NFL Team Report - Buffalo Bills - INSIDE SLANT


Marrone, Bills know three is not enough

At some point, it stands to reason that if the Buffalo Bills don't improve their efficiency in the red zone, it's going to come back to bite them. But through two weeks, and two victories, it has hardly mattered that the Bills have scored touchdowns on only three of 10 trips inside the opponents 20.

Coach Doug Marrone didn't ignore the numbers, but he did try to rationalize them by pointing out that on several occasions, the Bills weren't necessarily pressing to get into the end zone, and he's right.

At Chicago, one of the red zone "failures" came in overtime when Fred Jackson's 38-yard run to the one-yard-line set the Bills up for a winning field goal.

And against Miami, the Bills were in the red zone three times in the fourth quarter in a game Buffalo had control of, and he played it close to the vest in all three instances to make sure the Bills came away with at least field goals to extend the lead.

"I'm not going to try to mitigate what's going on with the red zone, but, at the same time, the Chicago one we were playing for the field goal to win the game and (against Miami) there were three times in the red zone that right, wrong or indifferent, I was playing conservative to get to the two-score lead again," Marrone said.

"We were playing to kick the field goals in that situation and not jeopardize a game that, at least I felt at that time, we were in control of. That's not an excuse."

The first half of the Miami game is where the concerns were focused.

The Bills drove down there three times and came away with just three field goals.

On the first try, EJ Manuel had Robert Woods open on a quick slant inside the 10 that would have converted a third-and-6 and might have scored a touchdown, but he threw the ball at Woods' feet. Field goal.

Following a blocked punt by Anthony Dixon and a drive start at the Dolphins 31, the Bills moved to a first-and-goal at the seven, but Manuel misfired twice and Fred Jackson was stuffed on a run. Field goal.

On the last chance, Manuel had Watkins wide open over the middle for a touchdown, but it looked as if Watkins ran the wrong route and the ball fell incomplete. He then hit Watkins with a third-down pass that came up short of the first down. Field goal.

"At the end of the day, the offense, we've got to look at the 17 percent, that's unacceptable in the red zone," running back C.J. Spiller said of the 1-for-6 performance against the Dolphins.

"To get where we want to go we've got to be a whole lot better. We'll look at the tape, see the things that we missed, clean it up and try to come back next weekend a whole lot stronger."

With San Diego's potent passing game coming to Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday, this would be a good week to pick it up.

"This is a game where we'll need to score touchdowns instead of field goals," Manuel said Wednesday.

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone was a problem for the Bills last year when they ranked 29th in the league with a 34 percent touchdown rate.

Interestingly, the Bills were No. 1 in red zone scoring as they cashed in 95 percent of the time, but far too often it was field goals by Dan Carpenter, who tied a Bills' single-season record with 33.