FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Marcell Dareus seemingly was having a nice week.
The NFL announced Friday he finished first among all defensive tackles in fan Pro Bowl voting. The honor was justifiable, given his breakout production, even if he wasn’t selected for the roster.
But on a second straight Sunday, the Buffalo Bills benched Dareus for flouting team rules.
Dareus last week stood on the sideline and watched the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins because he was late for team meetings.
Bills coach Doug Marrone made Dareus watch the entire first half Sunday versus the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. A league source informed The News that Dareus was late for another meeting the day after he got benched the first time.
“I just hate that I put my team in a position like that,” Dareus said Sunday at his locker stall. “As a player, I’m just going to get better. Me and coach talked about it. I’m going to grow as a player in the offseason and continue to just work.”
In the locker room following the Dolphins shutout, Dareus said of his initial punishment, “It’s not really nothing important. It’s just a quarter.”
Dareus sounded more contrite Sunday.
“I apologized to my guys,” Dareus said. “I’m going to let them know I’m so sorry for what happened. I’m sorry about the game today and, of course, last week. They know I’m wholeheartedly sorry for what happened.”
Dareus made a costly error on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the Bills trailing by six points after scoring their first touchdown of the game, momentum was crucial. LeGarrette Blount returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Bills’ 20-yard line.
But the Bills appeared to force a field goal on fourth and 1. Then Dareus jumped before the snap. The 5-yard encroachment penalty extended the Patriots’ drive. They scored a touchdown on the next play.
“Man, I was so mad,” Dareus said. “I mean, I already felt like I put my team in the worst possible position by not being there in the first half. But in the second half, I just wanted to give everything. I wanted to exert all my energy on the field to show the team that I’m here for them; I have their back.
“I don’t want to sit on the sideline. I’m not trying to be that guy. That offsides call really killed me. I really … it hit me because I want to win. I want to do the best for my team. That offsides penalty just hit me in the gut. … It tore me up.”
Dareus made a similar gaffe in Week 10 against the Steelers. He was called for encroachment with the Steelers lined up to kick on fourth and 2. The Steelers scored a touchdown two plays later.
Corbin Bryant, with zero career starts before last week, started in Dareus’ place again.
Dareus, the third overall draft pick in 2011, recorded a career-high 7.5 sacks this season. He made 71 tackles, broke up three passes and forced a fumble.
“We need him out there,” Bills running back Fred Jackson said. “Any time he’s sitting on the bench, he’s not helping us. That’s a feeling I know he doesn’t like.
“He knows he has to come back and be better next year. I’m sure he will. I have all the confidence in the world in him, especially after a day like this that’s going to sit with him all offseason. I’m sure he’ll be motivated by that.”
The Bills own a top 11 draft choice for the sixth straight year. They locked up the ninth pick with Sunday’s conclusion of the regular season.
The first 20 selections of the 2014 draft order were finalized. The 12 playoff teams will be slotted later based on how they finish.
Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd left the game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury and didn’t return.
The game might have been his last for Buffalo. His contract is up after the Bills gave him a one-year, $6.916 million franchise extension and failed to work out a long-term contract.
The Bills can franchise Byrd a second time, but the one-year, guaranteed price tag would rise to $8.299 million or the average of the NFL’s five highest-paid safeties, whichever is greater.
Dan Carpenter had trouble finding work this summer before another kicker’s injury landed him with Buffalo. Carpenter shouldn’t have any employment problems for 2014.
He made his 33rd field goal Sunday, tying Steve Christie’s season record. Carpenter broke Buffalo’s record for field goals 40 yards or longer when he converted a 51-yard attempt 6:14 into the game.
Carpenter converted 33 of his 36 attempts and was perfect on all 19 inside 40 yards. He made four of his six tries from 50 yards or farther.
Carpenter signed a one-year contract with the Bills when sixth-round draft choice Dustin Hopkins injured his right groin at the end of preseason.
The Bills deactivated rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, ending his season before kickoff. The Bills decided his sprained left knee wasn’t stable enough to be Thad Lewis’ backup.
Manuel’s final stat line was etched thusly: 180 of 306 (58.8 percent) for 1,972 yards and 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions and 28 sacks. He also ran 53 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
But you can’t ignore another significant stat. Manuel suffered three knee injuries in a four-month span and missed eight games, two in the preseason and six in the regular season.