BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The final week of the preseason is rarely exciting, but the Buffalo Bills’ preseason finale gave plenty of reasons for fans of the team to be discouraged going into the regular season. Despite playing starters on both offense and defense in the first quarter, the Bills lost, 23-0, to finish the preseason with a 1-4 record.
The score and record will be long forgotten when the Bills play their regular-season opener 10 days from Thursday, but they certainly didn’t want to end the exhibition season by being shut out.
The story of the Bills’ struggles throughout the month of August was the first-team offense’s inability to put together even one touchdown drive against a starting defense. Manuel and the group around him continued to struggle Thursday, and have to play much better for the Bills to stand any chance in their regular season opener versus the Chicago Bears.
There have been few strong positives for the Bills this preseason, but defensive tackle Landon Cohen has been a consistent standout. He’s had impressive preseasons in previous years that haven’t translated to regular-season performance, and all of his work has come with the second- and third-team defenses, so his impressive play in August might not necessarily mean he’s a playmaker this fall. Nonetheless, he should at the very least have a roster spot locked up by now, despite being an apparent long shot going into training camp.
After another offensive failure by Jordan Palmer and company, Jordan Gay got his first opportunity of the night to punt. His kick went 33 yards and was fair caught at the 20-yard line.
The Lions went 4-and-out after the interception.
Jordan Palmer has now thrown interceptions on back-to-back possessions, bringing his total for the game to three.
The Bills announcers have been making excuses for Palmer all night—perhaps rightfully so, as he has only been with the team since Tuesday—but he has played awfully tonight. If the Bills were making a decision on whether he should be the No. 2 quarterback or whether he should be cut based on tonight’s play, Palmer won’t be sticking around.
The Buffalo Bills almost certainly aren’t going to win this game, but linebacker Xavius Boyd just got himself a nice highlight and helped make the final score more respectable by breaking up a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone on a 3rd-and-4 for the Detroit Lions. Nate Freese made a 28-yard field goal on the next play to extend Detroit’s lead to 23-0.
The Buffalo Bills decided to go for it on 4th-and-4 early in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt was taken down by Detroit Lions cornerback Mohammad Seisay, which drew a defensive holding penalty and gave the Bills a new set of downs. Seisay made up for it one play later, however, intercepting Jordan Palmer.
Cyrus Kouandjio’s struggles have continued tonight. He was beaten for a sack by Lions defensive end Andre Fluellen earlier, and just got flagged for a tripping penalty late in the third quarter.
At the end of three quarters, the Detroit Lions lead, 20-0.
The Detroit Lions have taken a 20-0 lead after Nate Freese’s second 53-yard field goal of the night. The Lions had 13 offensive plays on the series, but the Bills were eventually able to force them to settle for a three-point attempt thanks to tackles for loss by defensive tackle Landon Cohen—one of Buffalo’s stars of the preseason—and weakside linebacker Preston Brown, who is projected to be a Week 1 starter.
The Buffalo Bills had the chance to end a long series as they pushed the Detroit Lions into a 4th-and-6 situation, but cornerback Kamaal McIlwain was beaten on a 9-yard slant by Patrick Edwards.
If Jordan Palmer had to earn his spot on the 53-man roster tonight, he might get cut Friday or Saturday. The Bills quarterback has completed just four of 11 passing attempts for 41 yards with one interception. Of his five series (not including the one-play possession at end of first half), four have ended with a punt.
The Bills forced a punt on the Lions’ first possession of the second half. Jordan Palmer remains in the game as Buffalo’s quarterback.
Jordan Gay is handling kickoff duties for the Bills tonight. We didn’t know it until now since the Bills didn’t have a first-half kickoff, but the punter/kickoff specialist got the second half. His kickoff failed to clear the goal line and it was returned by Patrick Edwards of the Lions to the 26-yard line.
Don’t be too disappointed if you’ve been blacked out from watching tonight’s game. You haven’t missed much.
