The Bills went to Indianapolis Sunday night for their third preseason game and easily handled the Colts, 20-7. The win was impressive but nearly overshadowed by the left forearm injury suffered by offensive tackle Langston Walker. Walker was blocking Ben Ishola when teammate Fred Jackson collided with the forearm.
Head coach Dick Jauron said after the game "I guess we'll call it a bad bruise. I don't want to say anything without talking to the doctors but nothing is broken."
Even if Walker's injury isn't long term, it may serve as a reminder to the front office the offensive line is only one play away from total chaos. The Jason Peters holdout has dragged on with no end presently in sight. If the two sides are playing chicken, the injury scare may persuade Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon to blink and pick up his cell phone Monday morning.
As for the game, the Bills first team offense ate up their Indianapolis counterparts. Buffalo scored a field goal and a touchdown on their first three drives and imposingly ran 37 offensive during the possessions. The third drive saw the team march 93 yards over 18 plays covering over 10 minutes, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run by rookie Xavier Omon.
With starting quarterback Trent Edwards nursing a quad injury, JP Losman started a game for the first time since last November at Jacksonville, and performed immaculately. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 108 yards in one half of action and wasn't sacked. He led the Bills to 170 yards and two scores over three full drives and the offense didn't have a single three-and-out with him under center. The only downside was that Losman re-aggravated a right thumb injury on the Omon handoff. His hand was heavily wrapped as he stood on the sideline in the second half, though Jauron said following the game it was just sore.
Defensively the Bills first team looked stout and the defense didn't give up a point until the third quarter following a big mistake from first round rookie Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin mistimed a jump on the ball, resulting in a 94-yard touchdown reception by Devin Aromashodu. But the reserve defenders more than made up for the blunder with interceptions by Ashton Youboty, Keith Ellison, John Wendling and Reggie Corner. Buffalo also scored a defensive touchdown in the second quarter. Joseph Addai lost the ball and it fell right into Terrence McGee, who took off 68-yards for an easy score.
Of course, it was easier for the Bills to look good on defense when they didn't have to face starter Peyton Manning. They didn't even have to face the Colts best backup either. Jim Sorgi was a surprise scratch with a sore knee, leaving Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray to handle the duties. Still, the bottom line shows this is the second consecutive game both the starting offense and defense have looked good, against two quality teams in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Here is a closer look on how Buffalo fared on both sides of the ball.
Losman couldn't play any better than he did. He got rid of the ball. He didn't take a sack. He showed tremendous patience and poise in the pocket. He checked down when nothing downfield was open. He had mustard on his throws. He also ran for 10 yards on a third and 9 on the Bills first touchdown drive. Gibran Hamden started the second half and likely secured the third spot, completing 5-of-8 for 35 yards. Matt Baker cleaned up but the coaching staff has little confidence in him throwing the ball at stage of the preseason, a pretty sure sign he's headed to the waiver wire and/or practice squad.
Marshawn Lynch played only the opening two series in the first quarter and had little running room; gaining only two yards on four carries. Jackson ran for 30 yards over seven carries in the first half, including a nifty 15-yarder. Omon looks to have taken the lead in the race for the third halfback He came into the game before Dwayne Wright and wasted no time delivering; running four times on the Bills third drive and scoring their first touchdown. Further indication Wright may be on his way out was Bruce Hall getting reps ahead of him. Wright did carry the ball 10 times, but it was all in a mop up role in the fourth quarter with Buffalo protecting a big lead.
Lee Evans and Josh Reed were both active and involved in the first half. Evans had five grabs for 44 yards while Reed had three for 34. With Roscoe Parrish and James Hardy both out, Justin Jenkins was the first receiver off the bench in three-wide sets. Felton Huggins started when the Bills went to four receivers. Steve Johnson didn't even see the field until the start of the fourth quarter. Jenkins had the best game, catching four passes for 33 yards, although he did fumble once. Johnson had only one catch for four yards, while Huggins was shut out.
The starting offensive line looked strong, especially in pass coverage. Kirk Chambers is maligned for having to take over for Peters, but he looked strong for the second consecutive game. Demetrius Bell came in after Walker was injured and struggled in run blocking. He appears to have good potential upside but it's clear he has a lot to learn about the game. The second and third group of blockers did nothing to stand out and final reserve spots will come down to the Detroit game next Thursday night.
Chris Kelsay sacked Lorenzen on the Colts' first offensive play of the game and nearly had another in the second. The front four played well as did the starting linebackers. Paul Posluszny had four tackles and Kawika Mitchell looked more active than he had the previous two weeks. Angelo Crowell showed no effects of a knee that's hampered him all of training camp.
Chris Kelsay gets a sack
Backup linebackers made a big contribution. Marcus Buggs tipped a Gray pass and Ellison came up with a spectacular diving interception early in the fourth quarter.
Will James was the first cornerback to get nickel coverage action, but didn't make any plays and was outshined by a pair of younger counterparts. Youboty's interception in the third quarter may have locked up a roster spot. Corner could be in serious contention for making the roster after jumping a route and picking off Gray in the game's final minutes. Wendling also had a fourth quarter interception on a tipped ball.
SPECIAL TEAMSD.J. Fitzpatrick handled the punting duties for Brian Moorman. Fred Jackson handled the punt return duties. McGee took the opening kickoff back for 28-yards. Rian Lindell was successful on 36 and 44-yard field goals. Darian Barnes had the collision of the game after playing wedge buster and slamming into Keyunta Dawson on a kickoff. The big blemish was giving up a 66-yard kickoff return to Courtney Roby late in the game.
SUMMARYPreseason or not, don't discount the Bills looking good in consecutive weeks against a pair of teams that both won their divisions last year. Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert seems to have the offense in much better sync than they were a year ago and the defense looks as opportunistic as ever. With so many quarterbacks going down throughout the season in the NFL, it was suspected that an unhappy Losman could become a team problem. But if the preseason so far is any indication, the offense will be just fine should he be needed when the games start counting.