COMMENTARY | Credit Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel with this much: The guy is true to his word.
Since arriving in the NFL, Manuel has said on numerous occasions that he's not one to dwell on mistakes. He certainly proved as much Sunday, when he finished with a 121.9 passer rating while leading the Bills to a 37-14 victory over the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Manuel, who had the worst game of his debut season last week in Pittsburgh, silenced his critics against the Jets, connecting on 20 of 28 attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns. And he did so in the face of an unpredictable wind storm.
"We practiced in it Wednesday and Thursday, so it wasn't a problem," Manuel said of the windy conditions. "When you're playing football, you really don't think about the wind or the cold or anything. You make plays."
Manuel, who has started seven games this season, certainly demonstrated on Sunday why he was the first quarterback selected in April's NFL Draft. His counterpart, Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, meanwhile, had arguably his worst game as a pro.
"We had a quarterback rating of 10 [10.1]," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan of what went wrong for his team. "They had a quarterback rating of 120 [121.9]."
The Bills' selection of Manuel over Smith was a head-scratcher to many. For first-year Bills head coach Doug Marrone, the decision had a lot to do with his belief in Manuel's ability to play in less-than desirable conditions.
"When we went out and looked for quarterbacks. …It was a big thing for us to make sure - and I know this sounds crazy and I've said it before - but one of the things we're looking at is the hand size," Marrone said. "When you look at the quarterbacks that have thrown well in bad weather, it's mostly guys that can throw the ball, have a good arm - doesn't have to be great - but a good arm and has big hands. Obviously, EJ had the second- or first-biggest hands [in the draft]."
Against the Jets, Manuel's arm strength was on display in the third quarter, during which he hit TJ Graham for a 40-yard gain, one play before connecting with Marquise Goodwin for a 43-yard touchdown. Both throws were into the wind.
"When we worked him out that night, we worked him out in probably the conditions we just had today," Marrone continued. ". …We knew he could throw the ball and that was one of the factors that went into picking EJ."
Manuel and Smith are likely to remain the center of comparative conversion for as long as the two are starters in the same division. But it's a non-issue, as far as Manuel is concerned.
"You're going to always be compared to someone else - somebody else that looks like you or plays like you or has similar size," Manuel said. "That's a given. Like I said, I try to just go out there and play my game. I don't try to be somebody else."
Although the two will forever be linked by the 2013 NFL Draft, there wasn't much debate over who was better during their second head-to-head showdown as pros. Smith completed just eight of 23 pass attempts for 103 yards with three interceptions and one lost fumble.
"Buffalo's not an easy place to play quarterback," said Bills center Eric Wood, "which is partially why we haven't had a ton of great ones. EJ did an awesome job today. When you play in the wind and drizzle and you hit a few deep balls, it proves you belong here, because that's not easy for a quarterback to do. It takes a big, strong-armed, big-hands guy, and I think that's what we've got."
Charles Roberts covers the NFL's Buffalo Bills and the University at Buffalo's football program. His work has appeared in several local and national publications. Follow him on Twitter: @cHartleyRoberts
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