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Bedraggled Bills need this bye

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ORCHARD PARK, N. Y. — The Buffalo Bills are coming off their most disappointing loss of the season, a 34-31 defeat at the hands of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in London, which dropped their record to 3-4, last in the AFC East.

The bye this week is welcomed.

The injury-ravaged team desperately needs a week off and an opportunity to hit the reset button on a season that began with so much excitement and promise, but has devolved into the latest letdown for the Bills’ tortured fan base.

“Nobody’s quitting on this team, we have guys that believe in each other and we believe we’ll get it turned around,” coach Rex Ryan said.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team that needs a bye week worse than we do. We’ve got to get some guys back, and not just average football players, but pretty darned good ones.”

Buffalo’s offense is in shambles, so much so that Ryan has given the team the entire week off from the facility. There are no organized practices or walk-throughs, and the only players on site are the ones who need medical treatment.

In the Jacksonville game, the Bills were without their starting quarterback (Tyrod Taylor), starting wide receivers (Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins), starting right guard (John Miller), starting right tackle (Seantrel Henderson), and No. 2 running back Karlos Williams.

On defense, safety Aaron Williams and defensive tackle Kyle Williams did not play.

The Bills somehow rallied from a 27-3 deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead, but then wilted at the end and allowed the Jaguars to drive downfield to win game.

Quarterback EJ Manuel played a huge role in the defeat with three costly first-half turnovers that led to 20 points, and it seems perfectly clear that Manuel is not capable of functioning as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Ryan believes Taylor, who suffered a knee injury against Tennessee in Week 5, can return to play Nov. 8 against Miami. He also believes Watkins, Henderson, Miller, and perhaps Karlos Williams and Harvin can be back, too.

“I’ll tell you what, when we get this team back to full strength, with having Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Tyrod Taylor, our right side of the line, that would be a heck of a start,” Ryan said.

“Defensively, hopefully you get the Williamses back, both of them. I think that will help us.”

As depleted as the offense is, what is also disconcerting is that the defense simply hasn’t been very good, not nearly what Ryan expected when the season began.

The Bills have only 11 sacks for 42 yards, and Corey Graham’s interception was the first forced turnover in seven quarters by a defense that has forced only 11 in seven games.

Yet Ryan defiantly believes that by the end of the season, his defense will be one of the best in the league, even though right now it’s ranked 11th in yards per game allowed, 14th in points per game allowed and third-down percentage.

“We don’t have to lead the league in sacks, we just want to win,” Ryan said. “If we end up doing that we will all be happy at the end of the day.

“No, I have never been looked at (his defense) as the weakness of a football team before, I have always looked at it as a strength. And you know what, at the end of the day that is what we will be.”

Marcell Dareus, the hulking defensive tackle, said: “The sky’s the limit for us. We’re not out of it. We’re one game out of .500. We have nine more to go, we can make a run, and we can still be in the game.”


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