The less-than-sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium booed again at the end of the first half, and while Marquise Goodwin might not have appreciated it, there’s been absolutely nothing for Bills fans to cheer about tonight.
For the second straight week, the Bills were shut out in the first half. EJ Manuel continued to struggle, while it sure didn’t look like the Bills got a backup quarterback upgrade by bringing in Jordan Palmer over Thad Lewis, as Palmer completed just three of nine passes for 25 yards with one interception in the first half.
The first-team defense played solidly; they forced punts on each of their first two series, after which time the Bills defense consisted mostly of second-teamers. But that’s not saying much, considering that early success came against a Lions unit that did not include quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Reggie Bush and wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
One thing that has remained clear tonight: the Bills need a new punter. Brian Moorman punted the ball six times in the first half and had an average of just 37 yards. He had three punts inside the 20-yard line, but also had a 30-yard shank that was downed at the 35-yard line.
The second half won’t say anything of significance about the Bills, as it will be all backups playing, but it could be an important two quarters for players who are still on the roster bubble.
A nice throw over the middle to the end zone from Kellen Moore to Corey Fuller was a 25-yard touchdown for the Detroit Lions, giving them a 17-0 lead with nine seconds to play in the first half.
Any chance the Bills would have had at an end-of-half score was ended by kickoff returner Marquise Goodwin’s boneheaded move to return the kickoff out of bounds at the 6-yard line. The Bills go into the halftime scoreless.
The Buffalo Bills offense has sputtered throughout the first half. To start their two-minute drill series, back-to-back passes went off Chris Hogan’s hands: the first one was a well-thrown ball by Jordan Palmer simply dropped by Hogan; the second one was a bad throw behind Hogan, forcing Hogan to turn around for the ball and he was unable to pull it in. After a 3-and-out, Brian Moorman’s sixth punt of the night went 45 yards from out of the end zone.
The Bills forced a punt, and Bryce Brown is back in the game with the Bills offense with 1:14 to play.
Good news for Bryce Brown: he is “testing his knee on sidelines” and “moving well,” according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. He might have avoided significant injury.
After the Brown injury, Brian Moorman had his best punt of the night (52 yards). The Lions have the ball at the two-minute warning after a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-5 from Kellen Moore to Patrick Edwards allowed them to avoid 3-and-out.
Bryce Brown was helped off the field by teammates Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller after his injury. Brown would not be an enormous loss to the Bills offense, as he is only projected to be Buffalo’s third or fourth running back this year, but he has had an impressive preseason.
Buffalo Bills running back Bryce Brown is down on the field with a leg injury and being tended to by trainers. Many teammates surrounding him on the field.
Each team has played five possessions through the first 24:05 of this game. It has been dominated by defense, as the two teams have combined for only 158 total yards.
The last set of possessions in this game illustrated a recurring problem from last season, with the Bills defense unable to keep their opponent out of the end zone after a turnover by the Bills offense gave the opponent a short field. It’s probably not worth worrying about at this point in the game, because it’s all backups playing at this point, but the Bills need to cut down on giveaways.
Jordan Palmer’s second series as a Buffalo Bills quarterback ended with an interception. Palmer threw the ball inside Graham when he should have thrown it to Graham’s outside, and gave Isa Abdul-Quddus an easy interception for the Lions. As Steve Tasker noted, the INT might be partially a result of Palmer’s lack of experience throwing to Graham.
The Bills have officially downgraded Sammy Watkins’ status to out.
Kellen Moore checked into the game for the Lions on their fourth offensive series. After a holding penalty on rookie cornerback Ross Cockrell gave the Lions one first down, the Bills defense was able to force a punt.
Seven of the first eight combined drives in this game have ended with punts.
Jordan Palmer completed one of two passing attempts for nine yards on his first series, the only completion being a short pass caught by running back Anthony Dixon.
Brian Moorman’s punt traveled just 30 yards. Bills general manager Doug Whaley should be watching this game making plans to look for a new punter in the next few days, as Moorman’s performance has been well below par.
