NFL Wire News

Marrone sticking with Orton as Bills’ QB


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Doug Marrone made it perfectly clear what he thinks of second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. Despite a 7-6 record that has the Buffalo Bills on the brink of elimination in the playoff race, the coach has no intention of turning back to Manuel over current starter Kyle Orton.

“We start the players that we feel give us the best chance to win,” Marrone said when asked about the quarterback situation in light of Orton’s struggles for much of the past month. “I just think that (Orton’s) the best player that we have at the position.”

Manuel, the Bills’ first-round pick in 2013, was benched after four games this year — a terrible performance in Houston where the Bills fell to 2-2 being the final straw. Some saw it as a pretty quick hook because that gave Manuel only 14 NFL starts, but it was clear that Marrone did not see enough progress and recognized that the Bills had a chance to compete for a playoff berth if he turned the reins over to the veteran, Orton.

Orton, who was signed near the end of training camp, took over and led the Bills to a 3-1 record in October that had them firmly in the playoff hunt at 5-3. However, back-to-back losses in a five-day span to Kansas City and Miami, during which Orton played poorly, really derailed the Bills’ chances of ending the NFL’s longest current playoff drought at 14 years.

Since then, the Bills have defeated the woeful New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, but Buffalo lost last week in Denver and now, with a 4-6 AFC record, has to win out and get some help to make the postseason.

Orton tied a club record with 38 completions against Denver, but much of his success came in the fourth quarter that began with Buffalo trailing 24-3. The issue with Orton is that he’s not an upper-echelon quarterback and simply doesn’t match up in games against the top quarterbacks. So far this season he has lost to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but even worse, has lost to the likes of Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill. Two of the five victories he has directed came at the hands of the Jets.

“Not good enough to beat a good team,” was Orton’s succinct explanation for his performance against Denver.

Orton will need to be much better early against Green Bay on Sunday, or the game could get out of hand quickly. With Orton unable to get things working, the Bills fell into an insurmountable 24-3 fourth-quarter hole against Denver.

The Packers lead the league in scoring, are sixth in yards, and third in third-down percentage. This represents the toughest test of the year for the Buffalo defense; and, just like last week, there’s no way around this fact: Like Denver, Green Bay’s offense cannot be stopped, only perhaps contained, and the Buffalo offense will be on the hook to win the game.

“I think that when you’re playing games and you’re not winning, there’s going to be a level of inconsistency,” Marrone said. “When you’re not scoring points, there’s obviously a level of inconsistency. I’m not going to sit here and say there weren’t some good things (against Denver). But, to be able to sustain drives, to be able to make plays when they count, to be able to keep drives going, that’s been a thing that we need to keep working on. Until we get that level of consistency, I’ll be answering these questions every week.”

The Bills are 18th in scoring, 22nd in yards and 17th in passing yards, and while part of the problem has been weak play from the offensive line and an inconsistent running game, underwhelming quarterback play from both Orton and Manuel remains the No. 1 issue.

“Any time you’ve got a defense playing as good as ours did, you want to go out there and return the favor and do some things on offense,” said running back Fred Jackson. “We haven’t gotten that done.”

This would be a good week to start.

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