The Kids Day crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium loudly booed Kevin Kolb twice. Even after the veteran quarterback warmed up and drove the Buffalo Bills for a pair of field goals before halftime, fans grumbled about a missed end-zone throw.
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel entered Friday night’s game to cheers and then earned some more with another efficient preseason performance against the Minnesota Vikings.
The idea of Manuel not being the Bills’ opening-day starter Sept. 8 against the New England Patriots is difficult to fathom barring injury or some sort of implosion over the next couple of weeks.
Manuel played the third quarter. He went 10 of 12 for 92 yards and a touchdown before Jeff Tuel came in to start the fourth quarter.
Manuel had a 126.4 passer rating. Kolb was 13 of 21 for 111 yards and no touchdowns with an interception for a 55.9 passer rating.
Manuel said he wanted to continue to prove to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett “that I can learn and continue to show what I can do out on the field to my teammates and continue to earn their respect.”
Manuel played against Vikings reserves, but his teammates were mostly backups, too, including his offensive linemen.
His most frequent target was Chris Hogan, who caught two of three targets for 14 yards.
The longest completion was a 27-yard strike to undrafted rookie Brandon Kaufman. Manuel connected with DeMarco Sampson for a pair of 9-yard gains.
On Manuel’s first series, he completed all six of his throws for 44 yards, including an easy 4-yard touchdown toss to Brad Smith in the end zone. Smith played for the first time after missing Sunday’s preseason opener with a hamstring injury.
Manuel threw a pair of incomplete passes on his second possession, then completed all four of his attempts for 48 yards on his final series.
“He just comes in there confident,” Bills running back C.J. Spiller said. “He’s out there, orchestrating the offense the way Coach Hackett wants it to be orchestrated, and he’s moving the ball down the field, and that’s what you want.
“It’s a heated competition. Whoever’s named the starter, we’ll know that guy earned it.”
For the second straight game, the Bills committed at least four penalties in the first quarter, when a healthy crew of starters were on the field.
The Bills were flagged five times for 35 yards in the first quarter and nine times for 65 yards before halftime Friday night. Two defensive penalties – a third-down pass interference on cornerback Nickell Robey and an offside on linebacker Manny Lawson – extended a Vikings field-goal drive.
A Colin Brown holding penalty short-circuited a long drive, forcing the Bills to kick their first field goal in the second quarter.
For the game, Buffalo committed 14 penalties for 106 yards.
Bills coach Doug Marrone expressed dissatisfaction with penalties after the preseason opener in Indianapolis. The Bills finished that game with a relatively modest nine penalties for 74 yards.
Pass-rusher Mario Williams didn’t dress Friday night. Marrone announced after the game it was to rest him.
Jerry Hughes started in Williams’ place at right defensive end and sacked Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder on the first snap of the game.
Hughes recorded a strip-sack of Matt Cassel in the second quarter for a 13-yard loss.
Also scratched for the Bills were: receivers Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham; guard Keith Williams; defensive end Koutnei Brown; and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers and Crezdon Butler.
Bills rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso dressed but didn’t play.
Marrone said Alonso had been medically cleared to return from a sore shoulder, but Marrone wanted to be extra cautious given the wear and tear a linebacker endures over the course of a season.
Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler started, his first action since suffering a torn ACL in late December. Chandler was targeted but didn’t record a catch in his brief appearance.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, last year’s rushing leader, made the trip and took part in warmups but did not make his preseason debut. He watched the game from the sideline in his jersey but with no shoulder pads underneath.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson would play either Friday night or in their third preseason game.
The Vikings will have a grueling finish to their preseason schedule.
Their next game will be at San Francisco at 8 p.m. Aug. 25. The Vikings then will play their fourth exhibition game just four nights later at home against the Tennessee Titans.