1. McCoy, Gore get ground game going
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said both LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore would see more action in the Lions game and it gave the veteran backs a chance to get in a rhythm in the ground game.
Though the offense got off to a slow start it wasn’t due to Buffalo’s backs. There wasn’t a single carry that did not go for positive yardage as McCoy and Gore combined for 94 yards on 14 carries to average 6.7 yards per carry.
“It’s like what I said back in college, if we do our job these backs will run all day long and that’s all we can do is our job,” said Cody Ford. “We definitely came in with the mindset that we were going to run the ball. It was a challenge up front and we accepted the challenge and we wanted to come out here and prove we could do what we’ve been working on.”
Gore and McCoy alternated series in the early going, but the two were both utilized on the team’s first two touchdown drives.
On a drive that bridged the first and second quarters, Gore had back-to-back carries of six and four yards before busting a run off left tackle for 27 yards. After taking a late hit out of bounds, the Bills had a 1st-and-goal situation at the Lions seven-yard line.
McCoy came on and gained a yard, before Isaiah McKenzie took a jet sweep to the front right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Buffalo’s second touchdown drive saw Gore roll up 14 yards on three carries, Josh Allen scramble for another seven before McCoy ripped off a 21-yard run to set up a first-and-goal at the nine-yard line.
The rookie, Devin Singletary came on after McCoy’s long run and took a carry around the right side for a nine-yard touchdown run.
“The emphasis in this game was to come out and run,” said left tackle Dion Dawkins. “It started off slow, but the chains kept turning and the oil kept sliding and we were good. We wish we could’ve had a better start, but as long as we stuck together, which is what we did, we set that thing off.”
All told Buffalo’s run game averaged seven yards a carry in the first half with 126 yards on 18 rushes.
“It feels great. Our O-line and our O-line coach have been doing a great job. We’ve been working all camp. That’s one thing we want to improve from last year is run the ball,” said Gore. “I feel like we have a bunch of great backs in our room and we’re all competing and we’re all making each other better. As long as we keep competing in a good way we’ll help the team.”
“I’m just glad that we all did it together,” said Dawkins. “As long as we stay together and keep playing as one it’ll be an exciting year.”
2. Quinton Spain and Tre’Davious White injured
There’s always a risk of injury anytime your team takes the field, and the Bills were not immune against the Lions.
The biggest scare was seeing starting cornerback Tre’Davious White lying motionless on the sideline after a pass play in the Bills red zone fell incomplete.
White got twisted up in coverage along the left sideline on the play and took a shot to his right thigh. He did get up to his feet after being examined by team physicians and athletic trainers. A short time later he had his right thigh wrapped in ice and was diagnosed with a thigh contusion. He was declared out for the game at halftime, though he stayed with his teammates on the sideline.
Buffalo also lost starting left guard Quinton Spain to an ankle injury that required him to eventually be carted to the locker room in the first half of Friday’s game.
He was injured at the tail end of the first quarter on the first play of the Bills’ fourth possession. He pulled out to the left on a run play to lead Frank Gore to the corner and got rolled up at the end of the play as a Lions defender fell on his lower right leg.
No prognosis was available after the game, but coach McDermott who also saw Frank Gore and Levi Wallace exit the game briefly before returning a short time later, was a bit uneasy seeing players leave the field.
“We try to be very calculated about it,” said McDermott on how much to play important players in the preseason. “At the same time get accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished, but yeah I was holding my breath there.”
All Wallace had was the wind knocked out of him and he returned to the game on the next series. Gore did as well after shaking off a cheap shot he took after he was out of bounds that drew a flag.
Buffalo plugged second-year lineman Ike Boettger in at left guard to replace Spain.
Spain was one of the few linemen not to succumb to injury this summer as the line has seen Mitch Morse (concussion protocol), Conor McDermott (concussion protocol) and Ty Nsekhe (knee) all miss time this preseason. Those three linemen were all inactive Friday night.
3. Ball security and penalties an issue
The Bills had trouble holding onto the ball in Friday night’s game. Cole Beasley made a catch on a crossing route and had a first down early in the game, but had the ball punched out from behind and Detroit recovered at the Bills 27-yard line.
Fortunately, Buffalo’s defense held the Lions to a field goal.
Later in the first half Victor Bolden fumbled on a kick return and Detroit recovered at the Bills 18-yard line. Again the defense came through forcing a turnover on downs.
“I think that’s one of the biggest parts that we wanted to work on this year was red area and third down,” said Wallace. “I think we did pretty good. There’s still room for improvement, but we definitely took a step.”
Before the half was over there was a third fumble as Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt, but recovered the ball. Coach McDermott was not happy with the lack of ball security as the team has now lost at least one fumble in each of their first three preseason games.
“The turnovers the penalties, you can’t do that,” he said. “We’ve got to learn from that if we want to move forward here.”
Buffalo was coming off a game in Carolina where they committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, but most of them came in the second half and were committed by second and third teamers.
McDermott wanted things cleaned up, but the Bills were flagged a preseason-high six times in the first half for six holding calls. There were four more holding calls in the second half as well.
“I would say it’s concerning regardless of who is out there,” McDermott said. “For as much as we talk about it and work on it, obviously we need to make some adjustments, in terms of getting in better position and playing with better technique. So yeah, much improvement is needed.”
NFL officials have been instructed to place an emphasis on holding this season and they weren’t shy in throwing the flag.
Four of Buffalo’s holding calls came on special teams as the punt return unit was flagged all four times. One wiped out a punt return by Ray-Ray McCloud that covered 38 yards.
Four other holding calls came on offense with two on defense. It wasn’t until the beginning of the fourth quarter that the Bills drew a flag for something besides holding, when they were called for a false start on offense.
“It’s definitely something we can learn from,” said McDermott. “It’s also some young players, but they can learn from it. It’s important that we play good complementary football and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties. We’ve got a lot of work to do on that.”
All told Buffalo was flagged a preseason high 12 times for 106 yards.
Scroll through to see photos from all the action during Buffalo's preseason Week 3 game against the Detroit Lions on the road.