1 – Peterman, McCarron sharp, Allen excites
Nathan Peterman got the start on Thursday night, and to say he was prepared would be an understatement. Peterman came out firing on the opening drive as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll let the second-year quarterback go to the air on seven of the first eight plays.
All Peterman did was go 7-for-7 passing for 75 yards, capping the drive with a 28-yard strike to Kelvin Benjamin for a touchdown.
"Being able to throw the ball, you know they have a great front seven that we knew was going to be tough against the run," said Peterman. "So we wanted to get on the perimeter and make plays."
Peterman found Benjamin four times on the opening drive for 59 yards. In addition to the touchdown, Peterman converted a 3rd-and-7 to keep the drive alive when he rolled out to avoid pressure and found his big wideout along the sideline.
Peterman also completed the first two passes of his second drive to go 9-for-9 before a pass went off the hands of Chris Ivory and was intercepted by Shaq Thompson.
"Yeah that interception," he said. "You know there's always something to learn from. I'm never going to play the perfect game, but I'm always going to strive for that."
He finished 9-of-10 passing for 119 yards with a TD and interception and a passer rating of 110.
McCarron's night didn't get off to the fast start that Peterman's did as he was sacked on his first play from scrimmage, but the former Bengal bounced back. Two plays later he found Rod Streater for a 19-yard pickup. Later on, his first drive he converted a 3rd-and-7 when he found Jeremy Kerley in the middle of a zone defense for a 16-yard gain.
Unfortunately for him in a five-wide look on a 3rd-and-2 from the Panthers eight-yard line, McCarron couldn't find anyone open and scrambled for no gain. Buffalo had to settle for a 26-yard field goal.
McCarron finished 7-of-10 passing for 116 yards on the night with a passer rating of 108.8.
With Peterman and McCarron in the lineup the offense went 5-of-6 on third down conversions in the first half.
Josh Allen got the entire second half and put his elite arm strength on display. His first pass traveled almost 60 yards through the air but carried his intended target Robert Foster out of bounds. In the fourth quarter, he had Foster open deep again, but the pass was just out of Foster's reach. Had he pulled it in it would've gone for a touchdown.
Allen did execute a two-minute drill for a touchdown when he fired a bullet into Ray-Ray McCloud for a 14-yard score with just over a minute remaining. The rookie went 9-for-19 passing for 116 yards and a TD.
"I thought all three guys certainly have things to work on, but I thought all three did some really good things," said head coach Sean McDermott. "All three of them threw for a touchdown which is good from a confidence standpoint, if nothing else. All three moved the ball at times. I loved the energy around all three. That's one of the pluses coming out of the game."
2 – Daboll's offense extremely varied
Although Bills offensive coordinator was big on throwing early against the Panthers, there didn't appear to be the same look twice on the opening drive or for much of the game.
Daboll was constantly changing formations and personnel groupings, and to the players' credit they handled all the substitutions quite well. A delay of game and false start were the only pre-snap penalties in the first half.
"I liked his feel and his rhythm in the first half in particular," said McDermott of Daboll's play-calling. "Sometimes that comes with more reps and I think Brian is off to a good start as far as that goes. You see him moving personnel."
Carolina's defense was off balance for stretches and caught in some unfavorable matchups in pass defense.
"That's a good defense over there. They have some good players and it was good to see us move the ball early in the game."
The Bills quarterbacks are also pretty excited about the varied and unpredictable approach of Daboll's play calling.
"We've been doing a good job in practice of getting in and out of the huddle and putting guys in position to make plays," said Josh Allen. "Coach Daboll has been huge on that. Just getting to the line and making sure they can't adjust to whatever we've got out there. It's fun to see. It's fun to be out there in this offense and I'm enjoying myself."
It's clear that Buffalo's offense will also be making heavy use of the middle of the field. Daboll frequently had passing targets filling the middle of the field and all three quarterbacks have shown an ability to hit those targets.
Daboll's offense keys on mismatches and being multi-dimensional. It was both on Thursday night.
3 – D-line getting hands up and stuffing run
In training camp there have been a lot of coaching of the fundamentals by Buffalo's staff. One new coaching point by new defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck is for his defensive linemen to get their hands up as they close on the pass rush.
That was evident Thursday night. Shaq Lawson, who has had a handful of batted passes in training camp, got one in the first quarter. Fellow defensive end Eddie Yarbrough tipped a pass as well late in the second quarter.
"There are a lot of different ways to affect the quarterback. That's one of them," said McDermott. "If you can't get there you've got to get your hands up. I like what we're teaching as far as that goes. You see the dividends a little bit in practice and (in the game) with knocking some passes down. That's important. There are a lot of ways to affect the quarterback in terms of his vision. Even if you can't knock it down, you change the arm angle of the quarterback or you get in the vision of the quarterback, that's important for us."
Buffalo's defensive front also looked improved against the run. The Bills allowed just 53 yards rushing on 26 carries to average just two yards per carry. Their only blemish was a rushing touchdown by C.J. Anderson from four yards out.
Coach McDermott said he felt the defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage at times and was unable to establish the line of scrimmage at other points in the game.
Photos from Buffalo's first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.