Thursday Night Football Bills Fall To Browns 37-24; Lose EJ Manuel


Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills not only lost the game, but lost their starting quarterback E.J. Manuel. After racing out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Bills allowed the Browns back into the game with 17 second quarter points to take  a 17-10 lead heading into half time.

In addition to losing Manuel, wide receiver Stevie Johnson also left the game with an injury. After adding a touchdown to cap off the drive in which Manuel went down with an injured knee, the Bills offense could not muster anything else during Tuel time.  A late and entirely predictable fourth quarter pick-six by undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel all but sealed the victory for the Browns, who are now the surprise leaders in the AFC North.

The only positive to come from the game is the fact the Bills have a full 10 days of rest before they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6, which hopefully means some of the bodies piling up in the infirmary can be put back together.

Things of Note:

Tuel Time?

The extent of EJ Manuel’s injury isn’t known yet, but if he is going to miss any sort of extended time with a sprained knee, the Bills absolutely have to make a move for a quarterback right? He’s only seen limited action, but if the Bills want to field anything close to a competitive team, they’re going to need someone a little more polished than the undrafted Tuel.

There are a number of veteran quarterbacks that would likely be available for next to nothing, that would be excellent stop gaps for the Bills if Manuel is indeed going to miss any extended period of time. It’s possible that the Bills are okay with Tuel starting so they can “tank” for a better pick, but I don’t think so.

The two available options that I could see Buffalo maybe taking a stab at are Jason Campbell, who has been relegated to third string in Cleveland behind Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer. He’s  a steadying influence that rarely throws interceptions, and could help in mentoring Manuel.

The Bills could also take a flyer on the recently cut Josh Freeman, who will most certainly have a chip on his shoulder. I don’t think Freeman is very good mind you, but not very good is probably leaps and bounds better than what the Bills will be able to extract from Jeff Tuel.

Not So Special Teams

Travis Benjamin is a special punt returner, but that doesn’t excuse the Bills punt coverage teams for their awful job of containing the Browns dynamic return man. Benjamin had two excellent returns in the first half, including a punt return touchdown, setting a Browns franchise record for return yards in the process.

The Bills special teams has been shaky thus far in 2013, and Benjamin ensured those flaws finally hit the Bills where it hurts, on the scoreboard. With the number of injuries, and lack of depth on the roster the Bills need every advantage they can get in order to compete every week, one sure fire way to find themselves in the loss column is to lose the special teams battle in such a lopsided fashion.

Defensive Improvement

The Bills pass rush once again had a solid game, led by Mario Williams whom recorded 2 of the teams 5 sacks. The defense also managed to have a solid game against the run for the second straight week after struggling mightily through the first 3 games of the season.

While they didn’t quite have 5 interceptions fall into their laps this week the hobbled Bills secondary still put forth a valiant effort holding the Browns to just 222 yards on 53% passing. With many of their injured brethren looking to come back in Week 6, the Bills secondary could very quickly become a strength.

The Bills defense gave up just 17 of the points that Cleveland scored and were constantly forced to fend off the Browns starting in excellent field position. All in all it was a very encouraging game for the Bills D despite what the score makes you want to think