Niagara Gazette — The Buffalo Bills’ Year of the Rookies gave way to the Day of the Veterans on Sunday.
With expectations low for 2013, the success and progress of the team’s young players, particularly this year’s rookie class, has been emphasized to the point where wins and losses seem not to matter.
The rookies haven’t disappointed, which has only furthered the notion. Kiko Alonso is the frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year, EJ Manuel has shown signs of being a competent quarterback, and Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin have each made big plays in the passing game.
But in Sunday’s game against the once-hated Miami Dolphins, it was the veterans leading the Bills to a 23-21 win. Mario Williams, who has been as maligned as any player in recent Buffalo sports history, came up with the biggest play, stripping Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill during a game-changing sack trailing by one late in the fourth quarter.
Fred Jackson’s stats (11 carries, 36 yards) paint the photo-negative of his performance. With CJ Spiller gimpy and Tashard Choice struggling to the point of Frank Summers getting single-back plays, Jackson returned from what looked like a horrific knee injury, ran for a touchdown and helped put the game away with an epic first-down run late in the fourth, breaking tackles and allowing the Bills to take precious time off the clock.
If the Bills are to contend someday, chances are it will be past Jackson’s (and maybe William’s) prime. But performances like Sunday’s are what will set the tone for the young players and teach them what it takes to win in the NFL.
Winning is contagious, and the veterans figuring out how to win in time for it to spread to the rookies could be most important to the franchise’s future.
Respond to Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.