Inside The Bills

Wood & offense set to adjust to Orton

Posted by Chris Brown on September 30, 2014 – 8:27 am

Bills C Eric Wood admitted the quarterback change made Monday was not something he expected, but for him and the rest of the offensive unit there’s no time to spare. It’s about getting in sync with Kyle Orton.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Wood expressed disappointment that the offensive unit wasn’t better around EJ Manuel, but that their focus has to be getting ready for Detroit with Orton at the controls.

“It’s not a good feeling that as a unit up front, receivers that everyone didn’t protect him well enough, didn’t make plays for him well enough,” said Wood of Manuel. “It’s not a good feeling. A quarterback change at Week Five is not what we expected going into the season.  It’s not necessarily something we wanted by any means or have to go through.  If management thinks this is what we have to do to win right now, we’re on board.  I’ll do everything I can to make this transition as smooth as I can for Orton.”

At the same time Wood feels a sense of loyalty to Manuel and wasn’t shy in expressing that too.

“EJ knows that I’ll always have his back,” said Wood. “So I don’t feel weird saying that. We need to be better around him, for if and when he comes back. But this week I have to get on the same page as Kyle and I have to put in a lot of work with him.”


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Marrone: We are a playoff caliber team

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2014 – 4:47 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone in making the decision to start Kyle Orton at quarterback this Sunday in Detroit, was asked if he believes Buffalo is still a playoff caliber team. This was his answer.

“Absolutely we have a playoff caliber team,” he said. “We have to play better than we have been playing the last two weeks.”

Production at the quarterback position was one of the areas that Marrone was obviously looking for improvement, which prompted the switch to Orton.

“This decision was based on what’s giving us the best opportunity to win,” said Marrone.

 


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Teammates backing EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2014 – 2:15 pm

Though the naysayers outside the walls of One Bills Drive have been very critical of Bills QB EJ Manuel, his teammates remain confident that their quarterback will get things done.

“My confidence is the same,” said C.J. Spiller. “It’s not a one man show but obviously in this league, the quarterback is really the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams. Obviously he didn’t have his best day and he didn’t get a lot of help either. We still have faith in him. He’s our starting quarterback. We’re going to back him.

“People are going to try to divide us and point fingers saying who should start and who shouldn’t start but we have all the confidence in the world that he’ll get the job done. Yesterday was one that just got away from him. He’ll learn from his mistakes, he takes it tough. But he’ll be fine, we’ll back him and we’ll make sure he’s ready for Detroit.”


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Fred: We made it harder on EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2014 – 10:29 am

While those outside the walls of One Bills Drive are openly critical of Bills QB EJ Manuel, co-captain Fred Jackson gave strong indication that now is not the time to make rash decisions with the offense. In an appearance on Bills flagship station, WGR Sportsradio 550, Jackson said part of the reason Manuel struggled was because they failed to adequately protect him.

“I think one of the things that we can do to help him as a total offense is keep him upright on his feet,” said Jackson. “If you look at the way he had to play yesterday he was constantly being flushed out of the pocket. He was constantly being hit every time he threw the ball. They did a great job of getting pressure on him. We didn’t handle line stunts well for the second week in a row so we can expect to see that again.

“I put EJ under pressure yesterday with some blocks that I missed. When he’s running around and his feet aren’t set it’s hard for any quarterback to be accurate in that situation. It’s on us to get that taken care of. He’s a quarterback who has proven if we give him time and let him stand in the pocket he’ll deliver some great plays for us. So it’s on us to get that done.”

Jackson said the onus is on the other 10 players, especially those being counted on to pass protect to provide him the time to survey the field and make throws, much like they did the first two weeks of the season.

“If we can keep a clean pocket for him and not have him get hit every time he’s throwing the ball that’s going to make his job easier,” said Jackson. “That’s something we can do better as a whole unit and take a lot of that pressure off of him. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.

