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Buffalo Like A Bunch Of Rookies

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Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots is hit as he carries the ball but breaks the attempted tackle during NFL game action by Da'Norris Searcy of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium during a September game. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.
Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots is hit as he carries the ball but breaks the attempted tackle during NFL game action by Da'Norris Searcy of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium during a September game. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.

With a 2-2 record, the mercurial Buffalo Bills are having a hard time shaking off their rookie status. An embarrassing loss to the New York Jets followed by a decent win over the Baltimore Ravens left critics shaking their heads: has Buffalo pulled its defensive line together and emerged stronger and wiser? Or will the Bills play like a bunch of rookies in the next game and beyond?

“We have a lot of talented young guys that are playing great football for us,” said Buffalo center Eric Wood. “Robert (Woods) does a great job in the run game…He’s a mature receiver, [a] great player.”

Buffalo has a motley crew of veteran players mixed with rookies, including quarterback E.J. Manuel.

“He played well. We have to run the football to protect him,” Wood, a team captain, said of Manuel after the win over Baltimore. “At this point we’re a balanced offense, and when we can’t run the ball and get out of certain phases, we struggle. We’re not as good. Today, I thought we did a great job of being balanced.”

The Bills’ defense is surprisingly balanced, considering it consists of players pulled from the secondary and players who changed position at the last minute, including Aaron Williams, who switched from safety to defensive back for the Baltimore game.

Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams said the defense played well throughout the Baltimore game.

“[The game] started off really well, kind of looking at it and saying, ‘If they get the ball back it’s going to be on us. We can go out and win this ball game,’ ” he said. “I think it’s big for the confidence of the team.”

Wood praised the coaching team, which includes first-year head coach Doug Marrone and new-to-Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

“He did a great job of trusting the run game -- certain passes that we knew we could get some great match-ups, which is important throughout the week,” Wood said of Hackett. “That builds confidence around the whole team. Good job on the game plan and great job of managing the play calling throughout the game.”

Management in previous games was not so great, with decisions that left the Bills kicking for field goals on the rare occasions they entered the red zone.

“Offensively, I think there’s no doubt that we have to improve in the third and short situation,” Marrone said after the Baltimore game. “We missed one; we got a penalty on a fourth down we converted. Those things hurt.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity throughout every part of the program,” he continued. “We’re playing with a lot of players that haven’t been together for a long period of time. I give a lot of credit to the players and I give a lot of credit to the coaches. To come through this first quarter and be 2-2, that’s who we are. Let’s get ready to get this fourth quarter and I believe we’ll start getting some of the players back, and we’re looking forward to that and we’re excited about it.”

If Buffalo can keep its excitement high, the Bills might make it through the remainder of the season without the constant rookie-comparisons and analysis that have marked the first quarter. If the excitement wanes, the Bills’ rookie status may become the crutch Buffalo leans on to limp through the season.