The Buffalo Bills got their first win of the preseason with a 34-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night in Toronto. We could bore you with another game play-by-play recap, but instead here’s a collection of notes this reporter put together throughout the game.
Big Plays All Day Night: If the Bills are going to be a winning team in 2010, they’re going to do it by executing at least three big plays per game. They got that Thursday night in the first quarter alone. C.J. Spiller made three Colts defenders missed en route to an electrifying 31-yard touchdown run. Later, Terrence McGee made a diving interception off a deflected pass and got up to return it for a 78-yard score. Then near the end of the quarter Trent Edwards perfectly executed a play action fake, got good protection from his line and found a streaking Lee Evans; hitting him in perfect stride for a 70-yard touchdown.
Trent Edwards: He’ll never be the popular guy in the room amongst Bills fans, but give credit where it’s due. When Edwards had time to make plays against the Colts he was successful. He completed 5-of-8 passes for 93 yards, including the gorgeous 70-yard strike to Evans for a touchdown. His quarterback rating was 142.2; a number Chan Gailey will take every time.
Joique Bell: It’s really a shame there isn’t room for Bell on the active roster. For the second consecutive week Bell was as impressive of any of the Bills running backs. Bell had a game-high 80 yards on 11 carries, all in the second half and his effort was capped with a last minute two-yard touchdown run.
Special Teams: Even during the past decade of futility, the one constant was always the stellar play of the Bills special teams. That may be gone as for the second straight week Buffalo gave up a huge punt return. This one led to an Indianapolis touchdown. They weren’t much better on kickoff coverage either.
The Starting Offensive Line: For all but one play of the first quarter, the starting offensive line couldn’t block a defender to save their life. Trent Edwards was under duress each time he dropped back to pass and C.J. Spiller had no holes to run through, even on his touchdown run. To the unit’s credit, they did provide Edwards quality protection once on a play-action fake; it led to a 70-yard Edwards to Lee Evans touchdown bomb. The two touchdowns will get people arguing, but go back to your DVRs and see for yourself.
Ellis Lankster: Already in a battle for a roster spot, Lankster had a nightmare drive in the second quarter. He was beat on consecutive Curtis Painter to Taj Smith bombs accounting for 81 yards; the second one going for a 43-yard touchdown.
FLOOD OF NOTES
◊ Brian Brohm got his first extended playing time of the summer and while he did nothing to challenge Edwards’ starting job, he went a good ways towards securing a backup role over Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brohm threw a perfect pass down the right sideline to Chad Jackson late in the first half, who made a nice catch inside the final two minutes of the first half to get the ball down to the Colts 7. Unfortunately the drive stalled and the Bills had to settle for a short field goal, but Brohm still went 5-of-8 for 71 yards on his first drive. He didn’t get the Bills into the end zone on the night, but had modestly good numbers by completing 14-of-21 passes for 125 yards.
◊ It wasn’t a good season debut for new right tackle Cornell Green. He got beat by Robert Mathis on the Bills second offensive drive, leading to Trent Edwards taking a whack in the head that knocked his helmet off. On the Spiller touchdown, Green also got beat by Mathis. Fortunately for the Bills, Spiller made him miss en route to his touchdown run.
◊ Mixed reviews for the starting defense against the Peyton Manning-led Colts offense. On their first series the Bills forced a strong three-and-out. However, Joseph Addai owned Buffalo on Indy’s second possession, burning Paul Posluszny on a long reception down the right sideline and eventually finishing the drive by running through Donte Whitner for a 17-yard touchdown. On their third drive, the Colts moved the ball at will before a deflected pass intended for Anthony Gonzalez ended up in the diving arms of Terrence McGee, who returned it ** yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Bills lead.
The Bills then stopped the Colts on possession three without allowing a first down, but on the fourth drive o f the first quarter Manning hit Jacob Tamme with a touchdown pass.
◊ Aaron Maybin may have a lot of followers on Twitter, but the Bills coaching staff must not be among them. If the 2009 first round draft pick is going to have a breakout season, he’s going to first have to climb the club’s depth chart to get on the field. When starters Chris Kelsay and Reggie Torbor came out it was Chris Ellis and undrafted free agent Antonio Coleman getting the early reps. That’s not good news for Maybin, who was playing at the very end of the game with mostly third stringers.
◊ If this game was any indication, it looks like Leodis McKelvin will be the starting cornerback alongside McGee with Drayton Florence serving in the nickel role. Florence didn’t have a good night; committing a pair of defensive holding penalties in the first quarter. McKelvin was solid in his starting role, breaking up a pair of passes.
◊ Starting left tackle Demetrius Bell played through the first quarter before giving way to Jamon Meredith at the start of the second. Eric Wood stayed in the game in his first action of the preseason deeper into the second quarter.
◊ Here was the Bills second string offensive line Thursday, which entered the game with 5:57 left in the second quarter (from left to right): Meredith, Nick Hennessey, Christian Gaddis, Cordaro Howard, and Kirk Chambers.
◊ It was Roscoe Parrish, not Chad Jackson getting all the slot reps with the first team offense. Parrish was effective. He had a pair of receptions for 19 yards and a run for another six.
◊ A pair of former UB stars faced off and didn’t take long to run into each other. Naaman Roosevelt caught a three yard pass from Brohm for his first reception of the night and was immediately tackled by his former safety teammate Mike Newton. Roosevelt came right back with a nice 10-yard reception on the next play for a first down. Roosevelt finished with three catches for 22 yards while Newton had three tackles.
◊ A pair of long shots to make the team combined for a big Buffalo play in the fourth quarter. Dominque Harris sacked Tim Hiller and Arthur Moats was there to fall on the loose ball for a fumble recovery. Moats led the Bills with six tackles. Maybe he isn’t quite the “long shot”.
◊ The Toronto crowd was estimated at slightly fewer than 40,000.
If you’re going to beat the team to death for the opening clunker at Washington, then you should equally overreact to soundly handling an AFC powerhouse. The Bills overall looked very good and while no one in particular stood out, it was a solid collective team effort.
**UPDATE** Seems plenty of people disagree about my assessment of the offensive line. We will discuss this further over the weekend.