Saturday, August 9, 2014

Manuel noticeably improved in win over Panthers


If steady improvement is the name of the game, sophomore quarterback E.J. Manuel is accomplishing his goals this preseason. And his teammates are noticing.

Following a disappointing start to the summer where he went 2-for-7 for 19 yards and looked fairly predictable against the New York Giants, Manuel ratcheted things up against the Carolina Panthers Friday, going 9-for-13 for 96 yards and committing far fewer errors his second time around.

While the team's overall offensive woes in some pretty familiar areas still exist (red zone, third down), Manuel earned some praise from his offensive partners and proved he can make adjustments when needed.

"He had command of the offense and command of the huddle," running back C.J. Spiller, who had 22 yards on three carries, said after the game via "He obviously has some passes that he wishes he could get back, but other than that I thought he was very composed out there. He had a lot of energy and that is kind of what we need."

The offense spread the ball around well on their first drive, moving the chains three times and completing a short third-down conversion for a long gain to Chris Hogan that put them in the red zone. That's where the drive stalled, however, as the team failed to punch in a touchdown (or first down for that matter) from the two yard line and turned the ball over on downs.

"E.J. looked comfortable in the pocket, good completion percentage," coach Doug Marrone said. "I really thought he did a very good job. We’ve just got to keep working, but I was very happy."

Manuel played three drives before handing the ball off to Thad Lewis, who traded places with Jeff Tuel and took over the second-string duties for a night while Tuel played the fourth quarter. 

Other game notes:

- Buffalo's defense put forth another solid effort, albeit against an offense void of starting quarterback Cam Newton. The unit forced three 3-and-outs in the first half and an interception on another series, though was beat on a couple plays by a scrambling Derek Anderson and gave up a touchdown on its second trip on the field.

- The Bills' first-string offense gained 131 yards of offense compared to Carolina's 57 yards, according to the Buffalo News, though the Panthers primary unit held a 6-3 lead when both groups came off the field.

- Da'Norris Searcy, despite missing a significant amount of practice this week due to personal issues off the field, notched a tackle for a loss on a 2nd-and-10 play in the second quarter that led to a fumble recovery on 3rd-and-14 and eventually a Bills touchdown. He also had an interception with less than a minute to go in the first half that led to a late field goal.

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