By Jerry Sullivan
Do you remember the song, "Blister In the Sun," by the Violent Femmes? Well, I do, and the refrain (" ... big hands, I know you're the one") was running through my head after Doug Marrone's press conference late Sunday afternoon.
EJ Manuel had just had his best game as a Bill in the swirling winds at Ralph Wilson Stadium. When asked about Manuel's performance in the Buffalo elements, Marrone explained that one of the things he was looking for when the team was scouting quarterbacks was a guy with big hands.
"Having been with teams in these kind of elements, it was a big thing -- and I know this sounds crazy -- but one of the things we were looking at was the hand size," Marrone said after the Bills' rousing 37-14 win over the Jets. "When you look at the quarterbacks that have thrown well in the Northeast in bad weather, it's mostly guys who can throw the ball and have a good arm -- doesn't have to be great -- but have big hands.
"EJ had the first- or second-biggest hands (among college QBs)," Marrone said. "When we worked him out, we worked him out in conditions like today. Not the wind, but it was rainy, a little windy. So we knew he could throw the ball. That was one of the factors that went into picking EJ."
On Sunday, Manuel backed up the franchise's faith, throwing a number of crucial passes in winds that reached up to 25 mph. He was 20 of 28 for 245 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions. Those would be fine numbers for a rookie in any setting, but on a challenging day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they were exceptional. it was the sort of performance you need from a franchise quarterback in Buffalo.
Playing without Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, and with a largely ineffective running game, Manuel made a difference in the passing game. He hit T.J. Graham with a 34-yard TD pass in the second quarter to give the Bills a 10-0 lead. In the third, after the Jets had scored to cut the deficit to 20-7, Manuel made two gorgeous deep throws -- a 40-yard strike along the left sideline to Graham, then a 43-yard TD bomb to rookie Marquise Goodwin down the right side of the field.
"When you go out and play in the wind and a little bit of drizzle and you can hit a few deep balls, it kind of proves you belong here," said center Eric Wood, "because that’s not easy for a quarterback to do. It takes a big, strong-armed, big-hands guy to be able to do that, and I think that’s what we’ve got."