INDIANAPOLIS — Bills quarterback EJ Manuel did what Buffalo asked Sunday.
He was solid in the short-passing game, showed he could occasionally run and even led the Bills to a touchdown in the hurry-up offense. He made some mistakes, too, like botching a handoff to C.J. Spiller.
But new coach Doug Marrone had to have liked what he saw.
Manuel wound up 16 of 21 for 107 yards and gave Buffalo its first lead with a 17-yard TD pass late in the first half, leading the Bills to a 44-20 preseason victory at Indianapolis.
It was a simple, safe game plan in the rookie’s preseason debut. But judging the performance might be a bit tough.
Only three of Manuel’s completions went for more than nine yards and two of the incompletions were throwaways.
Manuel departed after going 9 of 10 for 68 yards after throwing the TD pass to Dorin Dickerson with 14 seconds left in the half when most of the Bills’ starters were playing against an Indy defense filled with second and third stringers.
Luck was 4 of 6 for 51 yards in two series Sunday. Backup Matt Hasselbeck had one TD pass and one interception in three series.
Manuel wasn’t even the most impressive rookie for the new-look Bills.
Backup quarterback Jeff Tuel replaced Manuel in the third quarter and started with 10 straight completions. He led Buffalo to three scoring drives and finished 19 of 23 for 212 yards with two TDs and a rating of 134.1.
The Bills rookie receivers also had a big impact. Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic long jumper with world-class speed, set up the Bills’ first scoring drive with a 53-yard kickoff return and tied it with a 107-yard kickoff return. Da’Rick Rogers opened the second half by catching a 6-yard TD pass to make it 27-13.
The Colts, meanwhile, played it safe. Luck moved the Colts on both series, but the first drive stalled and the second ended when Coby Fleener lost a fumble at the Bills 21-yard line. The Bills played without a handful of regulars – receiver Stevie Johnson, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and tight end Scott Chandler – and injured quarterback Kevin Kolb. Sitting out for the Colts were safety LaRon Landry, linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer and tight end Dwayne Allen.