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Bills Beat Blog

By Joe Buscaglia
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Manuel has so-so outing; Giants defeat Bills at HOF Game

CANTON, Ohio — Under the lights of Fawcett Stadium and under the microscope of the National Football League and the annual Hall of Fame Game, EJ Manuel’s first official game in 2014 came to a halt without any stark plays from one side to the other. 

Manuel, the second-year quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, was given the first two offensive series by Doug Marrone to see what he could do. The former first-round pick led two short drives and came away with a mediocre stat line and led his team to three points.

“The performances was not good enough for a win, and we've got to get better,” Marrone said of Manuel and the rest of his team. “All of them.”

Manuel completed his first pass attempt of the evening to Lee Smith, an 8-yard gain right in between the hashmarks to signal the middle of the field. From there, Manuel missed on a deep throw to rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins and had his next attempt batted down at the line of scrimmage by Mathias Kiwanuka.

A Bills fumble recovery set Manuel and the first-team offense up at the 22-yard line of the New York Giants. The second-year quarterback had one 11-yard completion marred by another batted down pass and one that almost resulted in an interception in the end zone, ending Manuel’s day at 2-of-7 for 19 yards.

“We're still gonna look at the film. I'm still gonna critique what I need to critique. I thought I did a pretty good job when I was in. I thought the first unit, we did what we had to do,” Manuel said, summing up his performance. “I think if it was a point where Coach wanted us to continue to play and show what we needed to show, he would have done that. But I think he knows that being that it's our first game and we have another one coming up soon, I'm sure we'll get some more run coming up next week.”

The Bills’ second in command for the evening, second-year quarterback Jeff Tuel, came into the game against the Giants’ second-team defense and got the offense moving for the first time of the night.

Over three series to end the first half, Tuel completed 12-of-17 passes for 74 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He has been in a battle with Thad Lewis to be the second-string quarterback during training camp, and got the nod in the team’s first foray into the preseason schedule.

As for the rest of the team, the Bills fell victim to a 17-13 loss from the hands of the Giants to complete the annual contest staged just behind the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Robert Woods claimed the team’s first and only touchdown off the arm of Tuel, Dan Carpenter had two field goals, but it wasn’t enough as New York used a 73-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to wide receiver Corey Washington to take the lead for good.

“We had an opportunity to win the game and didn't. That's the one thing we've got to do, we've got to win football games,” Marrone said. “I’m glad we have five [preseason games]. I'm glad we've got some time to get better. But make no mistake about it, when we go out there it doesn't really matter to me whether it's player A or player Z at the bottom of the roster. For me, we have to win as a team no matter what we do.”

Although a turnover set them up close to the Giants’ end zone early on in the game which resulted in a field goal, the Bills squandered two separate opportunities in the red zone to put points on the board. Both Tuel and Lewis threw an interception the end zone that changed the course of the game and gave New York possession at their own 20-yard line.

The debut for one of the most highly anticipated rookies in the NFL this year was a quiet one to say the least. The Bills’ first-round pick, Watkins, was targeted twice but came away from the contest without a reception.

The rookie said nerves were not among his feelings ahead of the game.

“Oh not at all. Once I'm on the field and have two or three plays, I'm fine,” Watkins remarked. “I wish I could have got a ball and got tackled, then it would have been out the window. I can't wait to catch a ball and get hit.”

It was also a special evening for the Bills as an organization, seeing former wide receiver and Hall of Fame inductee Andre Reed get honored in front of the packed house at Fawcett Stadium one more time. The coin toss also had a Bills feel to it as well, with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly doing the honors.

“It was everything,” Manuel said of watching Kelly flip the coin. “Just to see him out here and to see he was doing a lot better was awesome.”

Among those not in the lineup for the Bills on Sunday were cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (hip), Leodis McKelvin (hip), tight ends Scott Chandler (groin), Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. The Bills have a short week of practice before going back on the road to take on the Carolina Panthers Friday night.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

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Locations : New YorkOhio
People : Andre ReedCorey WashingtonDan CarpenterDoug MarroneJeff TuelJim KellyLee SmithLeodis McKelvinMarquise GoodwinMathias KiwanukaRobert WoodsRyan NassibSammy WatkinsScott ChandlerStephon GilmoreThad LewisTony Moeaki

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