It wasn't head coach Chan Gailey's intent to play his starters terribly long in their preseason finale. Bills cornerback Drayton Florence did his best to make it an early night for the first team defense. On the third play from scrimmage Florence jumped a Matt Stafford pass intended for Calvin Johnson and took it back 40 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game, in what wound up being a 28-23 loss to the Lions in their final preseason contest.
"They were going into hurry-up offense, we were playing Cover 2, I was playing off about 10 yards or so," said Florence. "He threw the hitch and I jumped it. It felt great. I needed this. I wanted to end the preseason on a good note. It's good to go into the regular season knowing I can make plays like that."
Gailey planned to give his starters on both sides of the ball 12-14 plays, and after the first team offense orchestrated a 13-play 65-yard scoring drive, the night for Trent Edwards and company was over.
"I thought our first groups went out there and did okay," said Gailey. "Not great, but okay. It was great to get an interception to score. That was big."
Edwards went 4-4 for 66 yards including a 50-yard bomb to Lee Evans, who made a remarkable catch to get the Bills out from under their own goal posts.
"It's a 'go' ball to Lee," Edwards said. "He's the type of guy where you have to put some air under it and he'll go make a play. He's done that for his entire career. I just have to be comfortable, feel the rush up front, and deliver the ball where it needs to be. Lee can go up and make plays like that."
The drive was slowed after a pair of negative plays put them in a 3rd-and-20 situation, but Rian Lindell came through with a 47-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
"We wanted to run the ball and throw a couple deep (passes)," said Edwards. "I think we accomplished that on the first drive. Chan said were going to get around 12 plays and we put together a 13-play drive. In terms of what we were looking for, it was a good way to start the game."
While Buffalo's defense held firm forcing five punts on Detroit's first six possessions, Brian Brohm and the second unit put together a pair of field goal drives that covered eight and five plays respectively. Lindell hit field goal attempts at the end of those two series from 50 and 41 yards pushing Buffalo's lead to 16-0 with five minutes left in the half.
"It would have been better to get in a little bit more rhythm with the offense," said Brohm. "We had some drives stall out there. We were able to get quite a few first downs, but that's not the name of the game. The name of the game is scoring points. I definitely feel like we should've scored some more points."
Brohm didn't get a lot of help from his teammates as he was the victim of some dropped passes and some inconsistent protection.
"In the second half we couldn't block anybody," said Gailey. "They're strong on the defensive front, first, second, however many groups they've got, they're strong, but it was an awful display by our offensive line at times out there. We've got to shore that up in every respect."
Detroit's only scoring opportunity of the first half came off a turnover when a Brian Brohm pass deflected off intended receiver J.P. Foschi and was intercepted by Ashlee Palmer. The Lions linebacker returned the interception to the Bills 14-yard line.
The Lions eventually punched the ball over the goal line from a yard out after an offsides penalty gave Detroit a fresh set of downs in goal-to-go territory, making it 16-7 at the half.
Brohm led a pair of drives in the second half as well, but both ended with punts. He ended the night 7-15 passing for 78 yards and an interception. He also finished as the team's leading rusher with four rushes for 34 yards.
"A few times I stepped up and I kind of opened up a lane and they were playing deep so I had plenty of room to run so I took off and got what I could get," said Brohm.
Detroit staged a second half comeback when both sides had their reserve units in the game. DeDe Dorsey scored on a 25-yard touchdown reception from Drew Stanton to pull the Lions to within two late in the third quarter (16-14).
In the fourth quarter the Lions added a 16-yard touchdown catch by Derrick Williams from Stanton to take their first lead of the game with 11 minutes left (21-16), and Detroit's defense would add a touchdown of their own soon after.
With the Bills threatening to score in a goal-to-go situation, Levi Brown's 3rd-and-goal pass from the four-yard line was intercepted by Paul Pratt in the Lions end zone. The Lions' cornerback then returned it 102 yards for a touchdown to put the game away with six minutes remaining (28-16).
"I thought I could've thrown the ball a lot better than I did," said Brown. "I was really inaccurate on a few of them. The interception I had was just an awful throw. It was an easy throw and I could throw it 100 more times and hit it every time, but for some reason I just missed it. There was a couple like that where I missed and I shouldn't have."
Brown also had a 74-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy nullified by a holding penalty. He finished the game 10-18 for 92 yards and an INT.
Buffalo closed out the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run by Chad Simpson with under a minute remaining to make the final 28-23.
NOTESOther defensive standouts in addition to Florence in the secondary were Reggie Corner and Ashton Youboty who each had a pair of pass breakups. Keith Ellison had a fumble recovery and finished as the team's leading tackler.
C.J. Spiller did not play in the game as head coach Chan Gailey chose to rest the back after taking on a heavy workload the past two weeks with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch out injured.
Marshawn Lynch started, but finding yards proved tough. He finished with five carries for two yards.
Right tackle Cornell Green did not play. He was replaced by Jamon Meredith in the starting lineup.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did not play, but that was a coach's decision after he saw more time in the game last week against the Bengals than Brohm.
Final roster cuts are Saturday, Sept. 4 when the roster must be reduced to 53, with a league deadline of 6 pm. The practice squad will be assembled a day later.