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No surprise: Numbers reflect Bills' league-wide ineptitude on special teams


The Buffalo Bills' special teams were underwhelming this season. Anybody who watched them realized that.

Data confirmed the Bills were among the worst in the NFL.

Every year, football insiders look forward to the release of Dallas Morning News reporter Rick Gosselin's special-teams rankings. Gosselin's analysis is done by ranking each team in 22 categories and slotting them by a cumulative score.

The Bills ranked 31st, even with Dan Carpenter falling into their laps.

That's familiar territory for Bills special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman, a longtime associate of Doug Marrone. Crossman will look like a crony hire until the Bills get markedly better.

Prior to the Bills, Crossman spent three seasons with the Detroit Lions. They ranked 15th his first year, 31st in 2012 and 30th in 2013.

When he was the Carolina Panthers' coordinator from 2005 to 2009, they averaged 15.5 in the rankings.

So why is Crossman in Buffalo? He and Marrone played together in the World League with the London Monarchs and were on the U.S. Coast Guard Academy coaching staff in 1993. They've remained close since.

Also hurting Crossman's reputation is that Bills fans had gotten used to strong special-teams play under Bruce DeHaven and Bobby April. The Bills had a dangerous return game for many years.

Yet with talented players such as Leodis McKelvin and Marquise Goodwin, the Bills' return presence was practically invisible in 2013.

They set a club record for fewest kickoff returns in a season with 23 of them. The previous record was 36 in the nine-game strike season of 1982.

The Bills averaged 20.0 yards per kickoff return and had a long of 28 yards, the NFL's worst long return for the year.

The Bills ranked 29th on punt returns at 6.2 yards an attempt. That's ninth-worst in team history. They also fumbled a league-high seven times on punt returns.

Veteran punter Brian Moorman has a history of solidifying a spot in Gosselin's special-teams rankings. Not this year. He ranked near the bottom in both gross average and net average.

Carpenter almost certainly saved the Bills from finishing dead last in Gosselin's poll.

Carpenter tied a team record with 33 field goals. He missed only three times. He was perfect inside 42 yards and converted four of his six attempts from 50 yards and farther.

  • Robert McAvoy

    That is one of the problems when the head coach hires a lot of yes-men from his past, so the head coach overlooks "ineptitude" of the special teams play. I would not say much if it were a one-year aberration, but his recent work at Detroit (31st in the league in 2011 and 30th in 2012) makes you wonder. How can a good coach make such a blunder...unless he is NOT a good head coach. Will he make the change? Probably not. He will just hire more yes men reflecting his insecurity as HC.

    • WHAT?

      Might be a little early to reach this conclusion, but you might be right. I would be tempted to offer Pettine the HC job rather than let him leave.

  • ptato22

    Marrone must be crazy to keep this guy. Now he'll need to add special teams to a long list of worries. Not exactly what he needs at this stage. Just find Crossman an admin job or something. When Marrone gets fired is Crossman going to find him a job somewhere? Meanwhile, he's fired a mate of Pettine's (linebacker coach) and promptly he's off looking at the Cleveland job.

  • Buffalo Bill Nelson

    The ST directly cost us 3 wins. With those I believe we would have edged out SD for a playoff spot. Crossman should fall on his sword to save his bud from spending his political capital on defending him. Moorman has 1 year contract, but I expect him to be cut if the Bills find somebody else. Moorman is done.

  • Guest

    Who puts pickles in antipasto?

    • Ablejack Courtney

      uh, everyone?

  • Paul Bruhns

    Something tells me Andrew is easily impressed by above average food... which this place consistently delivers. 10 plates? maybe it was that night. For sure it's the most elegant Italian ristoranti in Buffalo. Sinatra's has a few dishes that will bring a tear to your serves the best lasagna, period. Then I'd mention Rocco's on Niagara. I just love that place and have a good experience every time I go there. Those are my three... I bet we all have our favorites...I just thought of three more!

    • Rick M

      Do you mean Marco's?

      • Paul Bruhns

        oops... Yep!

  • RamboJim

    Lombardo's is a class act if you want to shell out a few bucks. If you enjoy great Italian food and the best Tripe around for a quarter of the price and know how to park your own car, La Bella's on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga is the place to go....

    • DisabledPerson51

      Love La Bella's on Genesee, The Touch of Italy on Delaware in Tonawanda and Otto's on Union...Ambiance isn't like Lombardo's but the food is always amazing. Places like Lombardo's are fine for a special occasion but too pricey for the average couple. The places I mentioned always for us anyway, have enough leftover for a 2nd meal, especially the Spaghetti Parm. Yum. Glad I am making Italian for dinner tonight!!! Oh, and these can feed a family for a reasonable price. I feel a trip to "The Touch" coming soon!!!

  • Visitor

    This is Buffalo. $300+ dinners for 4 are not the norm. 10 plates ! Good for Lombardos, but I'll never go there. There's so many good places in WNY you can go for easily half that and walk out just as content and be able to do it again for the same money.

    • robert biniszkiewicz

      I don't know of any restaurant in town that delivers Lombardo's quality for half the price. It's really good food. I like Hutch's and Tempo and Left Bank and Oliver's, etc. Lombardo's fits comfortably in that group, price-wise as well as the quality of the cuisine.

      • Visitor

        Just saying I can't justify dining in such rareified air and I believe most in WNY can't either. I have been to some of the places you named and the pretense associated with dining there is not for me.

  • Ablejack Courtney

    This is Buffalo. A city where Lombardo's offers a properly coursed italian dinner if you desire. But that does not mean Lombardo's is expensive or pretentious whatsoever. It is OK to enjoy nice things here in our town. And if you prefer, there are many options on the menu, as noted in the article. A $33, three course meal is an astounding value in such an elegant atmosphere - or anywhere! Congratulazioni di a tutto il personale per questa meritata recensione!

  • Buffalogal1

    My best friend and her husband dined at Lombardos while her dad was dying in Buffalo. They live in NYC and are gastronomic extraordinaires. I would argue that they know far more about good food than this reviewer. But, I digress. After a stressful day, they asked the person at the door for a "quiet" table. They were treated to a very rude response. I have not been back since. In fact, I was nonplussed by my last two dinners there. Bizarre that "hugs"for the maître d' factor into a restaurant review.


    I've eaten there twice and both times I was very happy with my dinner, the waiter or waitress, the room was filled with relaxing music, the food was delicious, the dessert, even tastier.

    It may be a bit pricey, but the service, valet parking, ambiance and the staff is extremely, it was all worth it.

    Remember, this was my experience, therefore, I'm not speaking for anyone else.

  • Rob Price

    Congrats Tommy, Donna, John, Tommy,Carlene, Mike, Joe, etc.etc.etc ..... you all deserve it. .....nice.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining 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.