TAMPA, Fla. — EJ Manuel’s season-long struggles on the road intensified Sunday.
Manuel threw four interceptions in a 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside Raymond James Stadium – a type of performance that raises plenty of questions about just what the Bills have in their rookie quarterback.
“I didn’t do a good job today – plain and simple,” Manuel said after the game. “I’ve got to get better as a quarterback. It’s my responsibility to do that and I have to go hard at everything during the week and just prepare even better.”
Manuel completed 18 of 33 passes for 184 yards and finished with a passer rating of 31.2. He was under siege all game – being sacked seven times and hit 13 times by a relentless Buccaneers’ pass rush.
Bills coach Doug Marrone said the team may be forced to scale down its offense for Manuel.
“At times in rhythm, I think he missed a couple,” Marrone said. “We’ve been giving him more and more and now it’s a point where you have to re-evaluate that. We’ve been going fast with his progression and now we just have to look at it and get him started again.
“It’s not starting over, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got to look to see what we can do and probably cut down on what we’re doing.”
Manuel is 0-3 in his brief professional career in games he’s started and finished on the road.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily playing on the road. That may seem like it’s a recurring thing being that I had a rough game here, had a rough game in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We just have to come back from it. I’m not going to say because we’re not at The Ralph I played bad or because we were on the road I played bad. … It’s very frustrating for me, but it’s still a learning curve at everything and I’ve just got to move on.”
The Bills held a lengthy meeting inside the locker room following the game. Marrone chose not to disclose what was said, but Manuel shared some of the details.
“We just have to figure out what’s going on with this team. I think we really have to find our identity,” Manuel said.
With Marrone openly suggesting the Bills need to scale down their offense for Manuel, the same search is on for the team’s supposed franchise quarterback.
“I had some forced passes that I don’t normally do,” Manuel said. “That’s where the interceptions came from and I just got to continue to stick to my reads and do a much better job at that. I feel like that was where I struggled today and I just got to get better from it.”
Manuel was far from alone in his struggles on offense. Running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 16 carries and 34 yards. Two interceptions came after the ball bounced off the hands of receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.
The offensive line struggled all game, with center Eric Wood and right tackle Erik Pears taking back-to-back false start penalties in the third quarter.
On the next play, Manuel threw his fourth interception of the game.
“I put the pressure on myself,” Manuel said. “I don’t blame anybody else. If I’m not getting the ball off my hands, I have to do a better job at that.”