The Bills have been really clicking as a team lately. Following a big victory over the Ravens at home, they picked up right where they left off, scoring on their first two possessions on Thursday night in Cleveland. But, the wheels fell off the circling wagon when EJ Manual headed to the locker room in the second quarter. The Bills say he suffered an LCL sprain on a hard shot he took to the knee while trying to get some extra yardage after running for a first down. Fellow rookie Jeff Tuel stepped in and, effectively, handed the Browns their third straight victory.
D-Line and Linebackers: Constant pressure and finishing plays is what got these maniacs on the Good list. This is the junkyard dog type defense we went up against for all those years when Pettine was with the Jets. I love watching the defense pre-snap. You have guys moving around, causing confusion and then running surprise plays that just seem to work. Hurricane Kiko pulls through again. Not only did he knock new Browns starting QB Brian Hoyer out of the game, he also had 12 tackles and was all over the field setting the edge to prevent big plays. His story was the story of the defense. With the secondary banged up and struggling, the front line pulled through, holding Willis McGahee to 2.8 yards per carry and notching 5 sacks on the night. This might be what keeps the Bills completive over the next few weeks without Manuel.
EJ Pre-Injury: 11 of 20 for 129 yards, no interceptions. Not a bad start to what was looking like a good game for the rookie.
Running Game: CJ came out on a mission, snapping off a 54 yard touchdown run in the third quarter but, the story of the day was Fred Jackson. The Jackson Steamroller took the bulk of the carries, stepping in for two touchdowns and giving his usual second effort for extra yardage on nearly every play. He’s showing why the Bills can run a two-back offense better than anyone. Thursday was actually a three-back offense as Tashard Choice hopped in to pop off 22 yards on 5 carries. Over all, the running backs averaged 5.2 yards per carry and accounted for every touchdown the Bills had. This was not only a huge testament to the efficiency of the multi-back system in Buffalo, but is also a chip on the shoulder for the offensive line which opened up some huge holes against a strong Cleveland defense.
Aaron Williams: Turns out last Sunday was another flash in the pan in the saga of Aaron Williams. After dominating all of Joe Flacco’s leading receivers, he got picked apart by, not one, but two different Browns quarterbacks. The faster he can move back to second string safety, the better.
Jeff Tuel: That was painful to watch. He had a couple nice throws but, other than that, he looked so nervous. Remember Manuel’s first start against the Patriots? He was shaky but not shaken. Tuel was a wreck out there on Thursday night. I hear everyone saying that it’s a difficult situation to step into and it is; but it’s also his job. A backup is supposed to be ready to jump into any situation at a moment’s notice. If you didn’t get the chance to watch Tuel look like the kid who gets picked last in gym class, his stats speak for themselves; 8 completions, one interception and a total quarterback rating of….wait for it….2.0. That’s not twenty, it’s TWO POINT ZERO.
Justin Rogers: He’s the worst, isn’t he? I’m done talking about how bad he is.
Losing EJ: What’s worse than watching the injury replay over and over, is the announcement that we’d be down one starting quarterback for up to 8 weeks. Worse still was the thought of Jeff Tuel filling in for the foreseeable future but, that won’t be the case. Monday morning, after missing the boat on Josh Freeman and trying out a couple free agents, the team announced that practice squad quarterback Thad Lewis would be the starter for Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
This game wasn’t so much a tough loss in the standings department as both New England and Miami were defeated, as well. It was the loss of a leader and a rising star in EJ Manuel. This is something that will test the new coaching staff and give us a look at what they can do with a depleted team and long season to go.
– Josh Paufler