“We can’t sit here and say it’s all EJ’s fault and when we go back and look at the film today we’ll see that. We’ll see that we didn’t do our job of protecting him and it’s the same old thing. When you don’t win the game the quarterback is going to take a lot of blame for it, but as an offensive unit there’s a lot of stuff that we can do a lot better.”

 


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Fred’s words for EJ & offense

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 10:01 pm

Bills offensive co-captain Fred Jackson talked to EJ Manuel and a lot of other teammates after the difficult loss Sunday to Houston. For the young quarterback his words were simple.

“Keep coming to work,” said Jackson of his message to Manuel. “We’re playing in the NFL and guys are going to make plays. We just have got to keep coming in and prepare just like we’ve always done.  We can’t change anything.  We can’t think that it’s the end of the world. That’s just it. We’ve got to come out here and lean on each other. When we get opportunities we have to be able to take advantage of it.”


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EJ: Pass game has to be better

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 9:59 pm

His head coach said it, he said it and his top receiving targets said it. The passing game has to be more in sync. All parties involved know they left a handful of plays out on the field due to lack of execution. No one was more disappointed than EJ Manuel.

“Yeah very disappointed,” he said in reference to the Bills’ passing game. “We weren’t clicking there like we needed to. We’ve just got to move on and process it and learn from it.

“I think it’s an overall thing. It’s not just one person. I’m not going to point anybody out. If anything I’m my own worst critic so I have to do a better job of making sure the protections are set up and making sure I’m getting those guys an opportunity to make a play after the catch.

“I think it’s all part of maturing as a man and as a quarterback. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Maybe we look back at this at the end of the season and we’re 14-2. Who knows? I think the most important thing for me and the team is to learn from it and accept it, be a man about it. Don’t shy away from it. It is what it is we lost the game, but at the same time come back even harder and be more prepared than we’ve ever been prepared for Detroit.”

The passing game will need to be appreciably better against the Lions defense. Detroit has gotten off to a dominant start on that side of the ball. Heading into Week 4 action the Lions ranked as the number one defense in the league, second in points allowed, second in third down defense, second in run defense, third in pass defense and fifth in sacks per play.


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Fan Friday 9-26

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2014 – 12:12 pm

It’s the start of a big two week road trip in Houston. The Bills are looking to finish the first quarter of the season at 3-1. We’ll have full postgame coverage on Buffalobills.com. Let’s get to your questions this week on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

My question is about the Bills offense. During training camp I noticed that EJ is throwing the ball a lot farther downfield; however during the preseason games, and early in the season all the routes seem to be less than 10 yards. Is this due to the play calling or EJ? I’ve heard EJ’s been better during practice, but it’s frustrating to watch him check down most of the time. It reminds me of when we had Chan Gailey and Fitz.

Michael

CB: So far this season EJ Manuel is averaging seven yards an attempt. For those that are unfamiliar with that statistic, even in the pass happy NFL that we know today any yards per attempt average that’s eight or above is outstanding. Only five NFL QBs are averaging eight yards or more per attempt right now. So seven is very respectable.

The other way one can look at it is average yards at the catch. This is where Manuel’s figure is below the league average. Manuel averages 3.6 passing yards at the catch, which ranks 31st in the league. The league average is about six.

Now there are two ways one can interpret that. One Buffalo’s offense doesn’t take a lot of deep shots down the field, which is your contention, and based on the latter statistic it’s understandable why that might be inferred.

The other way to look at it is Buffalo’s offensive staff knows the collection of speed they have out of the backfield and at receiver and believe it’s more important to make the completion and allow the ball handlers to make yards after the catch. Right now the Bills ranks 8th in the league in yards after the catch with 415 yards in three games. That’s a strong number.

It’s my belief that as long as those yards after the catch figures remain in the top 10 in the league, that the passing game approach won’t change all that much. That’s not to say they won’t take four to six deep shots per game, but on the whole they’ll rely on short to intermediate passes believing their playmakers can gain yards after the reception is made.

