ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Now it's a problem.
What initially might have been chalked up as a preseason fluke -- an excessive number of flags against the Buffalo Bills -- has begun to hold the team back in the regular season.
"Ten to 4. I think it's hard to overcome especially when offensively you have a young quarterback and you're a young team," head coach Doug Marrone said. "It's not acceptable."
Buffalo was flagged 39 times in four preseason games, and led the NFL with 23 penalties through their first two exhibition contests. At the time, Marrone said it was important to separate unforced errors from simple over-aggressive play, but the former continued into Week 1.
"I think we got caught out on the field with 12 [players on defense] and that's not acceptable," Marrone said. "That's on us as the coaches and it starts with me."
In the first quarter, left tackle Cordy Glenn was called for a 10-yard illegal use of the hands penalty, negating what would have been a 19-yard gain and stalling a drive that later ended in a punt. Another critical penalty came late in the third quarter, when a 15-yard gain and first down was called back on the same infraction by right guard Kraig Urbik, setting up a 3rd-and-11 and another punt.
"That was frustrating," quarterback EJ Manuel said of the number of penalties. "When you have a big first down or big play and then you get it called back, you definitely want to continue to fight those battles. But you kind of shoot yourself in the foot when you do that. As an offense we have to clean those things up."
"The pre-snap penalties, the offsides, the false starts, misalignments, those sorts of things are things that are killing you and you really have to pay close attention," defensive tackle Kyle Williams added.
So how do the Bills fix it? Marrone said its something he and his coaches will have to dig deeper to correct.
"We have officials at every practice. We have to get together as a staff and we've got to figure out a way not to have that," he said. "We have to look at them and evaluate them first."