Sunday, August 17, 2014

Manuel frustrated as Bills red-zone woes continue


The Buffalo Bills first-team offense moved the ball well in Pittsburgh Saturday night. They managed to maneuver into Steelers territory on all their first-half drives, even going 5-for-9 on third downs.

Getting the ball in the end zone, however, continues to be a much different story.

E.J. Manuel and the primary offensive unit started the game with a 11-play, 44-yard drive that sputtered on a 3rd-and-1 attempt inside the red zone, a drive that coach Doug Marrone seemed happy to take a field goal on to start things off. That patience grew thin though as the game moved into the second quarter, where the unit continued to drive the ball deep but couldn't convert.

"We’ve done a lot of work in the red zone," Marrone said via Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. "So my point was when I went down there, with all the work we’ve done and trying to see who’s going to make a play for us during the year and force that situation when it comes up, that was what I was trying to get done."

Marrone attempted two fourth-down conversions in the second quarter, the first a 4th-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 25-yard line after driving the ball 61 yards. The ball fell incomplete on a pass intended for T.J. Graham.

The second came in the closing seconds of the half, as the team stood on the 3-yard line following a perfectly executed drive where the squad converted two third downs and ate more than four minutes off the clock after a Nickell Robey interception. That drive ended with two incomplete passes to Robert Woods and Scott Chandler, respectively.

"Coming off the field, it was frustrating," said Manuel, who ended up going 17-for-27 for 148 yards and one interception. "I’m not going to lie."

As Tim Graham pointed out, the first-team unit has kicked four field goals, punted twice, been intercepted once and botched three fourth-down situations in their 10 preseason possessions. 

To make matters worse, the Bills big addition to the starting offense, rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, left Saturday's game with a rib contusion and did not return. Though the injury did not look extremely serious at the time, a timetable for his return is, at this point, unknown.

"They're going to run tests and everything and we'll see how he is," Marrone said via Mike Rodak of

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