 

2 – Chris,

Do some NFL coaches have a policy of benching players for a play after they are called for a penalty?  I’ve noticed this fairly frequently just in watching game telecasts. For example, after Scott Chandler was called for a penalty vs Chicago this past Sunday, the cameras showed him standing on the sidelines. Then he was back in on the next play.  Obviously, if a starting QB gets called for a delay of game penalty, he’s not removed, but I’ve noticed both offensive and defensive players coming off the field after a penalty.

Gary Kozlowski

CB: Your observations are pretty astute. I also noticed last week that after Brandon Spikes was flagged for a personal foul last week against the Chargers that he was removed from the game too. Sometimes it’s just the personnel grouping that the coaches choose to put on the field for the next play, which may have been the case with Chandler. I will have to go back and look.

Sometimes it is in fact to get the player off the field and cool off. In an emotional game like football sometimes a player’s competitive emotions gets the best of them as seemed to be the case with Spikes last week. So coaches in an effort to bring a player’s emotions back in line take them out of the competitive environment on the field so they can collect themselves before playing another snap.

 

3 – Hey Chris,

What happened to Stephon Gilmore? He doesn’t even look like the same player we saw in his rookie season. He’s constantly getting beat in pass coverage, and he’s not making plays in run support. He’s becoming a real liability in our defense. I’m curious what the coaches are saying about his play.

CB: I think the coaches are trying to be patient with Gilmore. Coming off of offseason hip surgery and then a groin injury at the start of the season Gilmore is clearly not 100 percent healthy. He’s trying to fight through the nagging groin problem to be available for his team on Sundays. I don’t think there’s any question it has not allowed him to play at his very best.

The encouraging sign I saw this week was Gilmore was on the practice field for extra reps long after practice had concluded. This was a common practice of Gilmore’s, but taxing his body in that fashion was not an option for him while he was rehabilitating or as he worked his way back into the practice setting and lineup.

Seeing that is a major positive because Gilmore is a player whose game gets better when he can maximize his reps during the week. The most important thing to remember is it’s his collective health that’s holding his game back.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks for all you do to keep us fans on top of all news concerning the Bills!

My question is concerning the defensive pass rush ideology. This past week against the Chargers it seemed that there were very few blitzes dialed up. I understand that with veteran QBs you have to mix it up, but the defense pretty much rushed four and got no pass rush which lead to the Db’s getting lit up. I’m starting to see major differences between Petitine’s philosophy and Jim Schwartz’s philosophy. Do you feel that less blitzing is what we will see throughout the rest of the season from Schwartz? His philosophy seems to put a great deal of pressure on the secondary….

Thanks for your response.
Bruce

CB: I think most knew going in that Schwartz’s philosophy was not going to dial up nearly as many blitzes as Pettine did last year. Personally I was okay with that if it meant better third down defense and better run defense in exchange, knowing those were two consistent problem areas for Buffalo’s defense over the years.

To this point Buffalo’s defense is 6th against the run and 8th in third down defense. I’ll take less blitzing if this is the trade-off.

I think you also need to consider this. When facing veteran quarterbacks who get the ball out quick, like Cutler and Rivers, and this week with Fitz, Schwartz generally takes the approach that committing a seventh man to coverage is more valuable than committing a fifth man to the rush. If you’re not going to get to the QB with a blitz anyway, you’re better off rushing your front four and dropping a seventh man into coverage, hoping the coverage helps lead to the QB holding onto the ball long enough for pressure to affect his play.

To this point Schwartz’s third down defense more often than not has proven him correct. So until that changes I’m in favor of his approach.

 

5 – Hi Chris,

Great job as always keeping Bills fans updated.  My question really isn’t about on field football items.  Now that the Bills are headed on the road for a couple of weeks what is their travel routine getting ready for an away game?

