Dejected one week, blunt the next.
Concerned by the Buffalo Bills showing signs of regressing, coach Doug Marrone on Monday said it was on him to get his young team pointed in the right direction. And fast.
Calling the Bills' latest outing unacceptable, Marrone pulled few punches in challenging himself, his staff and players to take responsibility during a wide-ranging and oft-times blunt 23-plus minute session with reporters a day after a 23-10 loss at Pittsburgh.
"I want to make sure we're clear, do I feel like I have time to turn this thing around? Hell no. Hell no," Marrone said. "I know I have to turn this thing around now, today, in what we do. So let's make sure we're all on the same page here, and I understand this: It's my responsibility."
Marrone said he was not in a position to defend the Bills' performance, and held everyone accountable for the team's biggest dud of the season.
"I asked each player and coach and myself, 'Did we do what we needed to so to win that game yesterday?' And obviously, the answer is 'No,'" the first-year coach said. "At the end of the day, my job is to lead this team and this organization to winning. And I have to do a good job of that."
Marrone was assertive in delivering a message at a time when the Bills (3-7) are reeling. Buffalo has lost five of six, and prepares to host the AFC East rival New York Jets (5-4) on Sunday.
The slide has left Buffalo in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 14 seasons, and has put the team two losses from stretching its string of losing seasons to nine.
Marrone's forceful approach Monday also stood in marked contrast to his dejected demeanor last week. That's when he acknowledged having difficulty getting past the lingering disappointment of a 23-13 loss to Kansas City. It was a game the Bills dominated for most of the play but let slip away as a result of three turnovers, two directly returned for touchdowns.
The Bills responded by coming up flat against the Steelers.
Their offense sputtered in rookie starter EJ Manuel's first game after he missed a month with a sprained right knee. Buffalo managed just 147 yards through 55 minutes before Manuel capped an 80-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard pass to Chris Gragg with 3 seconds remaining.
Buffalo's defense sagged, allowing the Steelers to convert 8 of 17 third-down opportunities, which contributed to Pittsburgh enjoying a 10-plus-minute edge in time of possession. Even Buffalo's special teams struggled, with punter Brian Moorman finishing with a net average of 24.2 yards on nine punts.
Receiver Stevie Johnson acknowledged frustration is beginning to set in with an offense dealing with growing pains that come with developing a young quarterback.
"It's testing patience," Johnson said. "We all want to do so good. We've got a great team here, and we're not getting the results that you work for. It's kind of frustrating. It's just something we've got to get through, and that's it."
Manuel's performance raised the biggest concerns in failing to deliver the Bills a lift after they went 1-3 without him. He rushed throws, missed open receivers and appeared hesitant in going 22 of 39 for 155 yards, including an interception.
His troubles were apparent from the start. Facing third-and-goal from the 1 on the opening possession, Manuel sailed the ball over Johnson's head on a fade pass into the end zone.
Buffalo settled for a field goal.
Marrone said Manuel wasn't entirely at fault, but also didn't let him off the hook either, suggesting the rookie needs to stop pressing.
"We know the quarterback didn't play that well yesterday, and he knows that. And we have to get him to play better," Marrone said. "Now, do we expect him to play better than he did last game? Absolutely. Will he play better? Yes. Yes he will."
Manuel was defensive when asked if he regarded his performance as a setback.
"That's your assessment. I don't think so," he said. "I thought there's always some good to take out of every game. And we're just going to build on that."
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