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EJ Manuel: More vertical passes are part of Sunday's game plan

By Tim Graham

EJ Manuel wasn't coy about the Buffalo Bills' offensive objectives Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

In response to a question about throwing deep on the Panthers, Manuel said, "It's extremely important. You want to stretch the field, and that's what we plan on doing."

You don't say ...

The Bills didn't complete any passes longer than 18 yards in Sunday's season opener against the New England Patriots. Twenty of Manuel's 27 pass attempts traveled 9 yards or shorter in the air, according to play charts from analytics site

"The game plan was different for New England than it was for this weekend," Manuel said.

Field-stretching receivers T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin had one target apiece against New England. Graham's was incomplete. Goodwin's catch was for zero yards, and he fumbled it. Then he broke his hand.

Manuel said the Bills want to get Graham more touches and that "I know this week he'll get a lot more."

Vertical completions can help open up Buffalo's running game, especially against a sturdy Carolina run defense that limited Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards and a 2.5-yard average.

Stevie Johnson admitted he's eager to open up the passing game.

"Throughout practice, I'm very excited, but I'm patient and I'm ready for it," Johnson said. "But on Sundays I'm probably a little more impatient because I see what we have. Hopefully, everybody else sees what we have, too."


EJ Manuel | Marquise Goodwin | Marshawn Lynch | Stevie Johnson | T.J. Graham
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |