Teammates try to shield Manuel from blame

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It wasn't EJ Manuel's day.

Prior to his final touchdown drive, the rookie quarterback was 11-for-25 for 79 yards and one interception, making him the most glaring problem with the Bills in their 23-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Monday, however, Manuel's veteran teammates came to his defense.

"Honestly, I don't even think it was as bad as everyone thinks it is," wide receiver Stevie Johnson said. "Maybe there's a few things that he missed, but there's going to be games like that. You'll have plenty of better games than what you think is a terrible game."

Between C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills managed just 31 yards on seven hand-offs in the first half.

"It's unfair [to blame Manuel]," Jackson said. "Being that he's our quarterback, that's going to happen. Quarterbacks take a lot of blame for losses. As a team, we didn't play well, and that's not his fault."

So is Jackson making a valid point or is he just sticking up for the Bills' first-round pick?

Consider this: Of the 297 single-game quarterback performances this season in the NFL, Manuel's 3.97 yards per attempt Sunday in Pittsburgh ranks 292nd, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When that sample is expanded to include all games since the start of the 2010 season -- 1,870 qualified performances, in total -- Manuel's performance on Sunday ranks 1,801.

In other words, when viewing Manuel's performance solely through his yards per attempt, his game Sunday ranks worse than about 97 percent of single-game performances in the NFL over the past four seasons.

That's not entirely an indictment of Manuel -- play-calling, blocking, and catching all factor into the mix -- but it's hardly a ringing endorsement of his performance, either.

Overall, the Bills' quarterback problem has extended beyond Manuel, who has started six of Buffalo's 10 games. Here's a snapshot look of where the Bills rank in passing statistics this season.

Completion percentage: 55.6 percent (tied-31st)

Yards per attempt: 5.99 (31st)

Passing touchdowns: 10 (26th)

Interceptions: 9 (tied-18th)

Passer rating: 72.1 (29th)

Sacks: 31 (tied-27th)

QBR: 28.8 (29th)