Sluggish offense sinking Bills’ playoff hopes
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills have an extended week to prepare for their next game after losing twice in five days.
Coach Doug Marrone plans to use the additional time to find a way to fix the Bills’ broken red-zone offense.
”The critical area right now for us is obviously the red zone,” Marrone said Friday.
A sluggish, unproductive offense is beginning to sink Buffalo’s playoff hopes. The Bills (5-5) have lost two straight coming off their bye week, starting on another one of the familiar second-half meltdowns Buffalo has endured during its 14-season playoff drought – the NFL’s longest active streak.
The Bills entered Thursday night’s game at Miami with the NFL’s worst red-zone touchdown rate. After failing to score a touchdown in a 22-9 loss to the Dolphins, the Bills now have 14 touchdowns in 36 drives inside the opponent’s 20.
In the past two games, the Bills have managed just four field goals in six trips to the red zone. Dating back to the start of the second half at the New York Jets on Oct. 26, the Bills have produced just one touchdown in the past nine drives into the red zone. They have scored one touchdown and five field goals in their last 11 drives into opponent’s territory.
”We just have to make plays down there and right now we’re not making them,” center Eric Wood said. ”I realize that’s general, but from my standpoint that’s what needs to happen.”
Marrone will study whether personnel or scheme changes are needed to revive the red-zone offense.
”I’m going to go back there and I’m going to take a good look at it,” Marrone said. ”It’s my responsibility to answer those questions. I’m responsible for that. There’s no doubt about it.”
Red-zone inefficiency is one of a myriad of problems facing the Bills, who have not won six of their first 10 games since 2000. Questions have been raised about Marrone’s job security under new ownership, along with quarterback Kyle Orton’s declining play.
Orton had his worst outing Thursday since taking over for EJ Manuel six games ago. His 193 yards passing were the fewest by the Bills since Manuel had 173 in the season opener. Orton also took a safety on an intentional grounding penalty in the third quarter against Miami.
Orton sustained a toe injury against the Dolphins but will remain Buffalo’s starting quarterback, Marrone said. The Bills host the New York Jets on Nov. 23.
With running backs C.J. Spiller (collarbone) and Fred Jackson (groin) both injured, the ground game has stalled. Buffalo’s 54 yards rushing against Miami were the fewest since gaining 41 in a 35-8 loss at Miami on Nov. 20, 2011.
The Bills produced a season-low 237 yards against the Dolphins and managed fewer than 20 first downs for the eighth time in 10 games. They have scored 17 or fewer points six times this year after doing so just four times last season.
”We put ourselves in really good position going into the bye week 5-3 and fell short the last couple weeks,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. ”Obviously, we’re pretty frustrated. Last night was a big game for us. As professionals, we really just have to put that behind. Anything can happen in this league. It’s happened before and we just have to come back after this weekend and focus on winning the next game.”
The defense had been a bright spot in the first eight games, but has begun to spring leaks. After holding opponents to under 90 yards rushing in each of the first six games, the Bills have allowed 125 or more yards to their last four.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin is also likely out for the season after breaking his right ankle during the first quarter of Thursday’s game.
McKelvin, who has a career-high four interceptions and is also the Bills’ top punt returner, caused a stir earlier in the week when he pledged the Bills would beat the Dolphins following a loss to Kansas City last Sunday.
NOTES: Marrone said Jackson aggravated his groin injury during practice Tuesday. . The Bills had five sacks against Miami, giving them a league-high 39 the most through 10 games in team history. . Thursday night’s game was the fifth time Buffalo has been held without a touchdown and also did not commit a turnover.
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