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Penalties proved particularly painful on special teams

Rex Ryan and Danny Crossman met Monday to look over the wreckage of what was the Buffalo Bills’ performance on special teams against the New England Patriots.

Specifically, the Bills’ head coach and special-teams coordinator need to solve the penalty problem that has plagued the team in that part of the game. The Bills committed nine penalties on special teams, six of which were accepted during a 40-32 loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“Special-teams penalties, that seems to be a big thing,” Ryan said. “There’s a big difference between being aggressive and being foolish. I think that’s the No. 1 thing about our football team we have to understand. The second guy always gets the flag. Some fundamental things that you already know, everybody knows that we’ve got to be smarter at. But the blocking in the back, it’s killing us.”

A good example of that was reserve linebacker Randell Johnson’s penalty in the first quarter Sunday during Marcus Thigpen’s punt return. Thigpen got to the New England 46-yard line, and with the Bills leading 7-0 and with a drive start inside Patriots’ territory, things were looking good.

But Johnson’s penalty took the ball all the way back to the Buffalo 28-yard line, a loss of 26 yards. If you’re looking for a moment everything started to go wrong, that would be a good place to start.

“It happened in preseason games and you hope you learn from there, but it carried over,” Ryan said of costly special-teams penalties. “Thigpen is going to get at least a 20-yard return whether you block the guy. You don’t need that block and we have to be smart. … We don’t need to make big contact with the guy and those are things we have to understand and we have to get better at.”

The Bills’ issues on special teams weren’t limited to only penalties. Kicker Dan Carpenter missed an extra point – which the Bills chased for the rest of the game. A bad preseason left Carpenter on the hot seat, but he actually got a vote of confidence from Ryan on Monday.

“Dan, he feels worse than anybody,” the coach said. “He’s a pro. He’s been there, he’s gone through things. We have confidence in him. We just got to get better at it, keep working at it. I know when it’s right, when the time is right, the battery is right, he’s as good a kicker as there is, so it’s just a matter of him working through some things right now.”

Bills punter Colton Schmidt also had a bad game, punting six times for 249 yards, an average of 41.5 yards per punt. Schmidt’s net average was just 34.7 yards, mainly because the Patriots had 49 yards on punt returns. In total return yardage, New England outgained Buffalo, 70-14.

The Patriots’ average drive start was their own 37-yard line.

“They had what, a 13-yard drive, a 30-yard drive?” Ryan said, both of which were correct and ended in New England touchdowns.

Perhaps the low point for the Bills’ special teams came on kickoff specialist Jordan Gay’s attempted onside kick in the fourth quarter. Three Bills’ penalties were called on the play.

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Bills safety Aaron Williams was at the team facility Monday, just one day after being taken off the field in an ambulance after suffering a neck injury while attempting to make a tackle of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman near the goal line.

Williams was placed on a backboard and immobilized as the game was delayed for several minutes before being transported to a local hospital. He was released Sunday night.

“He was cleared from the hospital and things, so that is real encouraging,” Ryan said. “He is just real stiff and sore right now, he’s kind of got a little thing on his neck and stuff. So we’ll see how it progresses. But thank goodness he was cleared, so he’s doing OK.”

Ryan said it would be “probably a stretch,” for Williams to be ready to play against Miami in Week Three.

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The Bills denied Monday that they committed any sort of rules violation in regard to the use of their in-stadium “train whistle” during Sunday’s game.

A report from Mike Florio on the website profootballtalk.com early Monday suggested the Bills may have used the sound effect at times they weren’t supposed to. The train whistle is typically used before third-downs.

Florio quoted an NFL memo that circulated in August reminding teams of the league’s in-stadium noise policies.

“The home team is permitted to play audio while the visiting team is on offense and the play clock is running. The audio must cease by the time the play clock reaches 20 seconds, or when the visiting team’s offense reaches the line of scrimmage, whichever occurs first. Pursuant to this policy, the visiting team’s offense is considered being at the line of scrimmage when the center touches the ball.”

The Patriots run a no-huddle offense that sees them get to the line of scrimmage quickly.

“On multiple occasions when the Patriots used the no-huddle offense, the Bills were blaring the train horn,” Florio wrote.

The Bills issued the following statement to The Buffalo News in response Monday afternoon: “There are many elements of the game that are reviewed by the league and we feel we were within the rules.”

Florio pointed out in his post that there is an NFL rule stating that teams “must submit a recording of the video board feed paired with the PA system audio by the Wednesday following a home game.”

That means if the Bills did commit a violation, there should be a quick resolution from the league.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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