It wasn't necessarily the start the Bills were looking for to their 2012 campaign in their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. Buffalo's first team offense had trouble moving the football as they employed a no huddle approach. And though the first team defense got a takeaway as well as a three-and-out early they also surrendered a long touchdown drive in what wound up being a 7-6 loss Thursday night.
Ryan Fitzpatrick orchestrated a no huddle look on offense with the quarterback calling the plays. Fitzpatrick would throw on all 14 plays run by the first team, completing six of them for 61 yards, as the Washington defense sat in a base 3-4. It prompted Fitzpatrick to empty the backfield and try to exploit mismatches in the pass game.
"We wanted to get in the no-huddle and spread the ball around a bit," said Fitzpatrick. "We did not do a very good job executing. It is the first preseason game for us and so we knew there was going to be some sloppy stuff. There was no game plan. We just wanted to go out there and try to get it figured out on the field and we were not real successful."
"What it was was a great lesson in our lack of discipline at this point," said head coach Chan Gailey. "We saw where we were there, and the other thing was it was great to see all the pressure. We knew they were going to bring pressure and we've got to see how we can handle that because we're going to get a ton of it when we get to our empty packages and four wide and three wides packages. We'll learn a lot from it."
The Bills defense got off to strong start stoning the Redskins' first two run plays before a third down incompletion led to a three-and-out for Robert Griffin III and Washington's offense.
Griffin then bobbled a snap on the Redskins' second possession that was recovered by George Wilson at the Washington 21-yard line. The Buffalo offense couldn't convert the takeaway into a touchdown as the Bills went backwards losing four yards on a four-play drive forcing them to settle for a 43-yard field goal from Rian Lindell and an early 3-0 lead.
"It was frustrating all night," said Fitzpatrick. We wish we would've been more productive and done things better, but you chalk it up to a learning experience and hope everybody comes out healthy and you move on."
Washington had an immediate response as Griffin hit Pierre Garcon for pass plays of 20, 18 and 20 yards for a touchdown on a receiver screen to stake the Redskins to a 7-3 first half lead.
"We have a long way to go, but I think it went well," said Kyle Williams of the starting defense. "We had that one sloppy drive there. And then on the touchdown we did not get the correct outside leverage to be able to stop the screen. We did some things to hurt ourselves, but other than that one drive I thought it went well."
For the rest of the half both offenses struggled to move the ball. Buffalo's punt team did a masterful job of pinning the Redskins deep in their own territory handing them drive starts of their own 12, own four and own one-yard line.
"Overall we played pretty well on special teams," said Gailey. "I felt we were good there. We had some guys trying to make the football team and they took a good step forward to get that done."
The Bills offense in turn had good field position including one at the Washington 38 midway through the second quarter. Tyler Thigpen, who ran the second team offense, hit T.J. Graham for a 21-yard gain to set up 1st-and-10 at the Washington 17. Then Thigpen made the first and only third down conversion of the half for Buffalo on a six-yard pass to Ruvell Martin to set up 1st-and-goal at the three. The offense went 1-7 on third down conversions in the half.
The Bills however, could not punch the ball over the goal line getting six attempts to do so after a Washington holding penalty gave them a fresh set of downs. Eventually the Bills lined up for a 22-yard field goal, but Lindell mis-hit the ball as it hooked awkwardly wide of the left upright.
In the second half Vince Young tried to jumpstart the third string offense, but the Bills third-string unit struggled with penalties putting them in difficult down and distance situations.
Early in the fourth quarter however, Young and the offense was able to overcome three penalties on a 15-play drive culminating in a 45-yard field goal by Lindell to pull Buffalo to within a point (7-6), but it would prove to be all the points they could muster.
Buffalo's second and third offensive units were plagued by penalties as the Bills had a total of 14 for 134 yards in the game.
"It looked ugly, it felt ugly, it was ugly," said Gailey. "But I think we'll learn from it and get better from it. We get to go back to work Saturday and that's what we plan to do."
The Bills hit the road for their next preseason game in Minnesota where they'll face the Vikings on Friday Aug. 17 for an 8 pm kickoff.
StandoutsMarcell Dareus and Kyle Williams looked explosive off the ball on the interior and put up a stout run front on the interior. Both had plays where they knifed into the offensive backfield and disrupted plays.
Ron Brooks had a solid debut performance registering an interception, three pass breakups and a pair of tackles.
T.J. Graham made three receptions for 37 yards and looked comfortable in his first NFL game. He was the team's leading wideout in the game.
Four of Brian Moorman's five punts were downed inside the 20.
Rookie kickoff specialist John Potter had three touchbacks.