E.J. Manuel is now the first rookie QB in NFL history to beat the defending Super Bowl champions in September, per ESPN.com. That’s undoubtedly impressive, but seeing as it was the Buffalo Bills‘ defense that mostly carried the team to victory on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the verdict is still out on whether or not this young Bills team can put it all together.
It would make sense for anyone following the NFL in the past decade to write off Buffalo’s early success as a fluke, but there are concrete reasons to believe that Sunday’s win was fought for and earned by a promising team very much on the up-and-up.
The first of those reasons is the rookie QB himself, Manuel. Although Manuel had the worst game of his short NFL career thus far, throwing two interceptions to a single touchdown, he still out-played the defending champion Joe Flacco, at least statistically speaking. Flacco threw a career-high five interceptions to two touchdowns, and played a huge role in his team’s defeat. Although Manuel’s game was far from perfect, he still turned in a relatively mistake-free performance when compared to Flacco. He is clearly still getting a feel for the NFL, but he has been largely impressive in his first few weeks, and has avoided making too many critical errors.
The big story for the Bills on Sunday was their defense. Although the unit is young and currently decimated by injuries to key players, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has his team playing aggressive, punishing and opportunistic. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has been particularly impressive, and is easily a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors through four weeks. Alonso had two picks against the Ravens, including a crucial, acrobatic interception in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Buffalo.
There is reason to believe that the Bills may have finally found a winning formula. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it going against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5, but the current roster in Buffalo has been impressive so far, to say the least.