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Bills' rookies stand out in their first taste of NFL action 


The Buffalo Bills' rookies certainly won't forget the time they suited up for their first NFL game. In fact, all three of the Bills' touchdowns were scored by rookies in the team's 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Running back Raheem Blackshear scored twice while linebacker Terrel Bernard had a 69-yard fumble return TD. Blackshear's emergence helped the Bills erase a 24-10 second half deficit as he finished the night with 60 receiving yards and 11 rushing yards. Bernard recorded the team's first touchdown of the preseason after he scooped up a fumble forced by Boogie Basham. 

For head coach Sean McDermott, he noticed several more rookies have standout performances, including CBs Kaiir Elam, Terrel Bernard and WR Khalil Shakir. 

"Overall, I think early on Kaiir and Christian were out there and -- they're playing on opposite sides, -- but it looked like they were holding their own out there and doing some good things," McDermott said. "You saw Blackshear at the end, he gave us some juice. (Bernard) had the touchdown there on defense, which was fun to watch." 

Shakir knew he was in the NFL when he was called into action early on in the game. The coaching staff called a run play and for the receiver, it was all about making contact with an opponent again to get his mindset focused on the task at hand.

"When we got out there, first play was a run play, got in there and hit somebody, then I kind of snapped into it and it's time to go," Shakir said. "Just the preparation that we've been doing throughout all the camp and everything kind of set up the moment for tonight and it was a blessing to be out there."

Shakir was the team's top target throughout, and he ended the night with 92 receiving yards on five catches. Quarterback Case Keenum started the game for the Bills and looked Shakir's way often in the first half.

"He's available, he's in the right spots at the right times and makes contested catches and he's explosive with the ball in his hands," Keenum said. "He's got a bright future."

As for the performances from the rookie cornerbacks, they went up against some of the Colts' starters as QB Matt Ryan started the game under center. Nearly all of the Colts' starters on offense played in the game outside of running back Jonathan Taylor. Benford and Elam both agreed that regardless of who they were lined up against, they were just excited to be out there competing with their teammates.

"I was just looking forward to whoever was out there," Elam said. "Matt Ryan is obviously a good quarterback and has a heck of a career, but I was just so excited to be out there and really just cherish the moment. And also make sure I did my part to help the team win."

"Regardless of who's lined up against me, I just wanted to show them that Christian Bedford can ball just like them," Benford added. "And regardless of where I came from FCS, Baltimore, it doesn't matter. I just wanted to show that I can do what I can do."

Benford has wanted to have the opportunity since he was a kid to play in the NFL, so when the time came for kickoff, it was nothing but a joyous feeling.

 "It wasn't no fear, it wasn't no timid, it wasn't no scariness," Benford said. "It was straight joy and happiness. I'm playing a kid's game and lining up against one of the best."

 Their eagerness to stay on the field stood out to as McDermott shared that neither of the two cornerbacks wanted to be taken out of the game. 

"These are the things you don't always see or hear; he (Bernard) had a chance to tap out the next kickoff coverage and he's like, 'No, I got it,'" McDermott said. "That says a lot about a young man in terms of wanting to be out there and wanting to do everything he can to help the team and taking advantages of all the opportunities they get." 

Even though the rookies are looking ahead to what's next and are focused on improving areas of their game for the next time they take the field, tonight's game will be one to remember.

"It was something I can cherish for the rest of my life," Elam said. "Something I'll never take for granted. Probably remember this game when I'm 90 years old."

Scroll to see the best photos from the Bills' preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Highmark Stadium.

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