Many thanks.
Bryon B.
Plattsburgh

CB: Typically the way things work in advance of a road game is they have meetings Saturday morning followed by a situational practice at One Bills Drive where they go over specific situations that might surface in the game. It usually runs less than an hour.

After that players go home to pack their personal items for the trip and head to the airport for their departure time on the team plane.

Once they arrive in the home team’s city they’re typically at the team hotel by 3:30 pm. They’re free to have dinner on their own and then there are meetings with coaches for a couple of hours in the evening before bed check at 11 pm.

Then players head to the stadium Sunday morning, with most of them in the locker room by 10 am or so for a 1 pm kickoff.

 

 


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Dareus gets sack in scoring change

Posted by Chris Brown on September 25, 2014 – 11:35 am

Some may have been scratching their head at last Sunday’s game when Marcell Dareus appeared to take down Philip Rivers on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter for a sack, when it was ruled a rush for two yards. A few days later the league has corrected the play awarding a sack to Dareus on the play for a one-yard loss.

Dareus corralled Rivers at the Bills’ 47 not the Bills’ 44-yard line as it was initially recorded. Nigel Bradham and Jerry Hughes were most responsible for flushing Rivers from the pocket on the play. Rivers tried to step up, but Dareus saw the San Diego QB trying to escape took off in pursuit grabbing him from behind for the takedown.

With 13:36 remaining in fourth quarter the league also ruled that the full sack on EJ Manuel credited to Chargers DL Corey Liuget should be split with LB Reggie Walker.

 


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EJ: Sense of urgency must improve

Posted by Chris Brown on September 24, 2014 – 5:07 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel was disappointed with the team’s collective lack of urgency late in last week’s game. The quarterback says it must be improved or they might find themselves in a similar situation in future weeks.

“Our sense of urgency has to pick up, especially in the whole fourth quarter,” said Manuel. “I don’t think any of us were satisfied with it as a team or as an offense. I don’t think our urgency was where it needs to be. Understanding that we’re still down two scores before the safety.   Obviously, I can’t do that. I have to have my awareness at 100-percent, you can’t step back into the end zone and try to throw the ball away.  Those are the things I try to learn from. The biggest thing was just that sense of urgency—getting guys on the ball, whether we’re doing a vertical route –bringing them back and getting another play called right away.”

Looking ahead to this Sunday, Manuel hopes an increased sense of urgency can help them get back on the winning track.

“I think it’s extremely important to go out there and win,” he said. “As a team, we started having the confidence that going into each game we have the opportunity to win.  We definitely feel like we’re a winning type win and we have the talent to win.  I think that’s all it is, just go out here and focus on Houston first.”


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EJ Manuel’s BOSE playlist

Posted by buffalobills.com on September 20, 2014 – 3:09 pm

This year BOSE, the Official Sound of the Bills, is going to bring insider access to fans by showing fans what songs Bills players listen to on game day.  For 12 weeks during the 2014 season, a different Bills player will be featured in the Player Playlist, presented by BOSE.  This week, it’s Bills QB EJ Manuel.  Check out the songs EJ will be listening to on Sunday before he takes the field against the Chargers.

EJ_MASTERFILE


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Bills staying grounded despite 2-0 start

Posted by Chris Brown on September 17, 2014 – 5:57 pm

Buffalo’s 2-0 start certainly has fans excited about the 2014 season, but the players in the Bills locker room are keeping their heads down and focusing on the task at hand, which is San Diego this week. When asked if it’s difficult to block out the hype going on outside the building, QB EJ Manuel said it’s not a problem at all.

“Very easy. Just come in every day and work. Don’t feel like you’ve arrived because we haven’t,” he said. “Don’t feel like we’ve earned anything, because we haven’t. I think it’s extremely important for us to stay the course that we’re on and remain confident. But most of all, continue to prepare like we’ve done. That’s a huge stride that our team has taken. A lot of guys are coming in on their days off, staying late during the week, making sure that we’re prepared mentally for our opponents. Obviously, taking care of our bodies and doing extra stuff, you can see the D-tackles down there working. That’s all across the board. I’m really happy to see that.”

