Bills Meet The New Season "Recharged"
By Jo E. Prout
Excitement is growing for this new Bills team, even after a rough preseason full of injuries and losses.
Going into the regular season, players and fans are excited to see how the skills of the coaching staff and the talents of the athletes will mesh on the field.
“This staff brought in a different kind of energy and they’re making us work,” said wide receiver Stevie Johnson in the preseason. “We’re buying into it. I’m happy to be here.”
After a gut-wrenching 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots in the Bills’ season opener, Buffalo Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone tackled the Bills’ culture of losing.
“I think we were changing that mentality the first day we walked through the door,” he said. “You’ve got to try to change that mentality. You don’t know if it’s there or not. I don’t think it’s just with the team; it’s with everyone in the organization.”
Starting rookie quarterback EJ Manuel does not expect to lose. He made headlines with his comments on his own greatness early in the season, but he held his own in his first game against New England and threw for two touchdowns. Marrone has built a team of newcomers to Buffalo sprinkled with veteran talent, by both design and by hard luck due to injuries. Manuel is part of that new flavor.
“I expect greatness all the time,” Manuel said earlier. “We’ve got to go out there, play hard and execute our offense and we know the defense will do a good job too.”
After the loss to the Patriots, Manuel was only marginally deflated.
“I felt the energy of the crowd. It was packed, it was a great crowd. We just wanted to go out and win. But we didn’t. And like I said we’ve just got to move on to next week.”
Johnson spoke early on of the excitement the Bills feel getting back on the field.
“It’s the coaching staff, really. They’re giving us the freedom to have fun. As long as we put in good work on tape, we can have as much fun as we want. That’s what we want as natural athletes: to have fun and play football,” he said.
Johnson played up his talents before the first Patriots game, but disappointed when the ball bounced out of his fingers on game day.
“We’ve got a lot of faith in him, obviously,” Marrone said about Johnson’s abilities. “There’s not a player in this league that hasn’t dropped a football. If you haven’t that means you haven’t gotten a lot of balls thrown to you.
“Early on in that game,” Marrone continued, “we overcame a lot more adversity than probably what people think…being able to make a play and get back in the game. Obviously, you sit here as a coach and that’s one thing you’re proud of.”
Fans were glad to see the comeback, even though some of the Bills’ plays were predictably bad; fans have flooded social media with talk about wins and playoffs -- they “Billieve.” They have also showed their respect at the door; tickets for the first three regular season games sold out.
Johnson said of New England, “They came in and took one from us. We’ll be ready for them next time.”
Running back C.J. Spiller is also hopeful.
“If we continue to do what we’re doing,” he said in the preseason, “we can definitely make a run.”
After the loss to the Patriots, Spiller said of the new Bills package, “It’s not the same team, we just lost the game. We have a lot of new faces on this team.”
Coming off a series of dismal seasons, the combination of new and veteran faces Buffalo has concocted may be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing Bills.