BBD Staff Writer: Eric Samulski
Many people, myself included, counted the Buffalo Bills out of contention this season after a bad loss to a reeling Pittsburgh Steelers team last week. The talk of the team’s demise was apparently premature. From the beginning of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, the Bills set the tone with physicality and big plays. The Bills won, 37-14, and climbed right back into the playoff race, moving up to 4-7, just 1.5 games behind the Jets, who sit in the sixth playoff spot but fell to 5-5 with Sunday’s loss.
I took a look back at my key questions entering the game to see how well the Bills answered them in their dominating win.
Who Would EJ Manuel Throw To?
Apparently, Manuel was all set to throw to anybody wearing a Bills jersey on Sunday afternoon. The rookie quarterback completed 20 passes to nine different receivers, including six who caught multiple passes. The injuries to Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods opened up opportunities for Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham, and both men took advantage.
Graham showed his speed on a deep ball late in the second quarter, but with the wind knocking the pass down, he showed even better balance to quickly come back to the ball and reel in a touchdown catch. Similarly, Goodwin showed even better burst, beating Antonio Cromartie down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown.
Goodwin led the Bills in receiving on the day, hauling in six passes for 81 yards and the touchdown, continuing to prove he might be a more complete receiver than many assumed.
Did EJ Manuel Come Back Too Soon?
After the poor showing last week, I wondered how healthy Manuel might actually be. He answered the question emphatically on Sunday, completing 20-of-28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. His deep pass to Goodwin was a thing of beauty, and Manuel was able to cut through the wind all afternoon long. However, what was most impressive was his decision-making. Manuel handled the Rex Ryan pressure extraordinarily well, checked down when he needed to, ran when the pocket was collapsing and didn’t turn the ball over once. While the other rookie quarterback on the opposing sideline was doing the exact opposite, turning the ball over four times, Manuel was very impressive.
Quick Hit Observations
- Either running back CJ Spiller has forgotten how to run effectively, or the Bills coaching staff has no idea how to use him. Spiller is trying to bounce every inside handoff to the outside and continued to be totally ineffective, rushing for only six yards on 13 carries.
- The Jets sacked EJ Manuel eight times in the last game; the Bills offensive line responded in this game, allowing only one.
- The Bills defense was the one making the big plays this game. They sacked Smith four times, hit him often and caused four turnovers, including a spectacular 32-yard interception return touchdown from safety Da’Norris Searcy.
- Punter Brian Moorman has continued to struggle in his return to Buffalo. He dropped a snap in a crucial situation and averaged only 30.7 net yards on his punts. The Bills need to find a consistent punter.
- The Bills continue to commit bad penalties. They had eight for 64 yards on the day, including three block in the back penalties. The Bills need to clean it up.
- After being signed when Dustin Hopkins went down with injury, kicker Dan Carpenter has put together a tremendous season. He was 3-of-3 today and handled the wind well when nobody else seemed to be able to.
With games against the Falcons, Bucs, Jaguars, Dolphins and a Patriots team that might have clinched a playoff berth by Week 17, the Bills have a chance to run the table and remain in the playoff discussion.