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Bills' third-down D defines inconsistency

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The word "consistency" often is little more than vague coachspeak, a category that can be filed alongside "mental toughness" and "focus."

The Buffalo Bills have been harping the past few weeks about being more consistent.

Wednesday afternoon, coach Doug Marrone provided an illuminating, clarifying example.

"What I'm struggling with -- and I think we all are, and I explained this to the team -- is that you take certain situations ... and you may be top-five in this, or No. 1 in that," Marrone said. "Then, all of a sudden, on second down you go from a top-five team to all of a sudden you're ranked 10th."

Buffalo's pride this year has been its pass defense. The Bills ranks first in sacks, first in tackles for losses and second in interceptions.

"Pretty darn good," Marrone said. "But then all of a sudden you look on first down, we're giving up way too much yardage. Second down, we're doing a good job. Then you go to third down."

Marrone noted the Bills rank first in third-down defense when opponents need 4 to 7 yards. But when they need 8 yards or more, the Bills rank 30th.

Bills opponents have converted 34 percent (21 of 61) of their third downs when they need 4 to 7 yards.

Opponents have moved the chains 16 percent (12 of 77) of the time when they need 8 or more yards. They've converted 18 percent (4 of 22) of their third downs when they pass while needing 11 to 15 yards.

"That's really what I explain to the team as where I'm struggling, where we are struggling, or I should say that's where our darn challenge is," Marrone said. "We're going to fix that in the next three weeks, and that's what is important for us."

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.