sports)

EJ Manuel struggled against the Buccaneers in 2013. (Photo: Kim Klement — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

The Buffalo Bills played better on both sides of the ball in the second half, but they were unable to recover from a 24-0 first half, and lost, 27-14, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their fourth game of the preseason. With one more exhibition to go, the Bills hold a 1-3 record.


As the Buffalo Bills aren’t likely to play their starters much in their final preseason game Thursday versus the Detroit Lions, it’s unlikely the level of play they need to be a contender this year will be seen before the regular season begins. Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was arguably their most disappointing performance of the preseason.

While the Bills played much better in the second half—in large part due to having many starters on the field versus Buccaneers backups in the third quarter—their first half was a disaster, after which they trailed 24-0. Buffalo’s offense struggled throughout the game and turned the ball over three times in the first half. The defense had a better day, especially up front against the run, but it’s going to need help from quarterback EJ Manuel and the team’s offensive unit for strong defensive play to lead to wins in meaningful games.

Despite the two third-quarter touchdowns, I’ll have more later tonight weighing in on the Bills’ continued offensive struggles this preseason.


Jeff Tuel threw an interception straight to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back, but he caught a break with a roughing the passer penalty against Tampa Bay that negated the play. It’s not something the Bills’ potential No. 2 quarterback wants on his tape nonetheless.


The Bills had three plays of 16 or more yards on what appears to be their final offensive series of the game, including an impressive 20-yard connection on a high-velocity throw from Jeff Tuel to Chris Hogan on a slant over the middle from the slot. Tuel’s passing, however, became ineffective in the red zone. He skied one pass way over the back line of the end zone, then missed wide out of bounds on a pass intended for Hogan on the left side of the end zone on 4th-and-9, resulting in a second consecutive turnover on downs for the Buffalo offense.


Dennis Dixon only played one series for the Bills and it will come as no surprise if he is released by Tuesday’s cutdown to the 75-man roster limit. It’s not a great sign for Thad Lewis, however, that he has not played in this game. It’s looking increasingly likely that he might not survive the cutdown to 53 men.


Jeff Tuel has entered the game as Buffalo’s third quarterback over Thad Lewis.


Like Landon Cohen, outside linebacker Randell Johnson and safety Deon Broomfield have continued to be defensive standouts against backups. Both players were all over the field on the last series: Broomfield had four total tackles, Johnson had three. Johnson, a seventh-round pick, is a highly intriguing athlete who should have a roster spot locked up. Broomfield remains a roster long shot but is the most deserving of Buffalo’s undrafted rookies of a roster spot.


Once again, Landon Cohen has been one of the day’s bright spots for the Bills. Continuing to exploit backup offensive lines with his quickness as a penetrator, Cohen has recorded multiple tackles for loss versus the run.


The Buffalo Bills turned over on downs on Dennis Dixon’s first series in the game. Dixon fumbled the ball on a 4th-and-1 run; he recovered, but short of reaching first-down yardage. He also had two other near-fumbles on the drive. A lack of ball security shows one clear reason why he hasn’t had a real shot to win a backup quarterback job until today.


How unhappy are the Bills with the play of backup quarterbacks Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel? They’re turning to Dennis Dixon, who hasn’t played all preseason, as their second quarterback in today’s game. Big opportunity for Dixon to prove himself.


After a futile first half, the Buffalo Bills have scored back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter.

The success of the Bills offense in the second half has been a bit deceptive. The first-team offense has finally found the rhythm that has been missing all preseason, but it’s coming against backups. Anyone trying to make a legitimate evaluation of the Bills offense will get a more realistic picture from the first-half struggles than the third-quarter dominance. With that being said, the decision to keep the starters in for another frame looks like a good one on Doug Marrone’s part, as it could help EJ Manuel and the players around him build confidence going into the regular season.


It took playing against backups, but the Buffalo Bills first-team offense has finally found the end zone. EJ Manuel made a number of impressive downfield throws in rhythm, C.J. Spiller set the Bills up in a goal-to-go situation with a 14-yard run and after Manuel inexplicably ran out of bounds seven yards behind the line of scrimmage for a sack, he bounced back on the next play for a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.


The Bills have announced that wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is out with a neck injury and tight end Lee Smith is out with a foot injury. Goodwin took a big shot at the end of a kickoff return in the second quarter that resulted in his helmet being popped off, and that might be the play that caused the injury.


Brandon Spikes’ struggles as a coverage linebacker have been well-documented, but he made a nice play on the ball to break up a pass intended for Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to force a punt on Tampa Bay’s first offensive series of the second half.


Dustin Hopkins’ kickoff to open the second half was returned by Solomon Patton to the 26-yard line. Not nearly good enough if Hopkins is going to make a last-ditch effort to make the Bills roster as a kickoff specialist.


Editor’s Halftime Thoughts:

Hey everyone, it’s Dan Hope taking over for Ryan Talbot for the rest of the game. Ryan is going to participate in a fantasy football draft, which will undoubtedly be more enjoyable than the first half of this game.

The boos have been raining down in Ralph Wilson Stadium all afternoon and with good reason.

