At 3-4, Ryan’s Bills more resemble pushovers than bullies
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — For all his bold vows, coach Rex Ryan doesn’t sound as self-assured in assessing the Buffalo Bills entering their bye week as he did before the season opened.
“We expect better results right now. We haven’t gotten them quite honestly,” Ryan said. “I know our fans deserve better than 3-4, there’s no question. But this team deserves our fan base to stay by them, which they will.”
Those were among Ryan’s parting comments before the Bills flew home from London after bumbling through a 34-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Rather than delivering on his promise to build a bully upon taking over in January, Ryan’s team more closely resembles the Bills’ past pushovers, who haven’t made the playoffs in 15 seasons — the NFL’s longest active playoff drought.
And Buffalo’s schedule isn’t getting any easier. Once the Bills return, they face a three-game stretch of playing AFC East rivals, starting with a home game against Miami on Nov. 8, and play five of their next seven on the road.
Ryan gave his players the entire week off after returning to Buffalo early Monday.
They could use a break.
The Bills are depleted by injuries. Their offense is sputtering as a result of familiar longstanding questions at quarterback. They lack discipline in being the NFL’s most-penalized team. And, most concerning, Ryan’s prized defense has yet to play anywhere close to its high-priced expectations.
All four issues contributed to how Buffalo unraveled against the Jaguars.
At quarterback, EJ Manuel showed once again why he’s too erratic to be considered a reliable option. He made his second straight start filling in for Tyrod Taylor, who’s out with a sprained left knee.
Though Manuel helped rally the Bills to score 28 consecutive points and take a 31-27 lead, he was also the reason Buffalo found itself in a 27-3 hole to begin with.
In the span of six snaps, Manuel turned the ball over three times — a fumble and two interceptions — which led directly to the Jaguars scoring 20 points in just under five minutes.
“Just bad football,” said Manuel, who had two turnovers returned for touchdowns.
The Bills placed their faith in Manuel to be the primary backup after trading veteran journeyman Matt Cassel to Dallas in Week 3.
Instead, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has lost four straight starts dating to last season. It’s a stretch in which Manuel has combined to throw six touchdowns and committed six turnovers (five interceptions and a lost fumble), three of which have been returned for scores.
Injuries have been a season-long concern, though Taylor is expected to return following the bye week.
What’s more cloudy is the status of other players, including receivers Sammy Watkins (left ankle) and Percy Harvin (hip), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee) and backup running back Karlos Williams (concussion).
Then there’s Buffalo’s defense.
The Bills have just 11 sacks, well off last year’s pace in which they had a league-leading 54. And Buffalo has allowed three or more offensive touchdowns four times already, one more than last year’s total.
Though Manuel’s turnovers played a factor Sunday, the Bills still gave up a season-high 120 yards rushing and allowed Blake Bortles to secure the win by capping a seven-play, 84-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Allen Hurns.
The Jaguars did a get a break on the drive by converting a third-and-15 because of a questionable pass interference call against cornerback Nickell Robey. Replays showed Robey barely touched receiver Bryan Walters, and both had their arms outstretched attempting to snag an errant pass.
Robey was incensed by the penalty, and shared his complaints on Twitter shortly after the game. Robey wrote: “THE WORST CALL PASS INTERFERENCE I EVER BEEN APART OF!!! (hashtag)nflrefs.”
The comment has since been deleted.
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