INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — EJ Manuel's teammates and coaches were pretty darn impressed with their rookie quarterback.
Buffalo's first-round draft pick thought he could have done even more. Give him time. After completing 16 of 21 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 102.7, Manuel gave himself a "B'' in his preseason debut — a solid mark after leading the Bills to a 44-20 victory Sunday at Indianapolis.
"My main thing was I wanted to operate the offense like coach (Nathaniel) Hackett has taught us and get all the other guys in position," Manuel said. "The veterans have done a great job of bringing me along and things like that. The main thing is just continuing to go out there and execute."
Sure, it was only preseason and he posted most of the big numbers against Indianapolis' backup defense, and, of course, there were a few mistakes. But overall, Manuel executed the safe, simple game plan the way the Bills intended.
His short passes were accurate and on time. He sped up the game by quickly getting the Bills to the line. On the few occasions he ran, Manuel was effective. And when pressed to make plays in the 2-minute offense, he drove the Bills into scoring position and then fired a rocket to Dorin Dickerson for a 17-yard score that broke a 13-13 tie with 14 seconds left in the half.
It may not have been as impressive as Andrew Luck's debut last season. He threw a 63-yard TD pass to Donald Brown on his first attempt at Lucas Oil Stadium, and led the Colts to a 38-3 victory over St. Louis.
Luck played only two series Sunday, finishing 4 of 6 for 51 yards and was the only Indy quarterback not to lead the Colts on a scoring drive. He was sacked once. Backup Matt Hasselbeck played three series for the Colts, throwing a 45-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton, and departed after a tipped pass was picked off by Crezdon Butler.
"Obviously, everybody, top to bottom, is disappointed. We never envisioned going out and playing a football game and having the outcome that we had," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We've obviously got to play better, and we will play better."
Manuel, on the other hand, played the entire first half and improved as the game went along — just as he did in last weekend's scrimmage. Grading it may prove tough. Only three of Manuel's completions went longer than 10 yards and two of the incompletions were throwaways.
While Manuel played mostly with Buffalo's starters, the Colts pulled their regulars early and had second and third stringers on the field when Manuel looked his best — going 9 of 10 for 68 yards in the 2-minute drill that impressed new coach Doug Marrone.
"Here you are right before a half, 1:50, three timeouts left, and you're making decisions. Are we going to try to run out the clock? Are we going to go 2-minute? Hey, let's go 2-minute," he said. "To do that is very impressive, no matter who you are."
Manuel wasn't the only productive Buffalo rookie. Receiver Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic long jumper with world-class speed, set up one Bills score with a 53-yard kickoff return and tied the score at 13 with a 107-yard kickoff return. Da'Rick Rogers caught a 6-yard TD pass to open the second-half scoring. Backup quarterback Jeff Tuel completed his first 10 passes and led the Bills to three scores, after replacing Manuel to start the third quarter. Cornerback Jumal Rolle closed out the scoring with a 17-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
It was a promising start for a team that changed general managers, coaches, coordinators and quarterback during the offseason. Indy got two field goals from Adam Vinatieri, the diving catch from Hilton, who bounced into the end zone, and a 72-yard fumble return from Daxton Swanson.
Thought the Colts didn't show much with their revamped offensive line, the new defensive players or the rebuilt special teams, Buffalo saw exactly what it wanted. "I think I showed that I can matriculate the ball down the field," Manuel said. "I was glad we were able to go out there and get six points before the end of the half."
Notes: Among the notable Colts players sitting out Sunday was Dwayne Allen, who Pagano said would miss a couple of weeks with a foot injury. ... Among the notable Bills missing the game were receiver Stevie Johnson and quarterback Kevin Kolb. ... C.J. Spiller averaged 9.0 yards on four carries. ... The Colts lost a handful of players to injuries. The most serious were to linebacker Justin Hickman (right foot) and cornerback Cassius Vaughn (wrist), who were expected to have MRIs.
Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org