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Wayne Post
  • Two steps back: Inexperience shows on Manuel for 1st time

  • E.J. Manuel looked every bit like a rookie quarterback in the face of a relentless Jets' defense
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  • One week ago, Nathaniel Hackett proclaimed this a new age in Buffalo. This Bills' loss, however, evoked memories of a not-so-distant sad past. E.J. Manuel looked every bit like a rookie quarterback in the face of a relentless Jets' defense. The Jets punished Manuel to the tune of eight sacks. Even when the Jets could not get to Manuel, the pressure forced wild throws. "Their all-out pressure gave us headaches," said Manuel. "They did everything we thought they would, as far as what we practiced during the week. You still have to relax, you don't want to hurry unnecessarily. That's when you throw errant passes." Despite struggling for much of Sunday's 27-20 loss at MetLife Stadium, Manuel nearly delivered another miracle. As well as the Jets' defense performed, a series of blunders nearly cost them the game. The Jets committed a team-record 20 penalties for 168 yards and handed the Bills seven first downs by penalty. It allowed the Bills to erase a 17-6 deficit and tie the game early in the fourth quarter on Manuel's 33-yard touchdown pass to Scott Chandler. Geno Smith, the Jets' rookie quarterback, answered with a 69-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes moments later. The Bills had four chances down the stretch to tie it up, but Manuel completed only six of his last 18 passes. "We did some good things, we did some bad things," said Bills head coach Doug Marrone. "We just have to keep working to get over the hump." Before the Jets, most notably cornerback Kyle Wilson, started gifting the Bills yardage with penalties, the offense had mustered very little. Through three quarters the Bills had less than 200 yards of offense and 13 first downs — and 60 of those yards came on a first-half run by Fred Jackson. "Their exotic blitzes, we saw them all week and we see them all the time, but we didn't make the plays," said Jackson. "When we saw them, we didn't pick it up and it cost us." Wilson got flagged four times on the Bills' touchdown drive. In fact, Manuel's only completion of the drive was his touchdown throw to Chandler. It made a very poor performance seem somewhat respectable. "He did good job of managing the game, but we just have to make plays around him," said Bills center Eric Wood. "We expected them to give us different looks. They were stacking the box and we weren't making the plays." Manuel finished with 243 yards and did not turn the ball over, but completed only 19 of his 42 pass attempts. Of course, Manuel was not the only victim of the Jets' rushers. C.J. Spiller had another bad game — nine yards on 10 carries — before leaving the game with a knee injury as the Bills also failed to get the ground attack going to take pressure off Manuel. "It's not just the quarterback," said Marrone. "We had some protection breakdowns and had some things we weren't able to get open on. "It's really hard for me because I have such high expectations for him. We said prior to the game that we were going to have to make some big plays, they force you to do that, and we weren't able to." If Sunday's loss is a lesson, then the Bills have to hope it's one Manuel learns quickly. The rookie's next challenge will be dealing with a quick turnaround. The Bills host the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday before heading to Cleveland for a Thursday night game on Oct. 3. "It's a tough situation to handle, but I think moving forward we'll be more prepared for it," said Manuel.
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