EJ Manuel has been a quarterback long enough to know that a lot of the attention Sunday is going to be on him in his first career NFL start. While he's glad to have finally accomplished a long awaited goal of being a starting quarterback in the NFL, Manuel is more focused on ensuring the team comes out of the game with a victory against the Patriots.
"We're going in to win," said Manuel. "That's what we prepare for, and that's my expectation. Just want to win the game."
Breaking it down to playing winning football has been Manuel's approach from the beginning. Whenever he's been asked about personal goals or expectations, he's always answered with 'we' and 'team.' It is clear however, that Manuel puts a lot on himself knowing if he performs well it helps the team.
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"For myself, I expect greatness all the time," he said. "I know this is my first NFL game, but I'm not going to look at it like that. I'm looking at it as the Buffalo Bills 2013 season, the first game. We've got to go out there and play hard and execute our offense, and we know the defense will do a good job, too."
Bills head coach Doug Marrone is well aware of the fact that New England's defense, which features two solid run stuffers in Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, could put more of the onus on Manuel to make plays. Bill Belichick's defense, run by coordinator Matt Patricia, is known to get pretty creative on third downs.
Marrone believes that's a burden the coaching staff has to handle.
"We have all the respect in the world for Matt Patricia and coach Belichick and what they do. They're not going to go out there and make it easy and from week to week it's not going to be easy. That's something we have to prepare him for and hold up our end responsibility-wise," he said. "Obviously we've seen a lot of pressure during the preseason, OTAs and our defensive pressures (in practice). So we've seen quite a bit of that and he's responded well to that. It's his first game. We're going to give him everything he needs to be successful and he's just going to go play."
"I'll just continue to read and react, like I did in the first two preseason games," said Manuel. "Not try to do too much, make the play when it's there, and if it's not there, check it down to somebody like C.J. (Spiller) or Fred (Jackson), who can get yards just like you would if you were throwing it 40 yards down the field. Just take what they give you, plain and simple."
Manuel feels he's caught back up after missing two weeks on the practice field, and as far as his teammates are concerned he hasn't missed a beat.
"He's been good," said Stevie Johnson. "He's been the player ever since he stepped on the field here. Not even on the field, just in the locker room and the film room. He's been a leader. As a rookie, I think that's a great thing.
"That arm is going to get us places. His legs will get us places—his mind. As a whole, he is a difference maker for the Buffalo Bills."
Buoyed by the success of the rookie signal callers of 2012, two of whom he keeps in contact with in Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Manuel is determined to succeed as a rookie himself.
"That was one of my goals, I want to be one of those guys who's a rookie and gets to go out there and have a successful year as a young guy," said Manuel. "I don't think it really matters, the age. If you're good enough, you can go out there and do it."