Second-year quarterback EJ Manuel and the Bills first-team offense, which has failed to score a touchdown all preseason, has gone from bad to worse Saturday. The team has managed just 82 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Two of those turnovers have been on Manuel; the first was not his fault, as the interception came as a result of tight end Scott Chandler falling down, but the second, a strip sack where he stayed in the pocket far too long and lost the ball—which was recovered by Tampa Bay and returned for a defensive touchdown—was unacceptably bad by the quarterback.

As Ryan pointed out earlier, the run defense has been about the only source of promise thus far in today’s game. The pass defense has been burned for some big plays. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes was victimized on a 22-yard Doug Martin catch-and-run that set up a touchdown. Late in the half, cornerback Ron Brooks got burned on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans.

Another reason for concern in this game has been punter Brian Moorman. One of the NFL’s worst punters last season, he’s been no better today: one of his punts failed to get past midfield, another only went 27 yards. The Bills should be keeping their eyes on the waiver wire for punters they can bring in for tryouts next week.

Will the second half gives Bills fans something to cheer about? It won’t take much for Buffalo to improve upon what has easily been its most disheartening half of the preseason thus far.


The rough play of the offense has been most noticeable thus far, but the Bills pass defense has also been shaky. Few positives to take away from this first half for Buffalo.


Coming out of the two-minute warning, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Buffalo 34-yard line, driving for potentially another score before the end of the half.


The Bills go three-and-out and Duke Williams gets the crowd a bit fired up by hitting the Buccaneers kick returner immediately upon catching the ball.


Goodwin takes a decent shot on the kick return as the Bills take over on their 26.


The play stands and Tampa Bay extends their lead 17-0. An embarrassing showing for the Bills thus far.


EJ Manuel gets sacked and fumbles at some point. The Buccaneers recover the fumble and run it in for an apparent touchdown. The play is under review.


A screen pass to Spiller goes for a decent gain, but a penalty on Eric Wood brings it back.


EJ Manuel needs to show us something on this drive. In the preseason, it’s okay to take shots down the field. Even in this setting, he’s hesitant and looks too comfortable checking down.


The third preseason game is considered a dress rehearsal and right now, it’s not going too well for Buffalo. The offense has especially struggled today.


Tampa Bay extends their lead to 10-0 after a Connor Barth 43 yard field goal.


Tampa Bay is driving on Buffalo again after a few decent passes and a McCown scramble. The Buccaneers face a 3rd and 16.


Keith Rivers blows up a run in the backfield on first down. We can feel decent about the run defense right now, but that’s just about it.


Fred Jackson picks up 10 yards on 3rd and 40. Buffalo will punt.


At the end of the 1st quarter, Buffalo is down 7-0. Buffalo’s offense has really struggled through the first quarter.


Buffalo has been flagged for two consecutive penalties and will now face a 1st and 30.


Buffalo’s run defense is still looking outstanding. The team forces a stop on the Buccaneers and starts deep in their territory. C.J. Spiller gives the team a bit of space after taking a draw to the 25 yard line.


Manuel had Robert Woods open in the intermediate area of the field but threw the ball behind his target. Ugly pass.


Doug Martin punches the ball in on the next play for a touchdown.


Correction: Doug Martin was called down at the one.


C.J. Spiller gets hit by Lavonte David on a reception and Tampa Bay recovers and moves the ball 24 yards on the return. Tampa Bay makes the most of the turnover and scores a touchdown. Doug Martin was lined up with Brandon Spikes on the play.


Josh McCown throws an interception to Da’Norris Searcy, not Anthony Dixon as Ray Bentley believed.


Buffalo started their second series buried in their own end and went 3 and out after two straightforward Fred Jackson runs and a short pass to Jackson. The Bills were forced to punt and Moorman’s punt only went 34 yards to Buffalo’s 46 yard line. Not a great punt for Moorman.


Buffalo’s defense had an impressive three and out. On first down, Nickell Robey sniffed out a pass for a loss, Nigel Bradham stuffed a run for no gain and Corbin Bryant strip sacked Josh McCown.


Goldson intercepted Manuel’s pass, but Chandler was at fault after all. Manuel threw the ball to where his tight end was supposed to be.


The Bills make it to midfield on their opening drive before an EJ Manuel interception. Scott Chandler apparently fell on the play.


The Bills will take the field first after a touchback.


Lineup changes for today:

  • Cyril Richardson will be starting at LG for the injured Chris Williams.
  • Erik Pears will be starting at RG.
  • Seantrel Henderson will start at RT.
  • Corbin Bryant will start at DT for the injured Kyle Williams.
  • Mike Williams will be starting at WR.



Bills inactives per Mike Rodak:

WR Sammy Watkins

 LG Chris Williams (lower back)

DT Kyle Williams (leg)

TE Tony Moeaki (hamstring)

DT Alan Branch (unknown)

S Jonathan Meeks

CB Mario Butler

CB Bobby Felder

Tags: 2014 NFL Preseason, Buffalo Bills, Live Blog, Preseason, Preseason Week 3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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