BY DAN BEGNOCHE
One thing rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel had going for him so far this season was his knack for avoiding interceptions.
That — and hopes of some progression — went out the window in South Florida Sunday, as the youngster threw four picks and failed to convert on third down in the Bills' 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Disappointing day," Manuel said after the game, via buffalobills.com. "It's starts with me, especially on offense. I'm the leader. These guys feed off me and I'm supposed to be facilitating the ball to these guys."
"Didn't do a good job today, plain and simple."
Despite the Bucs' scoring efficiency, Buffalo's defense actually played pretty well following an 80-yard rushing touchdown by third-string back Bobby Rainey, as they held rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to only 90 yards through the air and Rainey to only 47 yards after his touchdown run.
What was less impressive was the play by the team's offensive line, which allowed seven sacks and gave no help to the team's electric tailback corps. Flags killed the Bills, too.
"Every time I looked up, it’s first-and-20 or second-and-20, negating plays," Marrone said via buffalobills.com, alluding to the team's 11 penalties that totaled more than 100 yards. "There’s more to that and more hidden yardage. That’s a lot of problems right there."
Tampa Bay's defense had allowed an average of 158 yards on the ground the previous five games, which seemed like an ominous situation with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller coming into town. The two, however, combined for only 16 carries and 34 yards Sunday, a far cry from their 25-carry average the previous four games.
"If we’re going to sit here and say, 'Hey, we won more battles than we lost,' they beat us in those battles. It’s plain and simple," Marrone said. "They won the battles at times, and I don’t think we rushed the ball well on first down. We tried to go ahead and throw on first down but even when we were trying to run the ball, it’s a yard, a yard, two yards, one yard, you can’t do that against a good defense."
Third down continued to quell the team's drives as well, as Manuel and the offense went one for 11 (9 percent efficiency). Most of those attempts were for more than 10 yards, and two of those attempts ended in sacks.
I know we played poorly in all three phases," Marrone said. "We had penalties, we had turnovers, we had misreads, we had missed tackles. We had things go wrong for us that there have been times during the year where we’ve been making improvements on it and probably out of any point during the season, it hit all at once in this game."
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