"It makes me vomit," Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said of the game, which effectively came to a close when Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a 35-yard field goal, with just five seconds remaining.
Upsetting as the last-second loss may have been, the Bills appear to have scored a moral victory: Rookie E.J. Manuel showed flashes of why he was the first quarterback selected in April's NFL Draft.
Manuel completed 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns -- one to fellow rookie Robert Woods, the other to veteran Stevie Johnson. Equally as important, he didn't turn the ball over and was not sacked. In other words, as far as statistics go, Manuel had a decent first day at work.
Beyond the stats, and perhaps above all else, is the way in which Manuel carries himself. He seldom -- if at all -- looked overwhelmed in his NFL debut and made no excuses afterward for the game's outcome.
"I was very calm," Manuel said. ". …I knew it was my first time out there. I felt the energy of the crowd. It was packed; it was a great crowd. We just wanted to go out there and win, but we didn't. And like I said, we've just got to move on to next week."
"I was very happy with his demeanor," Marrone said of his rookie quarterback. "I think that's very important. I think that when you talk about tests and process, and what you're doing when you're developing quarterbacks, that when he was out there, it didn't seem any different than what's been going on. That's encouraging and we'll keep working with him. He'll continue to get better."
Although Manuel's mistakes -- a few misfires and near-interceptions -- were minimal, coming up two points shy to the division-rival Patriots is an experience that he doesn't want to repeat, regardless of the fact that the Bills were 10-point underdogs.
"I'm always critical of myself because I don't like to make mistakes twice," Manuel said. "I really don't like to make them once. Overall, at the end of the day, we lost, so I can't really say, 'We did this great, we did that great.' At the end of the day, you want to win."
Despite the Week 1 loss, the Bills -- looking to end a 13-year absence from the NFL postseason -- appear ready to rally around Manuel. After speaking to the media, Manuel stood alone near his locker. That is, until veteran running back Fred Jackson, a team captain, walked by, patting the new face of the franchise on the back.
"There will be more opportunities, man," Jackson told Manuel.
"I know," Manuel said, nodding confidently. "I know."
All quotes in this story were obtained first-hand.
Charles Roberts covers the NFL's Buffalo Bills and the University at Buffalo football program as a credentialed member of the media. His work has appeared in several local and national print and online publications; he has also been called upon for radio spots. Follow him on Twitter: @cHartleyRoberts.
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