Marrone trying to take heat off EJ Manuel

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- On the heels of EJ Manuel's worst performance this season, Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone offered a mixed message about his rookie quarterback's performance Monday.

Asked initially to assess Manuel's outing Sunday, when he went 18-for-33 passing and threw four interceptions, Marrone responded in a way that would leave little room for interpretation.

"He did not play well," Marrone said.

However, asked to explain what Manuel did not do well in Sunday's 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first-year head coach began to point to the play of those around the 16th overall pick in last April's draft.

"When you say you have to get better play at that position, are there things that hurt his level of play? Yes, obviously," Marrone said. "There's some things that happen up front. People batting a pass down, [players] near him. I don't care what quarterback you're playing with. When people are around him, it's very difficult."

You don't need to read between the lines too much on that one: Marrone wasn't happy with the offensive line's performance Sunday. They allowed seven sacks and committed numerous penalties, a problem that has to be especially frustrating for Marrone, a former offensive line coach who spends part of practice instructing that unit.

But according to Marrone, it's not just the offensive line that played a role in Manuel's day to forget. His receivers deserve some blame and there's good reason: one of Manuel's interceptions should have been caught by Stevie Johnson, who allowed the pass to bounce off his hands and into those of an awaiting Buccaneers defender.

"We need help from everyone else around him, to make sure that everyone does their job. There are times when things break down, that's not necessarily his fault," Marrone said. "Whether it be a route, a wrong route, a missed assignment up front, not winning the physical battle somewhere along the line. I think all those things factor into play."

Other than his initial comment, Marrone came to Manuel's defense Monday. But Marrone also made it clear that he will stick with Manuel as his starter only to a point.

"He's going to take a lot of the heat, because of the position. That comes with it. But at the end of the day, we need to make sure that people around him are doing what they're supposed to do. I think it's, to sit here and say hey, if everything was going well around him and he was the culprit, it would be easy for me to say we'd go ahead and pull him and put another quarterback in there," Marrone said. "I don't have any problem with that."

Marrone was asked later about his current patience level with Manuel.

"My patience level works on a day-to-day basis. It really does," he said. "As long as they're keeping they're head down and working hard to prepare, that creates patience. The minute that you don't see that, then you get... you become unpatient."