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Bills' lack of receivers should be bigger target for offense's woes than Tyrod Taylor

You know your team is threadbare when the loss of Brandon Tate makes you question a higher power.

The Buffalo Bills went into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots with four healthy wide receivers.

Tate was one of them. He left with a concussion in the third quarter, entrusting the rest of the demoralizing 41-25 defeat to Walter Powell, Justin Hunter and a less-than-whole Robert Woods.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn't stand a chance.

Only one of Taylor's five starting targets Sunday, tight end Charles Clay, was expected to start for Buffalo when the season began. Mike Gillislee was the running back, with LeSean McCoy sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Fullback Jerome Felton, who led Buffalo at halftime with two catches for 26 yards, wasn't on the opening-day roster. Buffalo cut him to keep undrafted rookie Glenn Gronkowski, now on New England's practice squad.

Buffalo had one of the NFL's worst receiving units before Tate got hurt. Analytics site rated the Bills 31st out of the NFL's 32 clubs.

Within Sunday's game, Clay missed some time while his shoulder was examined and finished with two whole catches for 6 yards on six targets. Backfield target Reggie Bush injured his groin. He caught two passes for 34 yards.

"I'm confident in the guys we have out there," Taylor said. "I've got to give them chances to make plays. To be on this team, you understand it's for a reason. So when you're out on the field the other guys are definitely depending on you."

Taylor was being kind. He's short-staffed and getting lonelier when it comes to play-making teammates with NFL credentials.

Eight receivers have been on Buffalo's 53-man roster through eight weeks. Sammy Watkins and Greg Salas are on injured reserve. Marquise Goodwin was inactive Sunday while recovering from a concussion.

Is Leonard Hankerson still available?

I asked Bills coach Rex Ryan about going into games with so much roster volatility, not only at receiver, but also considering other positions impacted by injuries and suspensions.

"That can't be an excuse," Ryan said, in part. "You have to be ready."

But when asked about Taylor coming up small next to Patriots quartergod Tom Brady, Ryan defended his guy. Ryan essentially said Taylor deserves some slack because for crying out loud look at what he's working with.

"I think it might be fair to judge him when you have everyone out there," Ryan said. "It'll be nice one day to sit back and have a full roster.

"You talk about the talent of the team. We've got to get them all healthy, and then we'll probably be able to evaluate this team a little better."

Woods leads the Bills with 29 catches for 290 yards, ranking 60th and 83rd in the NFL entering Sunday night's game. Woods didn't start Sunday because he has been in a walking boot. He was limited in practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

"This is next man up, still Bills, still our team," said Woods, who made a team-high four receptions. "We've got to be able to step up, make plays and contribute.

"There are guys we trust to make plays. When they are called up, we got to do something."

The Bills will have an extra day for the next man to step forward and get ready for their next opponent. They'll visit the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football."

Big if true

Brady won his 13th game at New Era Field.

Only four Bills quarterbacks have won more starts in Western New York than Brady has.

They are Jim Kelly, Joe Ferguson and Drew Bledsoe in Orchard Park and Jack Kemp at the Rockpile.

Doug Flutie won 13 starts in Orchard Park. Ryan Fitzpatrick won a dozen, plus another "home game" in Toronto.

But all of their teams played at least eight games a year here. Brady has played here once a year.

Brady also tied Brett Favre's NFL record with his 26th victory against a particular opponent. Only three quarterbacks -- Kelly (101), Ferguson (77), Kemp (43) -- have won that many for the Bills.

Bigger if untrue

With two games left in 2009, Ryan bemoaned his New York Jets being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Ryan infamously was wrong.

The Jets were .500 after a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Then the undefeated Indianapolis Colts rested their stars against the Jets in Week 16, and the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals rested theirs against the Jets in Week 17.

The Jets not only made the playoffs, but they also won two games on the road to reach the AFC Championship Game.

Ryan on Sunday declared his .500 team out of the AFC East title chase with eight games to play.

"I think it's unrealistic to think you're going to win your division when you just got beat by ... How many games now are they up by?" Ryan said.

The Patriots are 7-1, three games ahead.

"So I don't see that changing," Ryan continued. "You're pretty much shot if you really think we can really run the table and still win it. I don't think so."

That comment is not quite kissing Bill Belichick's rings, but that's an awful lot of genuflection.

Above average

Brady converted each of New England's first five third downs, including four on its opening drive. Brady completed five passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

Late in the first quarter, Brady handled a third-and-13 situation with a perfect 53-yard touchdown pass to old friend Chris Hogan.

Good times

Buffalo scored 25 points Sunday, upping their total to 212 at the halfway mark.

That's eighth-highest through eight games in club history and the most since the 2011 squad scored 212 points.

Eight of Buffalo's points came in garbage time. Jonathan Williams' first NFL touchdown came on a 1-yard run with 30 seconds left, and EJ Manuel threw to Nick O'Leary for the two-point conversion.


In last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Bills played a game without a turnover by either side for just the 11th time in club history.

The Bills did it again Sunday against the Patriots, the first time the Bills have done so twice in a season.

We good here?

We're down to wild-card watch based on Ryan's grim -- albeit realistic -- outlook.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record; the second tiebreaker is conference record.

The Bills are 1-4 in the AFC. Only the Cleveland Browns have fewer wins.

The Bills remaining AFC games: at Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, at Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns, Dolphins, at Jets.

Nah, we are not good here.

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