It wasn't the finish the Bills were looking for to their preseason. Absent almost all of their starters from the outset with head coach Doug Marrone choosing to sit them including quarterback Jeff Tuel, turnovers put Buffalo behind early in a lopsided loss to Detroit 35-13.
"The one thing that is disappointing is what has been hurting us for a long period of time is the turnover ratio," said Marrone. "When you give up three turnovers close in the red zone on your side of the 50 then really you're giving them 21 points. Then you have a personal foul which leads to another touchdown, it's very difficult to overcome those things and win games. I told the team we are not going to be that football team."
The Lions jumped out to a 21-0 first-half lead thanks in large part to giveaways by the Bills deep in their own territory. Matt Leinart, who got the start for Buffalo after signing with the club last weekend, was intercepted on a third down pass over the middle by Bill Bentley inside the Buffalo 13-yard line. Bentley returned it to the eight-yard line.
One play later Patrick Edwards got around T.J. Heath after pulling in a pass from Shaun Hill in the left flat and ran the remaining eight yards for the score (7-0).
On Detroit's ensuing drive Hill tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Kris Durham to cap a nine-play 68-yard drive to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.
The lead ballooned to 21-0 after Leinart threw his second interception. On a 3rd-and-8 from Buffalo's own nine-yard line, Leinart was picked off by Rashean Mathis on a pass intended for Marcus Easley. Mathis returned it to the Bills 23-yard line.
Again the Lions needed just one play as Joique Bell took a hand-off the distance 23 yards for a score and a three touchdown advantage with 12 minutes left in the half.
For Leinart it was a subpar performance as he was pulled from the game after that drive. He went 3-for-10 passing for 11 yards and two interceptions.
"I will not sit here and make any excuses," said Leinart. "I could have played better and I didn't, and you just move on. I was hoping maybe to get in there in the second half and redeem myself. But you can't turn the ball over in this league and expect to win. It's tough, but I was thankful to be here. We'll see what happens. Obviously, after that performance, it can't be anything good, I wouldn't think but we'll see."
"Just struggling a little bit," said Marrone of Leinart. "It's not a great situation, but it is an opportunity. Now how fair it may be; the situation has dictated it. So that's probably just about it. We would like to have had them for a few more days, but that's not how everything played out with the injuries."
Dustin Hopkins put a 38-yard field goal through the uprights midway through the second quarter after Thad Lewis relieved Leinart at quarterback (21-3).
Detroit kept pouring on the points as third-string quarterback Kellen Moore moved the Lions offense with efficiency capping a seven-play 81-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick after a previous touchdown pass was reversed after review.
Before the half was over Buffalo committed their third turnover as undrafted rookie Nickell Robey muffed a punt at his own 15-yard line. The Lions recovered at the Bills 10-yard line. It was the second straight week that Robey muffed a punt inside his own 20.
Detroit needed just three plays to find the end zone as Moore hit Riddick again with a four-yard touchdown pass (35-3).
"We're evaluating some of the guys out there to make this football team and what you have is 21 points off of turnovers and a penalty that leads to another touchdown," said Marrone. "Again, we should've played much better and that's a concern."
Buffalo could only manage a field goal drive in the third quarter as Hopkins was good on a 36-yard attempt to finish a 12-play 52-yard drive (35-6).
The Bills finally found the end zone with 7:35 left, when Lewis hit Marcus Easley deep down the right sideline on a go route on a 1st-and-10 play from their own 21-yard line. Easley outran his defender to the end zone for a 79-yard scoring play (35-13).
"It's a credit to Thad," said Easley. "He gave me a beautiful pass. I just took my time with my route. It was a slant and go. The DB played way off. I just took my time once I broke the slant. Once I saw him commit to the slant I just broke and took it up field and Thad put the ball where it needed to be."
Lewis outplayed Leinart in the game and is the likely third quarterback for Buffalo for the interim knowing Kevin Kolb is out indefinitely with a concussion. He finished 7-16 passing for 132 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team's leading rusher with seven carries for 51 yards.
"I felt like I did OK, with just three days of preparation and not much installation going in," said Lewis. "Just trying to make the best of every situation that you had, I think me and the guys out there we did the best we could do."
Penalties were again a problem for the Bills as they committed nine in the game.
Buffalo finished the preseason with a record of 2-2. They also sustained some injuries with Marquise Goodwin (eye), Brad Smith (ribs) and Doug Legursky (knee) all leaving the game.