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Bills notebook: Dinged defense has letdown, while Mack looms large for Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Buffalo Bills’ defense thwarted elite NFL quarterbacks the previous two weeks.

Yet with their season on the line Sunday night, the Bills had their worst big-play day of the season against the league’s feeblest offense.

With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and top cornerback Stephon Gilmore sidelined by injuries, the Oakland Raiders capitalized with long gains in critical situations to beat the Bills, 26-24, at O.co Coliseum.

“It’s different,” Bills cornerback Corey Graham said. “Obviously, when you lose two of your better players it’s going to be tough for the defense.

“You just have to recover from that. The next guy’s got to step up and make plays.”

Dareus departed early in the second quarter with a right knee injury. Gilmore exited midway through the third quarter after slamming the back of his head on the ground while making a tackle.

Neither Dareus nor Gilmore were spotted in the locker room after the game. The Bills did not have updates on their statuses.

Their absences contributed to Buffalo’s worst big-play game of the year. More indigestible is that Oakland’s offense ranked dead last in the NFL.

Buffalo’s defense allowed its third- and fourth-longest pass plays of the season and gave up two gains that tied for the fourth-longest run.

Raiders rookie Derek Carr completed two passes of at least 50 yards to help set up touchdowns.

The second heave, a 51-yard completion to Andre Holmes up the right sideline, converted a third-and-22 situation from the Raiders’ 19-yard line with five minutes to go. Graham was in coverage but lost the jump ball.

“If I make that play, they punt the ball,” Graham said. “We’re down by two. We have an opportunity to win the game. I put it on my shoulders.

“It’s a play I pride myself in making. I wish I’d gone for the pass breakup and not the interception. I tried to make a play, and I misjudged the ball. It’s real unfortunate.”

Raiders running backs Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden each had a 25-yard run with Dareus out of the game. It was McFadden’s longest gain of the year, rushing or receiving.

Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams claimed those runs should have been stopped regardless of Dareus’ availability. Backup defensive tackles Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles have been effective when needed this year.

“I don’t know that there’s a huge change in what’s going on or what we’re doing,” Williams said of Dareus’ injury, “especially with what they were doing offensively.

“Marcell is a great player. You want to have him in there, but those guys have played well all year when they’ve come in.”

Carr threw a pair of touchdown passes. The Bills had given up two in their previous 33 quarters.

The Bills snapped Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s streak of 51 straight games with a TD (three short of the NFL record), holding the first-ballot Hall of Famer to his worst passer rating in six years. The Bills then kept Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the end zone in the worst passing day of his illustrious career.

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Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack was a nightmare for the Bills’ offense. Mack’s stat line wasn’t eye-popping. He made five tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits.

But the fifth overall draft pick from the University at Buffalo was a tornado.

“Khalil had them guessing,” Raiders coach Tony Sparano said. “He’s been getting better and better every single week.”

Mack beat Bills right tackle Seantrel Henderson on a pair of big plays that forced punts. Mack hit Kyle Orton’s arm on a third-down pass incompletion in the second quarter. Mack bull-rushed Henderson for a sack that snuffed a third-down play on the Bills’ opening possession after halftime.

“He was getting rid of it,” Mack said of how Orton reacted to the pressure. “That’s the thing. That’s my job. I try to put pressure on the quarterback and get off the field.”

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Sunday’s loss mathematically eliminated the Bills from the playoff derby. The season finale will be Sunday against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium, where the Bills never have won.

The Patriots, meanwhile, clinched a first-round bye Sunday.

Kyle Williams was asked if it will be hard to get motivated for New England.

“Well, if my eyes are open and I put that Buffalo Bill decal on my helmet, I’ll be ready to play,” Williams said. “I don’t ever” give a half-hearted effort, “and I’ll never be accused of that.

“I’ll be ready to go, and as an older guy and captain of the team, it’s my job to make sure we’re all ready to go.”

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The Bills finished with 13 yards rushing, their fourth-lowest output in club history and their worst since gaining 4 yards against the Tennessee Titans in November 1997.

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Running back C.J. Spiller’s return to the lineup rendered Bryce Brown inactive after playing seven straight games.

The Bills traded a conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Brown in May. He has 36 carries for 126 yards and 16 receptions for 176 yards.

email: tgraham@buffnews.com

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