 


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EJ: Our fans make us want to go harder

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2014 – 5:01 pm

Much has been said about the atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday in the win over the Dolphins. The fans had a major impact on the game with the Dolphins taking three penalties due to crowd noise. On Monday EJ Manuel made a point to mention that the loud support of the fans gives the players the little extra to put their effort over the edge.

“We really want to thank them for coming out, selling it out and being extremely loud on third down for our defense, that really helped them out,” said Manuel. “And definitely for us [the offense], anytime we were having big plays, they were getting really rowdy and loud for us. When we know we have their support, it makes us want to go even harder.”


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Teammates see EJ progressing

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2014 – 4:48 pm

Buffalo’s offense still has some numbers to improve in terms of production, but through the first two games players on offense can see EJ Manuel making progress.

Completing almost 67 percent of his passes and averaging a healthy 7.8 yards an attempt, Manuel has two touchdown passes and an interception. He’s been sacked once and has a passer rating of 95.4.

“He’s getting better, everybody is getting better,” said Sammy Watkins. “We believe in the offense. The coaches are calling good plays, putting us in great situations and each week I feel like he’s [EJ Manuel] gaining more confidence in us and it’s just going to keep getting better.”

 


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Marrone on EJ’s game

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2014 – 9:38 am

EJ Manuel’s stat line looked pretty good in the win over Miami as he went 16-26 for 202 yards and a touchdown, good for a 98.6 passer rating. Here was head coach Doug Marrone’s assessment of Manuel’s play from his sideline vantage point.

“I thought he did well,” said Marrone. “He had some opportunities early on. The deep ball to Sammy was there. That was the perfect strike. A couple things that we need to take advantage of in the red zone that I said before, but he made some big plays down the field. Again, he’s progressing well. That’s two good games now for him, where he’s improving and seeing things. It’s the same thing that I told the players; it’s a long season. We’re a good football team that just needs to keep getting better and better each week.”

Marrone was referring to Manuel’s perfectly thrown ball down the right sideline that Watkins had in his hands, but Brent Grimes knocked away at the last second as he was falling to the ground. It wound up being an incompletion.

 


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EJ on offensive progress

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2014 – 7:11 pm

There’s no doubt that the Bills offense wasn’t thrilled with their 0-for-3 mark in the red zone in the first half, but getting points is the thing, and to come through with a touchdown drive come the second half was something EJ Manuel felt they could hang their hat on.

“We want to score every drive,” he said. “I think it’s even more important when they go out there and score, especially later in the game because we hadn’t touched the end zone until that point after C.J. [Spiller] had the great kick return. It’s a good thing for our offense to show that we’ve having growth, and we’re becoming a more mature offense.  Again, our defense put us in the situation to be able to do that.”

Head coach Doug Marrone didn’t deny they left points on the field, but wasn’t going to criticize the offense, which got points on six of their 11 possessions (not counting kneel down at end).

“I’m not going to say disappointed,” he said. “I look at it as we won the game, but there were opportunities there that we have to just get better at and take advantage of, but there were definitely opportunities there.”


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Passing game looking to take next step

Posted by Chris Brown on September 12, 2014 – 9:05 am

Buffalo’s receivers made some key plays in the win over the Bears in Week 1, but EJ Manuel’s targets in the passing game want to take another step as they open up division play on Sunday.

Sammy Watkins, who turned in a few receptions last week, believes it’s all about the matchups.

“Just being dominant,” he said. “Winning our matchups, 1-on-1’s, Win the balls that come to us. And I think overall, the balls that came to us we caught them. Everybody is making big plays but when we get more involved and need to pass, we going to be there. EJ will get us the ball.”

