Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel almost led a great win against New England in his first start.
He made sure he finished the job against Carolina in Week 2.
Facing a nearly impossible situation – 80 yards away, down 20-14, 1:36 left and no timeouts left – Manuel was in charge. He calmly led a drive all the way downfield, and threw a game-winning touchdown with two seconds left.
And if that wasn't enough of a storybook way to end it, Manuel had a great and emotional moment with his father after the game.
Manuel went to his father Erik, who had worked his way down to the front row of seats, and shared a hug. Manuel said he was going to give his father the game ball. It was Erik Manuel's birthday.
The Manuel family has been through a lot. Manuel's mother Jackie beat breast cancer in the last year. For Manuel to pull off a great comeback and celebrate the moment with his father was a touching scene.
"I think we were both crying and just elated about the situation, being that it’s the first win and like I said, it’s his birthday," Manuel said after the game, according to the team's transcript. "My dad has been to all my games since I was six years old so nothing’s changed. To see his face up in there before the game is awesome. Like I said, to have him in this opportunity and this situation is great."
It wasn't the first time Manuel broke down. As soon as Steve Johnson caught the game-winner, he started getting emotional on the field.
"I can’t even tell you how I felt," Manuel said. "Honestly I just don’t know, I started crying there. I’m not usually an emotional guy. I want to enjoy those types of things because that’s what you’re (here for), I’m going to be able to tell my grand kids about that 20 to 30 years from now."
What a comeback it was. Manuel meticulously moved the Bills down field in the final 1:36 with all the pressure on him.
First it was 8 yards, then 12 yards, then 14, a gain of 11, and all of a sudden the Bills were in range.
Then Manuel and the Bills got a little lucky.
Manuel threw an interception over the middle with 14 seconds left, but a flag came down. There was a questionable pass interference call on Luke Kuechly, erasing the interception. The Bills had the ball at the 11.
Manuel finished the drive. He ran 9 yards to the 2-yard line and got out of bounds. Then he threw the game-winning score to a wide open Johnson in the end zone. He had his first win, and so did Bills coach Doug Marrone.
"We knew the situation," Manuel said. "I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that. We practiced it time and time again. I’ve been in too many situations before, not just in the NFL or in practice but also in college. We won games like that before. You’ve just got to go out there and operate the offense."
It's too early to know if Manuel is going to be a star in the NFL. But the Bills should be thrilled with what they've seen from their first-round pick so far. Manuel showed a ton of poise and promise on that final game-winning drive. Maybe we'll recall that drive as the beginning of a new era in Buffalo.
Whatever happens, Manuel and his family won't soon forget what happened on Sunday.