The Buffalo Bills brought as much drama as possible to a preseason game, besting the Detroit Lions, 16-15, in Week 1 of preseason action. Buffalo ruined Dan Campbell’s head coaching debut for the Lions, as Tyler Bass’s 44-yard field goal with 19 seconds left ended up being the difference.
The first exhibition game for the Bills game gave an opportunity for several depth players to flash their skills and challenge for a depth spot on the roster. Buffalo rested several starters, including Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerry Hughes, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde.
The good news: Many of the reserves who should make Buffalo’s final roster kept Detroit off-balance when they were on the field. In particular, the Bills defense limited any meaningful progress by the Lions offense in the first half. When this group was pushed back, they still refused to concede a touchdown.
The Lions managed only three points in the first half, as kicker Randy Bullock completed an 18-play drive with a 28-yard field goal. Levi Wallace made a nice play in the end zone to deny progress as the Lions entered the red zone.
Nice pass breakup from Levi Wallace preventing a Lions touchdown. He’s not going to just give up that CB2 job pic.twitter.com/nUpMccnD3F
— Nate Mendelson (@NateMendelson) August 13, 2021
Offensively, the Bills made a commitment to the run game in the first half. Devin Singletary carried eight times for 42 rushing yards, while Matt Breida ran 10 times for 27 rushing yards. Meanwhile, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw only two passes in a quarter of work, completing one for 10 yards. With Buffalo’s receiving room basically set entering the season, the Bills could place an emphasis on the run game in the first half.
Singletary scored the Bills’ only touchdown in the game. The third-year pro was on the receiving end of a play-action pass, where he found the end zone with no resistance from the Lions defense.
— Nick (@Nick_Wojton) August 14, 2021
While the night seemed to drag on, the fourth quarter became very interesting. As several deep roster players took the field, the Bills defense started to falter, allowing the Lions to claw back into the game.
The tackling of this unit was questionable at best. A massive swing occurred in one segment of the fourth quarter, as a Nick McCloud pick-six was overturned as an incomplete pass. On the play, Olaijah Griffin was flagged for a personal foul, setting up Detroit in good position for their first score of the game.
Craig Reynolds weaved his way through Buffalo’s defense for a 24-yard rushing touchdown. The Bills responded to negate the Lions two-point conversion, still giving Buffalo a 13-12 lead.
Buffalo’s offensive line had some struggles in the closing of the game, leaving Jake Fromm little time to throw. The Bills punted away, giving Detroit an opportunity to take the lead.
Lions quarterback David Blough responded with two big passes on the subsequent drive, completing a 35-yard pass to Javon McKinley and a 29-yard pass to Tom Kennedy. Kicker Randy Bullock was successful on a 28-yard field goal to give the Lions their first lead of the game, 15-13.
As they have done many times before, the Bills rallied their squad to mount a comeback. Even with third and fourth stringers, Buffalo’s offensive depth found a way to pull off the revival. On fourth down, Jake Fromm found Marquez Stevenson for 25 yards to extend the drive. From there, Fromm kept things under control, slowly moving the team into field goal range. From there, a Tyler Bass 44-yard field goal put the Bills in the lead for good.
Several players made the most of their opportunities on the field. Davis Webb showed that he could guide the offense, going 11-of-16 for 90 passing yards and one touchdown pass. Webb added 26 rushing yards on two scrambles. Fromm’s late-game response in the face of pressure was impressive. Singletary’s game gave some confidence in the run game. Stevenson’s performance on the final drive will keep him in the conversation for a depth receiver.
On the defensive side of the ball, Andre Smith seemed to be everywhere, leading the Bills in tackles with eight in the game. Cam Lewis followed with seven tackles. Joe Giles-Harris also made his presence known with six tackles.
First-round draft pick Gregory Rousseau was as advertised, recording his first sack in the NFL, albeit in the preseason. He recorded three pressures on 11 snacks. More impressively, his sack came against Penei Sewell, the No. 7 overall draft pick this year.
Tyler Bass showed that he is automatic, making all three of his field goals, including a 50-yard bomb in the first quarter and the game-winner from 44 yards out.
Overall, the Bills had a nice start to their 2021 campaign. Most of the mistakes that occurred were by players who were not threatening to make the 53-man roster, so all in all, this result is just what Buffalo needs to get the ball rolling for a successful season. It took the entire roster to seal this victory for Buffalo.