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Bills and EJ Manuel bounce back in impressive fashion

I couldn't have scripted it any better.  The Bills bounce back from their worst game of the season with a dominating win over a division rival and one that has beaten them up pretty good in recent seasons. 

Rookie QB EJ Manuel responds to his worst game of the season with a very strong day, throwing the ball with accuracy and hitting plays down field.  It was the most points the Bills have scored against the Jets in 24 years.

In the meantime the Bills defense makes fellow rookie QB Geno Smith look absolutely awful as the Bills record their largest margin of victory over Gang Green since 1996.

Since the season is all about Manuel, I'll start with him.  I'll be honest with you, I thought he would really struggle against a Jets defense that thoroughly confused him back in week three.  But Manuel, who responded to that loss with a win over Baltimore the following week, was in control throughout this game.  

In that early season matchup in New Jersey, Manuel was a woeful 19-42 and was sacked 8 times.  In the rematch, Manuel completed a season best 71% of his passes for 245 yards(his second highest total of the season) and was sacked just one time.

In the first game with the Jets, Manuel struggled when throwing the ball downfield with many of his attempts being sideline throws that sailed out of bounds. Manuel hit the downfield throws on Sunday and the four pass plays of 30 or more yards were a season high for the Bills.

 I would never have expected that on a day when the Bills played without their two best wide receivers, Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.

Manuel trusted his receivers and let them make plays.  A week after looking very tentative in a loss to Pittsburgh, Manuel put the ball in the air for guys like T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin to make big plays. 

On a 34 yard touchdown pass to Graham in the second quarter, Manuel saw the blitz coming and threw down the left sideline.  When the ball left his hands, Graham was between the 25 and 20 yard lines. He had to adjust his route and come back for the ball as it held up but he grabbed it at the 6 and ran in for the score.

On a 40 yard bomb to Graham in the 3rd quarter, Manuel again saw one on one coverage, and it was good coverage by Dee Milliner, but Manuel put the ball in the air and threw it into a pretty tight window.  Graham, who has not been able to make tough catches in his still young Bills career, made the play for his QB and did a nice job of keeping both feet in bounds.

On the very next play, Manuel threw another bomb but this time it was to Goodwin.  The play was reminiscent of Jeff Tuel's TD pass to the speedy wideout in the Kansas City game.  Goodwin got separation from Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie at the end of the play, ran under the ball and sailed in for a touchdown that made it 27-7.

 Give credit to Bills Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for calling back to back deep passes.

Manuel did all of this despite the fact the Bills offense was one dimensional.  There was no running game to speak of as the NFL's top ranked run defense stuffed the Bills.  Fred Jackson was held to 34 yards on 12 carries and C. J. Spiller had an unsightly 6 yards on 13 carries.

Hackett should get additional credit for the decision to call plays from down on the field for the first time this season.  Perhaps it provided Manuel with some extra comfort and helped him figure out how to beat what the Jets were doing as the game went on.

While Manuel was flourishing, his counterpart was having a nightmarish day.  Geno Smith was beaten, battered and baffled by the Bills defense.  Smith completed just 8 of 23 passes in his three quarters of action.  Backup Matt Smith replaced him in the 4th quarter.

The West Virginia product was held to 103 yards passing, had no touchdowns and was picked off three times.  Smith was also sacked four times and lost a fumble.  His quarterback rating was 10.  The 12 Jets possessions with Smith at the helm produced 4 turnovers, 6 punts, 1 missed field goal attempt and 1 touchdown.  The Jets offense had just 125 total yards on 45 plays while Smith was in the game and they were just 2-10 on third down.

Those four takeaway by the Bills defense were three more than they had in the last three games COMBINED!  Jairus Byrd played like a top five safety in the NFL with 2 interceptions(he has 3 in 2 games) and a sack.  Kyle Williams was a monster with 2 sacks(he has a career high 6.5 on the season), a tackle for loss, 2 QB hits and a forced fumble.  His sack and strip set the Bills up at the Jets five yard line and led to a Frank Summer touchdown that gave the Bills a 17-0 lead late in the second quarter.

The last few minutes of that quarter is essentially where the game was decided. The Bills scored 17 points in 2 minutes and 50 seconds.  Graham's 34 yard TD made it 10-0 with 4:05 left.  The touchdown run by Summers happened with 3:17 left on the clock.  A Byrd interception led to a Dan Carpenter field goal with 1:15 left.

One week after a life sucking loss to the Steelers, the Bills injected some life back into their long suffering fan base.  Just when you were ready to write off the 2013 season, the Bills got a win they desperately needed and their rookie quarterback got a huge dose of confidence.  

The bye gives them a chance to rest and the remaining schedule could give them a chance to make a run in the AFC. CBS had the Bills included on their "In The Hunt" playoff board.  That's enough to keep me happy until the game in Toronto on December 1st.  We can now enjoy the bye week and to all of you, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

How will the Bills fare with Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown?
  They'll be fine. NFL running backs are interchangeable.
  They're in trouble. Fred and CJ are too important.
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