For the first five series of Buffalo Bills' rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's NFL debut, he completed 7 of 12 passes for only 39 yards. Buffalo was tied with the Indianapolis Colts mostly because rookie kick returner Marquise Goodwin returned a kick 107 yards for a touchdown.
A textbook scoring drive led by Manuel in the final two minutes of the first half, however, staked the Bills to a 20-13 lead and sparked Buffalo to a 44-20 win over Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.
That late first-half 92-yard drive also provided the rookie quarterback with a parachute after a disappointing start, acccording to NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang.
The Colts were predictably pretty vanilla on defense and had subbed out their starters on Manuel's final drive, but the rookie showed poise and accuracy in completing all nine of his passes on the drive for 68 yards, including a 17-yard strike to tight end Dorin Dickerson for each player's first NFL touchdown.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 4 of 6 passes for 51 yards. Two of those passes went to tight end Coby Fleener, but he fumbled one away in Bills territory. Fleener was unable to hang onto another pass in the end zone after he was hit.
Veteran Matt Hasselbeck replaced Luck and threw a 45-yard scoring strike to T.Y Hilton to give the Colts a 10-3 second half lead.
A couple of field goals and Goodwin's return set the stage for Manuel to go to work in his first game.
Manuel's first pass attempt set some trends in this game. Most of the plays Manuel ran were without a huddle -- indications of Buffalo's aggressive plans on offense this season and Manuel's intelligence.
Manuel is battling Kevin Kolb for the starting spot. Kolb did not play because of a knee injury.
Undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel opened the third period and led the Bills on another scoring drive. Tuel finished 19-for-23 with two touchdowns.
Manuel was 16-for-21 with one touchdown.
Ryan Lindell tacked on 30-yard field goal and the Bills led 30-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Colts scored their final points on a 72-yard fumble return by return cornerback Daxton Swanson.
While his final completion was certainly memorable, the first completion of Manuel's NFL career was one the rookie would likely rather forget.
Facing third and 9, Manuel dropped back, looking right before swinging back to his left to lob a quick screen to Fred Jackson. The Colts read the predictable call and swallowed up Jackson instantly for a loss of 6 yards.
Manuel threw another screen for more success (12-yard gain) to Jackson, helping to extend Buffalo's initial scoring drive -- Dustin Hopkins' 23-yard field goal.
While Manuel did not throw an interception, he did participate in a turnover, as he and Spiller mishandled a handoff in the first quarter. The error seemed to be on Spiller's part, who appeared to attempt making a move before securing the ball, which was recovered by the Colts.