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No duh: Bills know Patriots will try to make EJ Manuel beat them

By Tim Graham

There's no need for subterfuge when it comes to designing a strategy against the Buffalo Bills' offense Sunday.

1) Stuff the run.

2) Stuff the run.

3) Make a rookie quarterback beat you in his NFL debut.

The Bills are aware the New England Patriots will apply that type of plan in the season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills' weapons with the most credentials are in the backfield: running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. To take Spiller and Jackson out of the game and force rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to win the game would be a logical path to victory for the Patriots.

"I'm pretty sure," Spiller said, "they're going to have a game plan going in of trying to slow me, Fred and the running backs down. Rightfully so. Everybody knows that's where it starts at. We just have to make sure we have something to counter that."

Manuel acknowledged Spiller and Jackson are "the strong rock of our offense" and that "If we can run the ball against the Patriots, I think we'll have a great day."

The Patriots likely will dare Manuel to beat them with passes.

Spiller conceded the more the Bills can run, the less burden will fall on Manuel's right arm. The Patriots ranked ninth against the run last year, allowing 101.9 yards a game. The Patriots surrendered 3.9 yards a carry, sixth-best in the NFL.

"It's going to be our jobs -- the offensive line, the running backs, the tight ends and receiver -- to establish some type of running game to try and take some pressure off him," Spiller said.

"He's a young quarterback. We understand he's going to make mistakes throughout the game. We all are. We're not going to play a perfect game, but we just need him to go out there and be himself.

"I'm not going to go out there and try to be Superman. I'm just going to go out there and play the same way I've been playing and try to help us win a game."

And if New England is successful in shutting down Buffalo's ground attack? 

Spiller still thinks Manuel possesses the wherewithal to handle the big stage.

"They have to account for his running ability," Spiller said. "He's a very athletic guy, and he can throw it. It's definitely a different dimension when he's back there.

"It's going to take a lot of veteran leadership. We're going to have some ups and downs. We have to make sure he has a calm demeanor, and so far he has. I'm definitely excited about going out there and playing with him.


C.J. Spiller | EJ Manuel | Fred Jackson
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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 |