The Lions lost to the Bills in a game that mattered only to the guys battling for jobs. Justin Rogers of The Detroit News provides some analysis. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Orchard Park, N.Y. — The first half was ugly. The second half, arguably worse.
The Lions rested approximately 30 players, including every known starter, sleepwalking through a 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the preseason finale Thursday night.
The Bills scored on their first three possessions, jumping out to a 13-0 lead, and never looked back.
Bills backup quarterback Nate Peterman was sharp on the opening possession, largely picking on rookie cornerback Teez Tabor. Peterman completed six of his seven passes for 49 yards before the Bills stalled out in the red zone and settled for a 30-yard Steven Hauschka field goal.
After the Lions went three-and-out, Peterman marched the Bills back down the field before running back Jonathan Williams burst up the middle, through a tackle attempt by safety Charles Washington, and around Tabor in the second level, for a 21-yard scoring romp that put the Bills up, 10-0.
Peterman finished his night 9-for-11 for 81 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions managed to work their way into Bills territory, but the drive was undone when receiver Jared Abbrederis was stripped of the ball after a reception in the middle of the field.
Twelve plays after the turnover, the Bills put another three points on the scoreboard, extending their lead to 13-0. This time Hauschka connected from 45 yards out.
Before the turnover, there was a scary moment when Bills defender and former Michigan State standout Jerel Worthy appeared to be knocked unconscious after colliding with a teammate while trying to make a tackle. Down on the field for a few minutes, he was eventually helped to the sidelines. He was ultimately ruled out and evaluated for a concussion.
The fumble was an untimely error for the veteran receiver locked in a battle with Jace Billingsley for a roster spot. The other contender wasn’t particularly sharp, either, catching a pair of passes for two yards.
Billingsley and Abbrederis shared return man duties, with neither recording more than a modest gain.
And that wasn’t the only underwhelming position battle.
At defensive end, the young contenders for a roster spot were plagued by mistakes. Undrafted rookie Alex Barrett was flagged twice for lining up in the neutral zone and seventh-round pick Pat O’Connor was also hit with a neutral zone infraction and an unnecessary roughness for driving the quarterback into the ground, although the latter was a questionable call. Jeremiah Valoaga, the third man in the mix, was blown out of his gap by a double-team on a long gain for the Bills.
The two teams traded punts before the Lions finally ended the shutout with a Matt Prater 53-yard field goal with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Lions backup quarterback Jake Rudock finished the half 6-for-9 for 41 yards. He was replaced by third-stringer Brad Kaaya to open the second half. The rookie was erratic early on, completing just five of his first 10 throws and telegraphing an interception in the back of the end zone.
Kaaya’s stat line got a big boost on his 11th throw, when running back Tion Green took a screen 74 yards, weaving through would-be tacklers for his first touchdown of the preseason.
Green was a bright spot for the Lions. In addition to the long score, he also had a 25-yard run, part of an eight-carry, 63-yard night. He finished with 150 yards from scrimmage.
“Obviously, the 74-yard touchdown was pretty impressive,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s been good and solid for us, he really has."
Buffalo also had success on the ground in the second half, with runs of 39 and 40 yards on back-to-back touchdown drives.
Kaaya settled down after Green’s touchdown, leading a seven-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 27-17 with 3:38 remaining in the game. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 71 yards, capping the series with a six-yard scoring strike to Dontez Ford. It was the second time the pair connected for a touchdown during the preseason.
Kaaya lost a fumble when sacked on Detroit’s final possession. The young quarterback finished 11-for-19 for 182 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Lions open the regular season on Sept. 10 at home against the Arizona Cardinals.