QB EJ Manuel believes the improvements need to be all encompassing.

“Just being better in all situations, third down, red zone, that’s pretty much it,” said EJ Manuel. “I would say our game  plan is a little different versus Miami, just sticking to the plan as far as what Coach Hackett wants us to do.”

Buffalo was 2-4 in the red zone last week, but converted just four of their 12 third down opportunities.


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Watkins: EJ shocked everyone with speech

Posted by Chris Brown on September 8, 2014 – 2:29 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel may not be a captain in name, but he was in spirit both on Saturday night and Sunday prior to the team’s opener against the Bears. It left an impression on his teammates that had them hyped up to get a victory.

“That shocked everybody,” said Sammy Watkins. “He started it (Saturday) night he just went crazy and I loved it. He came to the stadium early (Sunday), listened to some music, that’s what we need at quarterback, guys that lead, guys with passion. He was just tired of everybody (being) down on him, and he’s going to prove everybody wrong. Everybody’s got to understand that he’s young and he’s going to get better.”

Coming out of the game, which the Bills won in overtime, Manuel completed 73 percent of his passes, average almost eight yards an attempt (7.86) and had one passing touchdown against one interception. He also had a rushing touchdown.

“He played great,” said Watkins. “For the first game, I think he handled the offense well.  He managed the game, he was the leader.  Throughout the whole game he was hyped up.  He just picked us up when everything was going bad, the flags and penalties, he just continued to play.”


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Graham: EJ had the team pumped up to play

Posted by Chris Brown on September 8, 2014 – 10:16 am

Bills veteran CB Corey Graham appeared on Kiss 98.5 this morning as their difference maker of the game. Head coach Doug Marrone said the locker room had a different vibe before the game, in a good way. Graham explained why things were different when the team went out on the field.

“EJ was fired up,” said Graham. “He got the whole team fired up. He pretty much inspired everybody. It was the first time on any team I’ve been on where I’ve seen a quarterback get that excited and get that fired up and excited and ready to play a game. That really got guys pushed over the top and really got guys ready to play. That’s what they were talking about when they said the locker room was different and how excited everybody was and how focused everybody was. It was EJ. It was EJ leading, it was EJ inspiring and it was EJ bringing some passion with it. I think that’s what everybody was talking about.”


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Team leaders stood tall

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:25 pm

The Bills just named their captains last Monday. Six days later just about all of them had a pretty big hand in Sunday’s overtime victory.

The six players named captains were Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Fred Jackson, Corey Graham and Brandon Spikes.

On offense Wood helped lead an offensive line that was new in terms of playing together and surrendered just one sack all day. They also helped the run game roll up almost 200 yards on the ground averaging almost six yards a carry.

Fred Jackson had the biggest run of the day in overtime on his 38-yard rumble down the sideline to the one.

On defense Mario Williams had a sack, Kyle Williams had an interception, Brandon Spikes was instrumental in stuffing the run and Corey Graham had an interception and a couple of pass breakups late in regulation to force Chicago to settle for a game-tying field goal.

Add in EJ Manuel’s performance in his natural leadership role of quarterback and it’s a pretty good day for Buffalo’s captains when it comes to setting an example.


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Mrs. Wilson honored with game ball

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:24 pm

There was a lot for the players to concern themselves with heading into their season opener. On a larger level than just the game was the fact that it was first game for the team without their founder and owner Ralph Wilson, who passed away this past March. After their overtime victory however, Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon made sure Mr. Wilson’s widow Mary was properly honored.

Brandon presented Mrs. Wilson with a game ball in the locker room after the victory.

“Yeah that was huge to come here first and win against another team who has been in the NFL since the origin of the NFL,” said EJ Manuel. “I know Russ Brandon gave a game ball to Mrs. Wilson today and I know that was a very momentous time for her and Russ. So we’re very happy to get this ‘W’ for Mr. Wilson today.”


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