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Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 12:14 AM

Bills remain work in progress under coach Marrone

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)n
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone has gradually come to the samen
realization his four immediate predecessors encountered duringn
their first years on the job.n
Transforming the Bills into winners doesn't happenn
overnight.n
Though not counting the Bills out just yet, Marrone grudginglyn
acknowledged this week that the high expectations he had aftern
taking over in January have begun giving way to the reality thatn
his young, inconsistent team remains a work in progress.n
''Yeah, I have a hard time with that,'' Marrone said. ''We haven
players here who are capable of winning games. We have coaches heren
that are capable of winning games. And we're not getting that done.n
And that's where I'm struggling to get ourselves over that top andn
creating consistency.''n
The only thing that has remained consistent is the team's losingn
record as the Bills (4-8) prepare to travel to play Tampa Bay (3-9)n
on Sunday.n
Buffalo is in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest activen
playoff drought to 14 seasons. That would tie Cincinnatin
(1991-2004), Tampa Bay (1983-96) and Kansas City (1972-85) for then
11th longest stretch in league history.n
Following a 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta last weekend, then
Bills are guaranteed their ninth year without a winning record.n
It's as if, Marrone said, that he's fighting an uphill battlen
against the franchise's losing past.n
''Make no mistake, I think that you do fight those things,''n
Marrone said. ''But that's why we're here. That's why I'm here.n
That's why our staff is here. That's why the players are here ton
change that.''n
Easier said than done for a team now on its fifth coach sincen
2001.n
Under Marrone, Buffalo has shown glimpses of progress.n
The Bills have been competitive particularly at home, wheren
they're 3-4, including last weekend's game at Toronto. The fourn
losses have been decided by a combined 17 points, including two inn
overtime.n
They've shown signs of resilience in overcoming injuries,n
especially at quarterback after rookie starter EJ Manuel missedn
four games with a sprained right knee.n
And their defense has improved under new coordinator Miken
Pettine.n
Buffalo's NFL-leading 43 sacks are the most by the Bills throughn
12 games. Buffalo is also tied for second in the league with 16n
interceptions.n
What's been most promising is the play of their crop of rookies.n
It's a group led by linebacker Kiko Alonso, a second-round draftn
pick, who has merited mention as a rookie defensive player of then
year candidate.n
Manuel, the team's first-round pick, has been inconsistent butn
efficient at quarterback. He has a 3-4 record in games he's startedn
and finished. Overall, Manuel has thrown nine touchdowns versusn
four interceptions and also scored a touchdown rushing.n
The trouble has been the Bills' inability to consistentlyn
manufacture their own breaks.n
They squandered a 14-0 lead to Atlanta, and then lost the gamen
by losing fumbles on their final two possessions. In a 23-13 lossn
to Kansas City on Nov. 3, Buffalo held a 470-210 edge in yardsn
offense, but still lost after the Chiefs returned two turnovers forn
touchdowns.n
Those are among the telltale signs of growing pains that weren
expected from a team that went through a top-to-bottom offseasonn
overhaul.n
''It's definitely tough, but it part of it,'' running back Fredn
Jackson said. ''There are some growing pains there.''n
Linebacker Manny Lawson likes what he's seen in his first yearn
with the Bills.n
''I haven't been here for the past years, so I don't known
everything that's gone on,'' Lawson said. ''But I see a lot ofn
promise.''n
The Bills' season so far can be summed up by a motivationaln
message, ''Don't confuse effort with results,'' Marrone had paintedn
prominently on the two end zone walls inside the team's practicen
facility.n
It's a message that hits home to Jackson.n
''That's something we talk about probably every week. We say,n
`We're giving the effort, we're still not getting the results,'''n
Jackson said. ''That means we've still got to keep working.''n
NOTES: TE Scott Chandler was excused from practice because hisn
wife is expecting a child. ... WR Marquise Goodwin was held out ofn
the final portion of practice as a precaution after hurting hisn
calf. ... DT Kyle Williams returned to practice after getting a dayn
off to rest his sore right foot.n
---n
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.orgn

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