The Buffalo Bills' fans in Western New York never were given an opportunity to see their team this preseason.
In the Bills' only exhibition game in Orchard Park, 21 of the team's 22 starters were held out.
And the Battle of the Backups got ugly. Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron decided to play only one starter – Ko Simpson – and the Bills (2-2) mostly struggled all night on both sides of the ball against the Detroit Lions (4-0), who only played five starters.
Umenyiora-phobia led to a game that'd make most football purists gag. Dropped passes, sloppy illegal formation penalties and even two
For Jauron, that's OK. The conservative approach paid off in the big picture. His starters will enter week one healthy, a luxury quickly lost in September last year.
"This was a game where we needed to look at an awful lot of young people for a lot of decisions that are on the line and need to be made (Friday) and the next day," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We got to see a lot of those guys. We got to see them for a lot of plays."
Here's some highs and lows from the loss:
---Steve Johnson completed a solid summer with an 8-catch, 74-yard game Thursday. On a night when Buffalo's offense only manufactured two field goals, Johnson was a Rolex in the trash bin. The seventh-round pick consistently found holes in the defense and earned himself a role within the Bills' regular-season rotation.
---Gibran Hamden failed to lead Buffalo's offense to a touchdown despite playing all but one series. Still, he showed enough to warrant a spot as the team's No. 3 quarterback. Hamden went 18-of-26 (69 percent) for 158 yards without any turnovers. He came out of the game with nine minutes left after absorbing a sack.
---You gotta think the Bills would be nuts to keep this guy off the field. All Leodis McKelvin does is make plays. On Thursday, he turned what should have been a 14-yard kickoff return into a 45-yarder, breaking five tackles. McKelvin has the innate ability to make people miss while moving forward. The Bills are already stocked at both returner spots, but after a preseason packed with game-breaking returns, McKelvin almost has to be utilized.
---Cornerback Ashton Youboty was wax-paper tight in coverage all night and added a sack to certainly help his chances amidst a jam-packed cornerback group.
---Buffalo's offensive line couldn't get a push where it mattered most – with their backs against the edge of the earth. Detroit had two safeties Thursday night, tackling Dwayne Wright and sacking Hamden. Buffalo garnered merely 3.4 yards per carry, a figure inflated by a 28-yard scamper by Hamden.
---Speaking of Wright, he may have secured a pink slip Thursday night. After already fumbling once in the preseason, Wright laid another ball down against the Lions. The back who's battling rookie Xavier Omon for the No. 3 job also lined up offsides on a punt. Said Jauron, "We like him as a runner, but you can't keeping laying (the ball) on the ground."
---Focus. Buffalo had seven penalties for 39 yards. Not a good time for mental mistakes with the real deal one week again.
Then again, 5 percent of the guys that played Thursday night will probably make an impact this season.