1. Singletary solid in debut
On a night when LeSean McCoy got the day off and Frank Gore got minimal work, rookie Devin Singletary had the opportunity to carry the load.
Suffice to say the player nicknamed ‘Motor’ was the engine for Buffalo’s offense on their first scoring drive.
Following a pair of one-yard carries late in the first quarter, Singletary was either handed the ball or the target on a pass play on seven of the first eight plays.
All the rookie back did was roll up 16 yards on four carries and 21 yards on three receptions. He also converted three of those seven plays into first downs including a 2nd-and-8 and a 3rd-and-1.
Singletary’s trademark elusiveness and ability to make positive gains in tight spaces were on display Thursday night.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” said Singletary. “All I really had to do was run. The line opened up some holes for me, so I just had to make some moves and get what I could get.”
Singletary made good decisions in finding creases in the run game, which was a staple of his skill set at Florida Atlantic. He also continued to demonstrate his capabilities in the passing game, despite not being asked to do much receiving out of the backfield in college.
In hearing that Frank Gore called him, ‘a natural,’ Singletary wasn’t going to disagree with a future Hall of Famer.
“Definitely coming from Frank that’s major,” said Singletary. “If he says I’m a natural, I guess I’m a natural.”
The scoring drive was finished off with a Matt Barkley touchdown pass to Cam Phillips, but Singletary accounted for 37 of the 46 yards on the scoring drive.
“It felt good to get back in the groove of things,” said Singletary. “I haven’t been in pads or played against an opponent since November so it was fun.”
More importantly, Singletary made a case for being a contributor to the offense despite sitting behind LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore on the running back depth chart.
“Overall, both in the run and the pass game I thought he did a good job,” said head coach Sean McDermott of Singletary. “Some of the things you look for is that it’s not too big for some of these young guys and he looked into the game and focused.”
2. Defense stingy from the jump
Taking into account that the Indianapolis Colts were without starting QB Andrew Luck, Buffalo’s defense was on point Thursday night.
In fairness, the Bills did not play Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Micah Hyde or nickel corner Taron Johnson.
But Buffalo’s defensive front locked things down from the very beginning. Trent Murphy and Star Lotulelei were causing problems up front with a tipped pass and pressure off the edge. And Jordan Poyer and Shaq Lawson teamed up for a tackle for loss.
Even when the second team defense came in for the next series the results were largely the same. After teaming up with Corey Thompson on a tackle for no gain, rookie Darryl Johnson got pressure on the QB Jacoby Brissett to force an incompletion on third down.
“I love the intensity that we brought,” said Thompson. “We came with it. We have some things to correct, but we played fast. We played physical. It was a good start.”
Johnson would add a sack on a 3rd-and-6 to force another punt and Dean Marlowe came up with an interception to set the offense up with a drive start in the red zone.
“It’s awesome,” said Johnson. “My boy Jordan Phillips and I had great communication on that play. He called high and went high and I just came underneath him and made the play. It’s a great feeling, but I’ve got to build off of that. I had some good plays, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Buffalo’s third down defense proved to be the most consistent part of their performance. Indianapolis did not post a third down conversion until 1:48 left in the first half when Jonathan Williams got six yards on a 3rd-and-1 carry.
By halftime Buffalo’s offense had outgained the Colts offense by almost a 3:1 margin with 235 total net yards to Indy’s 85.
“We had a couple of different situations that came up in the game whether it was a short field,” said McDermott. “I thought we did a good job of keeping them off the board and keeping them out of the end one. Red zone defense was particularly strong in the first half and most of the way through the third as well. That was good to see.”
3. Wade’s dream comes true
Bills RB and International player allocation Christian Wade gave up a very successful professional rugby career to try his hand at American football. Though he’s deep on a depth chart of talented NFL running backs that include LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, Wade made the most of his opportunity Thursday night.
Wade took a fourth quarter hand-off at the Bills 35-yard line, found a cutback lane and the race to the end zone was over quickly.
The converted rugby star reached the end zone untouched for a 65-yard touchdown on the first carry of his NFL career.
“It was crazy,” said Wade. “To me, the way I was instructed in training I learned about the reads and what to do if this happens. I knew where I was going before the ball came to me because they overloaded the one side and I said to myself, ‘I’m definitely going over there.’ As soon as I got the ball I was off to the races. I was looking up at the screen to see if any of the linebackers were coming up behind me and was just trying to get to the end zone.”
He was mobbed by teammates in the end zone and then on the sideline, which erupted as he sprinted to the end zone.
“A great moment for Christian Wade,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “And great energy by our team showing their appreciation for him. Just a neat moment. Whether it’s the NFL, college, high school, pee wee football, it was a special moment.”
Wade was awarded the game ball in the locker room after the game.