Bills 'fired up' after EJ Manuel's speech

CHICAGO -- Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone sensed a "different" feeling from his team prior to Sunday's 23-20 overtime win over the Chicago Bears.

Now we may know one reason why.

According to several players in the locker room, second-year quarterback EJ Manuel stopped an offensive meeting at the Bills' team hotel Saturday evening and gave a speech -- considered by one teammate to be out of character for Manuel -- that aimed to rally an offense that has been the subject of criticism in recent weeks.

It started when coordinator Nate Hackett was speaking to his group, one that finished near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories this preseason.

"He told Hackett, 'Hold on, I got something to say,'" wide receiver Robert Woods said of Manuel. "And he stood up in front of the whole offense. Had everyone's ears about five minutes. Shut the whole meeting down pretty much. There was nothing else that needed to be said after he spoke."

Players said Manuel wanted the offense to hold together even as it faced more and more scrutiny.

"He was just letting us know that it was pretty much us against the world, that we were the underdogs," running back Anthony Dixon said. "I know they had [the Bears] picked [as the] favorite. He was just saying that we [are] all we got. Basically we [are] all we need. We know we can win. We know we can compete against the best teams."

"We were fired up. We've taken a lot of heat lately. I think it all culminated in the past couple days," center Eric Wood said. "I think we were kind of fed up with everybody talking about us as poorly as they were."

"[He] just released what he felt about this offense and what we could do, all these weapons," Woods added.

It was the first time that Dixon, who arrived as a free agent in the spring, has seen that side of Manuel's personality.

"We fed off that," Dixon said. "I'm looking forward to seeing that same person all the time now."

"That just carried over today. He spoke to the team again," Woods said. "The same energy, confident. He has everyone in this room believing in him, rocking with him."

Manuel went 16-for-22 passing for 173 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He didn't light up the box score, but Manuel had the sort of managed, controlled performance that the Bills needed as they endured a second-half rally from the Bears to send the game into overtime.

After all, hanging tough was part of Manuel's message Saturday night.

"He just wanted us to know that we need to stick together no matter what happened," Dixon said. "No matter what type of adversity hit when we get out there. We need to stick together and just keep grinding, just keep fighting."