Arrow Up/Arrow Down: Bills-Lions

Some thoughts from the Bills' 24-20 win over the Lions in preseason game No. 3

Sal Capaccio
August 24, 2019 - 8:48 am

Photo: Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

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The Buffalo Bills are still undefeated!

I guess that’s the best thing I could write about a preseason game that was filled with plenty of mistakes and penalties.

It wasn’t the cleanest game and not one the Bills played particularly well, but they did win, 24-20.

There were, of course, positives that come with that: 

 

ARROW UP

  • RB - Frank Gore

What a warrior Gore is. The ageless wonder got loose for a huge 27-yard run, but then got hit late and had to come out of the game with a leg injury. You’d think that would be the end to his night, but there he was just a few series later taking handoffs again. Gore finished with a game-high 57 yards on the ground, averaging 7.1 yards per-carry.
 

  • RB - LeSean McCoy

Shady looked better than he has all preseason, and even training camp. The numbers were good, collecting 37 yards on just six carries, averaging 6.2 yards per-run. But the runs he had called back were even better. One for nine yards and another for 13. McCoy showed great vision and was elusive.
 

  • RB - T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon did exactly what he’s known for and many believe he was signed to do - catch the football. He finished with three grabs for 51 yards to lead the team. He made a fantastic catch 31-yard down the sideline on a third down that kept a drive alive that resulted in a field goal. He made a huge case for himself to make the final roster.
 

  • WR - Duke Williams

For the second week in a row, Williams went high to get a ball in the end zone for a touchdown. This time, he took it almost off the top of the head of the defensive back. He showed excellent body control and strong hands to pull it in. It’s going to be hard to keep the biggest receiver on the team that lacks size at the position off the final roster, especially after another play like that.
 

  • WR - Zay Jones

I’m not sure what to read into the fact that Jones was still on the field deep into the second quarter, especially after also starting the game, but he was and had good numbers to show for it. Jones finished with three catches for 46 yards, including the longest completion of the game for the Bills, which was an excellent 29-yard grab with a defender on him.
 

  • K - Stephen Hauschka

Hauschka didn’t do anything particularly special, but I’m listing him here because he had the exact kind of game he needed, drilling two extra points and a 43-yard field goal without a miss.
 

  • DEs - Shaq Lawson and Mike Love

Lawson and Love lived in the Lions backfield all night. Lawson had one of only two sacks for the Bills, and two QB hurries. Love also had a QB hurry and a tackle for loss himself. But both players were constantly disrupting the Lions' offense, and especially their quarterbacks.
 

  • Third down defense

Once again the Bills' third down defense was exceptional, as it has been the entire preseason. The Lions only converted 2-of-13 third down chances (15%), including getting shut out on them in the first half, going 0-for-7.

 

ARROW DOWN

  • QB - Josh Allen

Allen reverted back to bad habits we saw too often his rookie season, deciding to pull the ball down and run too early, then throwing the ball across his body to the middle of the field, which resulted in an interception. Lucky for him, he was bailed out on because of a roughing the passer call. He finished the night just 3-for-6 for 49 yards passing.

 

  • P - Corey Bojorquez

With Cory Carter out, Bojorquez didn’t exactly take hold of the punting competition. His first two punts each traveled only about 40 yards in the air with not much hang time. The Lions started both drives at their own 37-yard line. Even with two players competing for the job, it’s possible the Bills' opening day punter isn’t even on their roster right now.
 

  • Ball security

The Bills fumbled the ball four times, and lost two of them. It started with Cole Beasley coughing it up after he made a nice catch on third down. Then Matt Barkley lost it as he was preparing to throw. Victor Bolden fumbled away a kickoff, while Isaiah McKenzie also put one on the ground. That’s just sloppy and careless football.
 

  • Penalties

Three games, three times penalties appears in the Arrow Down column. Let’s hope the officials are just calling things tighter than usual and not as they will in the regular season, because the Bills have committed far too many penalties this preseason, including a whopping 12 for 106 yards in this one.
 

  • Fourth down defense

Twice the Bills' defense allowed the Lions to convert on fourth down, and on one of them, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed an 11-yard touchdown on 4th-and-3.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

The biggest goal of any team in preseason game No. 3 is to get out without any major injuries. We’re not even sure if the Bills did that because guard Quinton Spain left the game on a cart, having his ankle examined. Cornerback Tre’Davious White left the game and didn’t return after suffering a thigh contusion, which hopefully means he’ll be ok. If Spain’s injury isn’t long-term, that will be a sigh of relief. If it is, the Bills have to continue their offensive line shuffle, as they have all preseason, and find yet another solution to an injury. 

Josh Allen didn’t play well. He has to learn not to play backyard football and stop making the worst of decisions at the worst of times. That’s something he appeared to overcome through the first two exhibition games, but popped-up again Friday night. It looked to me like offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called plays specifically to evaluate the running game, as opposed to giving Allen a bunch of throws like he did the first two games, and without any real game-planning, which obviously also impacts Allen and the passing game.

Defensively, there were a few more breakdowns than we’ve been used to the first two weeks, but the Bills finally faced another team’s actual starting quarterback for the first time this preseason. Overall, though, they made the necessary stops when they had to and played well. As the game went on, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier dialed up a few extra blitzes, most likely to evaluate certain players’ abilities to do that.

One more preseason game. Thursday night at home against the Minnesota Vikings.

Two days after that game, the Bills (and every other team) have to trim their roster down to 53 players. There are still a lot of battles going on for those spots, particularly on the offense. By next Sunday, we’ll know who the Bills will be taking with them to New Jersey to play the Jets in Week 1. 

That can’t get here soon enough. 

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports​

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