Orchard Park, N.Y. — Kellen Moore was a bit too humble after leading the Lions to a 23-0 victory in the exhibition finale against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium Thursday night with a performance that will certainly help his case to stay on the 53-man roster.
The Lions’ No. 3 quarterback finished 17 of 28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns, including a perfect strike on a 25-yard touchdown pass to second-year receiver Corey Fuller.
“That’s all on Corey,” Moore said. “Awesome route, a really good job. I threw a crappy ball, and he made a good catch.”
Fuller ran a post from the seam and caught the ball in stride, and after the game, he passed the praise back to Moore.
“Kellen needled the ball right through the defense, and all I had to do was get right underneath,” Fuller said. “I give it all to Kellen.”
The Lions, who rested most of their starters, played well Thursday to finish 3-1 in their exhibition games this year. The defense forced three turnovers, tallied four sacks and held the Bills to just 162 yards. The offense didn’t have any turnovers, though the 258 yards wasn’t the Lions’ best showing. And on special teams, rookie kicker Nate Freese made all three of his field-goal attempts, including two from 53 yards — though the second hit the left upright and bounced in.
“I thought overall that they played better,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Any time that you can keep a team in the National Football League off the scoreboard it’s a pretty good night for your defense.”
In a game that was of the utmost importance to several players trying to make a final impression before the Lions trim their roster from 75 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday, a handful of guys had remember-me performances. Moore, wide receiver Ryan Broyles (three catches for 31 yards), linebacker Travis Lewis (five tackles) and safeties Isa Abdul-Quddus (three tackles, one for loss and an interception) and Nate Ness (an interception) were the young players Caldwell noted when asked who stood out.
As for the few starters that played, defensive end Ziggy Ansah had a sack, but most of the starters available played no more than three series on offense or defense.
Moore’s first touchdown was a 1-yard pass to wide receiver Jeremy Ross on a well-designed play-action play.
“He has composure, and he has moxie,” Caldwell said. “He’s got a good touch on the ball, he’s got a good feel for things I thought he performed well.”
Meanwhile, backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who started with Matthew Stafford inactive, was accurate but didn’t stretch the field, finishing 7 of 11 for just 39 yards.
In the wide receiver competition, Broyles continued to excel as two of his three catches went for first downs, but he was inexplicably playing late in the fourth quarter, well after his competition had exited.
Kris Durham didn’t catch any of his three targets and Kevin Ogletree had a 3-yard catch on his two targets.
At running back, Theo Riddick lost 2 yards on three carries, but had four catches for 23 yards. George Winn had 12 carries for 43 yards, Mikel Leshoure had eight carries for 18 yards, and both were heavily involved on special teams.
Lions’ rookie tight end Eric Ebron had two catches for 23 yards, including a 9-yard gain in which he easily broke a tackle attempt by a safety.
Applying constant pressure on EJ Manuel and Jordan Palmer, the Lions tallied four sacks — all in the first half — and had a fifth negated by an illegal hands to the face penalty away from the play. Defensive end George Johnson had 1½ sacks to lead the team.
Abdul-Quddus had an interception off Palmer, his second of the exhibition season, as well as three tackles, including one for loss.
Ness had his second pick in the past two games, and cornerback Mohammed Seisay had an interception, too.
Linebacker Ashlee Palmer, who’s battling Tahir Whitehead for a starting job, made two injury-inducing plays, knocking rookie receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Bryce Brown out of the game, though Brown suffered a leg injury and cornerback Nevin Lawson hit him low simultaneously.
With Kyle Van Noy undergoing surgery Thursday for a core muscle injury, there could be an extra opening at linebacker. Lewis was impressive on defense and special teams.
The penalties, though, made the first half difficult to watch. The Lions drew five flags for 38 yards, and the Bills had eight for 45 yards. Both teams finished with 10 penalties, which was an improvement for the Lions who had 15 last week.