In the waning moments of his second career start as an NFL quarterback, Buffalo Bills rookie EJ Manuel engineered a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to beat the Carolina Panthers, hitting Stevie Johnson for the go-ahead score with two seconds remaining in the Bills' 24-23 win.
The drive culminated a two-game stretch in which Manuel became the first rookie quarterback to post a quarterback rating of 89 or higher in his first two NFL starts since 1960. In leading the Bills to a 1-1 record, he has completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 446 yards with three touchdowns, one interception, one lost fumble (on the only sack he has taken), and a quarterback rating of 95.9.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Bills head coach Doug Marrone was asked, because of the nature of the game-winning touchdown drive, if he felt that his star pupil had "arrived" at the NFL level.
Marrone's response (which we highly recommend that you watch right here, beginning at the 2:40 mark, for its humor): "Oh, no. No. Come on, you're not... no, no. No! No."
"Which is good," Marrone immediately continued. "I look at it that way. Here's a guy who made some plays, he did a heck of a job getting out of the scramble where he was able to stay up was a great play, an athletic play. I think the scramble going down to the one, one and a half, two yard line at the end is a great play. Don't get me wrong, we're excited about that, and that's what we expected, but there are other things that we need to get out of him and we will. The one thing about EJ is he's hard on himself. We like that in the players."
Manuel's third test in the NFL will be his toughest yet by far: Week 3 offers not only the complex and aggressive scheming of Rex Ryan, but his first road start as a professional. Perhaps Marrone is prudent to pump the brakes on the Manuel bandwagon 24 hours after his first big win.