Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills
December, 15, 2013
By Mike Rodak | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:
What it means: This game meant little in the standings for either team, but after their 27-6 loss in Tampa last weekend, the Bills couldn't afford to come out with the same performance. They didn't, which is a positive sign for Doug Marrone's group. It's a win that takes some pressure off a young team, but plenty of questions remain. The Bills are now 2-6 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium this season (including the game in Toronto).
Manuel rebounds: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel -- and the entire offense -- was awful in the first quarter. Manuel had a 6.0 passer rating in the first quarter, the seventh worst in the NFL this season. But then something clicked. The Bills were able to put together two long touchdown drives in the second quarter, injecting some confidence into the young signal-caller. Even when he was rattled by a third-quarter strip-sack that led to a Jaguars touchdown, Manuel came back and led the Bills on another touchdown drive. There's little time left this season, but the Bills need to see more of that.
Bills eliminated: Minutes before the Bills sealed their win in Jacksonville, the Dolphins defeated the Patriots in Miami, officially eliminating the Bills from playoff contention. This will be the 14th consecutive January that the Bills will remain out of the postseason, the longest active drought in the NFL.
Stock watch: Rising: running game. The Bills finished just shy of 200 yards rushing, which in addition to Manuel's bounce-back effort powered the offense through much of the game. It wasn't all pretty -- Fred Jackson couldn't gain a first down on three consecutive runs in the fourth quarter, giving the Jaguars one last chance -- but the ground game is still the strength of this Bills offense.
What's next: The Bills, now eliminated, have two more games to play. They'll host the streaking Dolphins, who are now 8-6, at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday. They'll then head back on the road for their finale against the Patriots.