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Monday, September 9, 2013
Upon Further Review: Bills Week 1

By Mike Rodak

A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 23-21 season-opening loss to the New England Patriots:

 C.J. Spiller
Running back C.J. Spiller averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in Sunday's loss to New England.
Offense needs more than Spiller: The Patriots stymied Bills running back C.J. Spiller on Sunday, forcing Buffalo to look for other ways to move the ball. Spiller gained just 5 yards on his first five touches (four runs, one catch), fumbling on the second play of the Bills' first drive. Quarterback EJ Manuel seemed more comfortable going to Spiller, Fred Jackson and tight end Scott Chandler than to his wide receivers. Of Manuel's 27 passes, only 10 were thrown to wide receivers, and, of those, just five were caught. With Steve Johnson (98 percent of snaps), Robert Woods (97 percent) and T.J. Graham (95 percent) playing virtually the entire game, the Bills need more production out of that position.

"Chunk plays" hurt Bills' defense: There's little doubt that the Bills were able to come up with key stops at critical moments in the game. Both of Buffalo's sacks came on third downs, including Kyle Williams taking down Tom Brady in the red zone. But Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed out Monday that the Patriots had a good amount of "chunk plays." The Patriots gained 19 yards or more nine times in the game. All but one of those plays occurred in Bills territory or pushed the Patriots across midfield. The Patriots were just 2-for-5 in the red zone, but the "chunk plays" kept the Bills' defense on the field.

Bills sputter on third down: Outside of their opening drive of the second half, an impressive 80-yard march that ended in a touchdown, the Bills' offense was just 2-for-11 on third down. Of course, one of those third-down misses came on Johnson's dropped pass in the fourth quarter, but the problems were larger than just that. "I think the biggest thing is getting the first one off the drive," tight end Scott Chandler said. "We had some short ones and some ones in key situations that we didn't convert."

Time of possession: Issue or overrated? The Bills managed to hold the ball for 22 minutes, 17 seconds, in contrast to the Patriots' 37:43 mark. The Bills want to maintain an up-tempo pace on offense, something that could limit their ability to maintain possession in games this season. "I don't think we're going to win any time-of-possession battles this year, and we're fine with that," center Eric Wood said. "We just need to run more plays. We would have liked to have their number of plays yesterday, and wear them down a little bit more. When we were able to put drives together, I felt like our tempo was great. But when we go three-and-out, our defense will be hung out to dry."