Immediate Reactions: Flames 2, Sabres 1 (OT)

Season preview: Catch up with the Buffalo Bandits


Immediate reactions: Bills 27, Jaguars 20

blog by Nick Mendola  • 


Are you reading that as a fan-driven cry of joy “E-J!! E-J!! E-J!!” or are you reading it with a teacher’s tsk-tsk-tsk of “EJ, EJ, EJ”?

Buffalo’s rookie quarterback just refuses to give Bills fans an easy out. Is he the directionless quarterback tossing Losmans at potential receivers, or is he just an inexperienced rookie showing flashes of his future brilliance by spitting dimes downfield and developing a can’t-miss relationship with fellow rook Robert Woods?

There’s been a lot of bad to go with the good and there was that unfortunate injury gap midway through the season.

Manuel has beaten Cam Newton and Joe Flacco, but he’s also beaten miserable Jacksonville and the Jets. The difference is that games like today make April more difficult, as the Bills No. 1 quarterback looked decent enough to consider the only holes emerging on defense and a backsliding offensive line.

—Manuel’s previously-mentioned start to the game was world-class awful. Even for a group of fans who’ve watched in meaningless games as Trent Edwards throw a gift to Vontae Davis and J.P. Losman struggled to hit triple digits in yards passing, his combination of bounce passes and air mail wasted two great drive starts.

So boy, oh boy, did he need that touchdown drive. Sure it included the absolute gift of a pass interference call (If T.J. Graham was 9-foot tall he might’ve grabbed that Manuel offering), but Manuel completed passes of 20 yards (Woods) and 28 (Chris Gragg) before the touchdown to toss Woods.

And to those fans looking to back up their rookie quarterback, it just so happened on a drive that featured not one but two 11-yard runs.

—Chad Henne threw a balloon to Marcedes Lewis that never arrived at its destination, as Aaron Williams made a nice move on the ball and picked it off.

He returned it 34 yards before putting on a child’s dance recital in celebration. I’m not the sort of old school guy who will always light a guy up for celebrating—honestly thought the Stevie/Plaxico act was kinda hilarious—but oh, brother. You made your first pick since October. It was against Chad Henne in the first quarter of a game that probably won’t matter. Congrats.

—Kiko Alonso was questionable for action with a knee injury and he certainly did not appear to be moving with the burst we’ve become accustomed to over the course of his rookie year.

He also got straight-up fooled on the Jaguars touchdown to Marcedes Lewis to tie the game at 20. Henne faked a handoff to Denard Robinson and Alonso followed the running back, leaving a whole mess of blockers to clear Lewis’ path into the end zone.

—It’s extremely hard to fathom that Stevie Johnson was on the field for the Bills, just one day after his mother unexpectedly passed away. Clearly it was his choice to play and he has to do what he can to get by. For what it’s worth, my thoughts and prayers are with No. 13 and his family.

—EJ’s touchdown dance…

—Tremendous play by Nickell Robey to pry the ball away from Jacksonville receiver Mike Brown. Whether it was rightfully a fumble or an incomplete pass—Buffalo was awarded possession—Robey stuck with the ball and made a play.

I haven’t been as impressed as others with the diminutive defensive back, but you can’t deny he’s made a number of standout plays amid some repeated rookie mistakes.

—Dan Carpenter, aka Emaciated Thor, has been pretty money for an Opening Week grab off the free agent kicker heap (It is odd to imagine a pile of unsigned kickers). Two of his three misses are from 50-plus yards and the 42-yarder came in Week Two. Not too shabby.

—A cute second half trick play by the Jaguars did nothing to fool Manny Lawson. Henne threw a backpass to Denard Robinson, who returned the favor to Henne, who looked downfield and found… a pressing need to duck as he got leveled by Lawson, one of many crucial offseason additions to the defense.

So who was the most impactful add in terms of this season? Well, Jerry Hughes has more sacks (9.0) but Lawson has made plays in run defense more often than No. 55, putting up five less sacks but 20+ more tackles. Alan Branch was an underrated pick-up as well.

But even with a slip in form from his early season heroics, Kiko Alonso’s four picks, two sacks and 130+ tackles combine to form the short- and long-term best addition.

Pretty obvious, but perhaps personnel has helped the Bills turnaround just as much as coordinator Mike Pettine.

—Manuel’s late third quarter fumble felt like a bad movie. He knew pressure was coming and bailed out of the pocket, heading to his right but leaving the football out to his side. Jags safety Winston Guy slapped the ball away as Manuel fell victim to a DB blitz for the second straight week, this time with an even uglier result.

—At first blush, was the touchdown to Summers a variation of the Stevie game-winner against Carolina?

—Stephon Gilmore’s game-sealing interception of Henne could have not looked more like the cornerback was the intended receiver. Brutal toss for the Michigan man, who has now been picked by the Bills seven times.

Stat-line I liked:
Manuel, six completions of 17+ yards
— He took shots, earning even more yards via two long pass interference calls. Far from his timid opening moments (and game against Tampa).

Stat-line I didn’t like:
Jordan Todman, 25 carries, 109 yards
— Fella’s career-high was 31 yards.

Game balls:
— He’s the genuine article and in his finest moments resembles a young Andre Reed. There, I said it.

Next week:
A home finale against the Dolphins. It’s going to be cold and it’s going to hurt your draft slot. Buffalo 23, Miami 17.

I’m extremely pleased that the Bills and Jags finished up this slop fest in time for the deciding half of College Cup 2014.

TAGGED: buffalo bills, ej manuel, football, immediate reactions, jacksonville jaguars, nick mendola

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