If you only looked at Tyler Thigpen's stat line following Buffalo's 38-32 preseason loss to the Lions you'd have thought that the quarterback struggled in his final audition to secure the backup job to Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Thigpen's 18-3 passing performance Thursday night left his head coach with some thinking to do.
"Tyler played good," said Chan Gailey. "He did. He made it tough. It was all on the line, so he did a good job."
"There at first we were kind of shaky a little bit, but we got things going, started clicking with a lot of guys," said Thigpen. "It was nice to get some extended time and get out there and get in that rhythm."
Thigpen and the second team offense went three-and-out on their first series, with a false start not helping things. On the next possession Thigpen, on a 2nd-and-7 pass to the left for Derek Hagan, had his hand struck by a defensive lineman as he released the ball. It ended up floating out to the flat where Lions cornerback Jonte' Green grabbed the ball out of the air and took it the other way for a 23-yard touchdown return.
From there Thigpen and the rest of the offensive unit began to settle down finally putting together a field goal drive at the end of the first half going 63 yards on 11 plays to make it 28-10 at the half.
We came in the locker room and were down 28-10 or whatever it was and I said to the guys, 'They put up 28, we can put up 28.' We cdame out here as an offense and first drive marched it down the field and scored. Next drive we scored so we were right back in it. We knew what we were capable of and started firing on all cylinders."
"We came in the locker room and were down and I said to the guys, 'They put up 28, we can put up 28,'" said Thigpen.
Quickly the Bills hung two touchdowns on the board on back-to-back drives with Thigpen capping one of them with a four-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson.
"I saw press cover one on the outside and right from the snap the free safety went to the right so I didn't want to go that way and I saw one-on-one with Dorin with a linebacker and that's a matchup we like and he beat him to the corner. He did a great job of catching it and pulling it down."
On the three scoring drives led by Thigpen he went 10-14 passing for 107 yards.
"We came out here as an offense and first drive marched it down the field and scored," he said. "Next drive we scored so we were right back in it. We knew what we were capable of and started firing on all cylinders."
Thigpen's main adversary in the competition to be Fitzpatrick's backup just arrived in town this past Monday and managed just a series of work in the middle of the fourth quarter. Tarvaris Jackson's first snap was a fumbled exchange. On second down he handed off to Johnny White for a two-yard gain. On 3rd-and-8 Jackson dropped back to pass, but wound up scrambling for five yards to set up 4th-and-3. Looking for Roosevelt on the play, Jackson appeared to put too much air under the ball and it was picked off by Detroit.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who watched the game unfold from the sidelines, after leading the opening touchdown drive, doesn't envy Gailey's position.
"That's the job of a head coach," said Fitzpatrick. "He's got to make the tough decisions and figure out what's best for our team. But for us we obviously trust him 100 percent and we're all behind him whatever he decides to do."
Gailey wouldn't rule out carrying four quarterbacks having never been in this situation before with a new arrival. He also indicated after the game that Brad Smith's groin injury was not expected to alter the decision making at quarterback.
As for how Thigpen intends to handle the hours leading up to final cuts, the quarterback knows with the preseason over it's no longer up to him.
"I guess (it will be) hectic for me, but those are the things where they're in those positions and make those decisions," he said. "For me I just wanted to go out there and put on a good performance. Like coach said you're going out and playing for yourself. You're playing for the team the Buffalo Bills, but what you put on film is for 31 other teams. I was very fortunate to get that opportunity."
Final cuts to pare the roster down to 53 players must be made by 9 pm Friday.