TAMPA, Fla. — The Buffalo Bills were awful all the way around Sunday.
The nexus of angst, though, was their offensive line.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers manhandled the Bills, 27-6, in Raymond James Stadium. The Bills gave up seven sacks. Their running backs averaged 2.2 yards a carry. Offensive linemen committed six penalties for 55 yards. Those flags wiped out 44 yards of gains.
Asked how he would sum up the offensive line’s performance, center Eric Wood replied, “Bad, but you show me any offensive line that played good when you’re down 21 points in the second quarter and I’d love to see it. We just dug a hole and let them tee off on us the whole game.”
Tampa Bay scored a touchdown on its second play, led by 17-3 early in the second quarter and by 24-3 by halftime.
Wood explained playing from so far behind didn’t leave much to the imagination. Buffalo had to throw, and everybody in the stadium knew it.
“You let a talented front tee off on you play after play, they’re going to get home,” Wood said. “If you’re not close and you’ve got to do obvious passing downs on first, second, third down, they’re going to get home.”
Buffalo’s deficit, however, didn’t seem to throw its play-calling out of whack. Running backs had nine carries in the first half and eight in the second half. EJ Manuel attempted only three more passes after halftime than before.
Run or pass, the Bucs didn’t have much trouble in the trenches.
“They beat us in those battles, plain and simple,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I don’t think we rushed the ball well on first down. We tried to go ahead and throw on first down.
“Even when we were trying to run the ball, it was a yard, a yard, 2 yards, 1 yard. You can’t do that against a good defense. You have to have the mentality of staying on pace, and you’ve got to win.
“Is it all up front? Is it all their fault? That’s not all their fault. But they’re part of it. Everyone contributes part of it.”
Four of Buffalo’s five starting offensive linemen had at least one penalty.
Erik Pears was called for a face mask that wiped out what would have been a 28-yard gain (Stevie Johnson had a catch for 13 yards and got face masked on the tackle) in the third quarter. Later on that drive, Pears and Wood committed false starts on back-to-back plays, putting the Bills in a first-and-20 situation. Manuel threw an interception on the next play.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Pears said. “I don’t know what else to say. Come and get me after the film, and I’ll tell you what happened.”
Seven sacks is not a season-high for the Bills. They allowed eight in Week Three against the New York Jets. The last time the Bills surrendered at least seven sacks twice in a season was in 1998, with Rob Johnson at quarterback.
The Bucs’ defense hadn’t enjoyed a seven-sack game in seven years.
What were the Bucs able to do that allowed them to be so successful?
“Everything, basically,” left tackle Cordy Glenn said. “Whatever you want to say, it just wasn’t a good performance across the board.”
The Bucs recorded 13 quarterback hits and sent Manuel scrambling four times.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Bucs linebacker Mason Foster said. “We were just on it. We were on top of everything.
“I felt like we were playing a step faster. That’s a shout-out to the coaches. Coaches had a great scheme, had a great thing going on that we worked on through practice.”
Bucs kicker Rian Lindell had a grand time facing his old team.
Lindell made both of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder that had plenty of leg to spare in the second quarter.
“That was nice,” Lindell said. “At the time, you just want to hit a good ball, and I don’t care what the other jersey looks like or who we’re playing. But, yeah, kind of looking back, taking it all in a little bit, it is nice. It’s nice to hit a long one.”
Lindell made a 53-yard field goal a week earlier against the Carolina Panthers. He’s the first kicker in Bucs history to connect from at least that long in consecutive games.
The Bills released Lindell during training camp in part because they thought rookie Dustin Hopkins would be better at those long field goals. Lindell left the team after 10 seasons with 980 points – just 31 short of Steve Christie’s franchise record of 1,011.
“It was odd trying to warm up because the training staff and equipment guys, weight-room guys, those are the guys I’ve been around with for however many years,” Lindell said. “It’s great to see all of them.
“It’s nice to get a win. I thought I kicked well all day. Obviously, during the game is when it counts, but even pregame, it’s nice to hit a clean ball, you know what I mean? It’s nice that the day cooperated.”
Bobby Rainey’s 80-yard touchdown 18 seconds into the game was the longest run and fastest score in Bucs history.
Those turned out to be the only points the Bucs needed.
“I think it hurt, but at the same time we got to be more mentally tough,” Bills safety Jairus Byrd said. “It’s a long game. You got to be able to bounce back from that.”
The Bills used Sunday’s game to evaluate young players for the future.
Offensive lineman J.J. Unga and linebacker Ty Powell, usually healthy scratches, made their NFL debuts. Unga rotated with starting right guard Kraig Urbik. Backup guard Mark Asper was deactivated.
Powell dressed instead of Jamaal Westerman, who had played every game this season.
Tight end Chris Gragg, scratched last week after playing six straight games, was back in the lineup and got his first NFL start ahead of Scott Chandler.
Newly signed tight end Tony Moeaki was inactive.