Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK — Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes put Vikings starter Christian Ponder on his back on the very first play from scrimmage.
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel then provided the knockout punch to start the second half in leading Buffalo to a 20-16 preseason victory over Minnesota on Friday night.
And just like that, the new-look Bills — coming off a near top-to-bottom offseason transformation — continue to show signs of shedding their long-losing past by improving to 2-0.
"We're breeding an attitude around here," center Eric Wood said. "And we're trying to be the toughest team out there each week. And you don't do that by going out and laying an egg in the preseason."
So far so good for a team that has gone 13 seasons without making the playoffs and not enjoyed a winning finish since 2004, when Buffalo went 9-7.
Hughes keyed a sturdy defensive effort with two sacks and a forced fumble, and backup linebacker Jamie Blatnick recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Hughes was starting in place of defensive end Mario Williams, who was held out after complaining of soreness following practice Wednesday.
"That's what we've been practicing for the first few months, since minicamp, we've been practicing being stingy," said Hughes, who was acquired in a trade with Indianapolis in May. "Everybody's flying around to the ball, just creating havoc. So us practicing like that, it's great to see it put on game film."
And Buffalo finally found its groove on offense when Manuel took over in the second half. Greeted by cheers as he took the field, Manuel hit all six attempts, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith, to cap a 14-play, 80-yard second-half opening drive in putting Buffalo ahead 20-3.
Manuel, a first-round draft pick out of Florida State, finished 10 of 12 for 92 yards passing in continuing to inch his way toward securing the starting job after veteran Kevin Kolb struggled in the first half.