After EJ Manuel played all three of Buffalo’s first-quarter offensive series, Jordan Palmer—signed earlier this week—took over as Buffalo’s quarterback. Palmer’s first series would have ended on a 3-and-out, but he got bailed out by an illegal hands to face penalty against defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
Fifty-two seconds into the second quarter, the Lions have taken a 3-0 lead on a 53-yard field goal by Nate Freese.
End of First Quarter: Bills 0, Lions 0.
Most of Buffalo’s starters played the entire first frame.
The Bills appeared to have the Lions stopped when defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Corbin Bryant combined for a 3rd-and-7 sack of Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky, but the play was nullified by a pair of illegal contact penalties against Bills cornerbacks Nickell Robey and Leodis McKelvin. Point-of-emphasis officiating continuing in the final week of the preseason.
The Bills have confirmed that wide receiver Sammy Watkins has a rib injury. His return is listed as questionable, but he almost certainly won’t come back in the game as it’s only a preseason contest.
Three offensive possessions, three punts for the Bills. The Buffalo offense has just 50 total yards in three series, all with Manuel and most starters around him.
If there was one bright spot in the last series, it was Robert Woods making a high-degree-of-difficulty catch that went off him, off a defender in front of him and back to him for a 20-yard reception. Woods appears to be solidly back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Buffalo’s first few preseason games.
Buffalo’s defense forces a three-and-out on the Lions. EJ Manuel and the Bills offense are back on the field.
Per Mike Catalana of Fox Rochester, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins’ ribs are being examined on the sideline. He missed Buffalo’s last preseason game after suffering a rib injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That likely means he’s done for the night in a setback that could potentially put the start of his season in jeopardy.
The Buffalo Bills first-team offense is continuing to struggle. EJ Manuel missed Sammy Watkins on a second-down pass attempt before Fred Jackson dropped what would have been a first down on a Manuel third-down pass. The rhythm is lacking for the Bills offense.
EJ Manuel is back on the field for a second offensive series. It makes sense for the Bills to give him significant work tonight, considering how much he struggled last week, in what was originally expected to be his final preseason game, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Buffalo Bills defense forced a 3-and-out on their first series of the game. While the Bills had most of their usual starters in the game, tonight’s starting Lions offense consists mostly of second-team players, with Dan Orlovsky starting at quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills defense is now on the field for their first series. Their starting lineup consists of DEs Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, DTs Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, LBs Keith Rivers, Brandon Spikes and Preston Brown, CBs Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks and safeties Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy.
Notable starters include Brown, who is starting in place of Nigel Bradham and seemingly will do when Bradham is suspended for the Bills’ regular-season opener; Brooks, who is starting in place of Stephon Gilmore, inactive tonight; and Searcy, who has seemingly won the starting job at safety over second-year player Duke Williams.
The Buffalo Bills offense made some progress on their first series, as EJ Manuel completed his first pass for a first down and running back Fred Jackson converted a 3rd-and-14 off a screen pass on the next set of downs, but the Bills ended up punting. Struggling punter Brian Moorman’s punt went 37 yards and was downed at the 15-yard line.
The Bills offense is on the field after an opening touchback. The starting offense consists of QB EJ Manuel, RB C.J. Spiller, FB Frank Summers, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, TE Scott Chandler, LT Cordy Glenn, LG Cyril Richardson, C Eric Wood, RG Erik Pears and RT Seantrel Henderson.
The Bills have won the coin toss and will receive, which means quarterback EJ Manuel will be back on the field for his final start of the preseason to open tonight’s game.
Unlike the Buffalo Bills, who appear to be playing most of their starters tonight, the Detroit Lions are sitting most of their stars. Tonight’s Lions inactives include quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Reggie Bush, wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Bills inactives per Chris Brown:
CB Corey Graham
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB Mario Butler
TE Scott Chandler
CB Bobby Felder
S Jonathan Meeks
TE Tony Moeaki
TE Lee Smith
G Chris Williams
The Bills will be extremely thin at tight end. Chris Gragg will start and split time with Dominique Jones.