By MARK LUDWICZAK The Associated Press
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — After picking up their first win of the season, the next test for the new-look Buffalo Bills is to turn around their fortunes away from home.
They’ll get that chance this Sunday when they travel to New York to face the Jets in an early AFC East clash.
“It’s a test,” said rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, “and we’ll see how we do.”
Manuel and the Bills have a tall order as they try to reverse Buffalo’s recent road history. The Bills were 2-6 away from home last season — you can tack on another loss if you don’t count their 50-17 defeat against Seattle in Toronto as a true “home” game — 1-7 in 2011 and 2-6 the season before that.
You have to go back to 1999 to find the team’s last winning road record of 5-3, which was also the last season they made the playoffs. Buffalo’s current 13-year postseason drought is the longest in the league and it hasn’t gone .500 on the road since 2004 — the Bills’ last winning season.
All eyes will be on Manuel as he makes his first career road start. The rookie was terrific in leading the Bills to a last-second victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, showing plenty of command and poise throughout the game’s final moments. The Bills hope that those characteristics will help him deal with a difficult road environment at MetLife Stadium.
Manuel’s college experience at Florida State should be an asset, Bills coach Doug Marrone said.
“I used to joke when I first came into this league about away games and those type of environments, if you play at a place like Florida State and you’ve played in the ACC I think they’re a lot more hostile than what we face (in the NFL),” Marrone said. “So I think it’s just a matter of execution, that’s what it comes down to and I don’t perceive any problems.”
Marrone, who has often spoken about trying to change the culture in Buffalo, looks forward to the challenge of taking his team outside of its home environment.
“I actually like the road,” Marrone said. “You don’t have to worry about tickets, you don’t have to worry about anyone coming. You just have to worry about how you handle the different environments. I think a lot of players are used to that depending on what programs they’ve come from ... it’s just a level of focus. Make no mistake, it will be something different for this team, something that we haven’t experienced together, but in the first year there are a lot of those situations.”
The Bills have had trouble against their division regardless of location. They went 2-4 in the AFC East last season, 1-5 in both 2011 and 2010, and 0-6 in 2008. Since realignment in 2002, the Bills are a combined 22-44 in the division and finished last in each of the past five seasons.
The Bills and Jets are both off to 0-1 starts in the AFC East after each lost to the New England Patriots.
“We’re 1-1, they’re 1-1,” center Eric Wood said. “Both rookie quarterbacks have gotten a win under our belt. This will be our first road test with EJ so a lot of communication will be important and then working different snap counts, I’m sure we’ll have to do some silent (counts) with their crowd noise. So a lot of things we have to prepare for ... it will just be about, in the moment with the noise, executing.”
NOTES: S Jairus Byrd (plantar fasciitis) was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on Friday. The standout has yet to play this season. Byrd missed all of training camp before signing his franchise tender. ... G Doug Legursky is also questionable as he makes his way back from a preseason knee injury. ... CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), CB Ron Brooks (foot) and K Dustin Hopkins (groin) are out.