Takeaways from the Bills’ preseason opener
The first preseason game for the Buffalo Bills was just that — a preseason opener. There were highlights and lowlights in the 24-16 Buffalo victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but mostly, there was a lot of rust. However, some things did stand out.
Josh Allen stayed in the game for two drives rather than one to open the contest, likely because of all the new faces on offense surrounding him. Allen had a few nice moments before his departure, including multiple completions to Cole Beasley and Zay Jones, including a 23-yard completion to Jones.
However, as soon as the Bills reached the redzone, Allen took a bad sack to push the Bills right back out of it. Shortly afterward, Steven Hauschka hit the upright and missed a 34-yard field goal. That wasn’t fun to watch, and hopefully, it was just a sign of the rust from the offseason.
Matt Barkley took over for Allen on the third drive and completed a pass to Robert Foster for a first down on his first attempt. Though the Bills punted later on that drive, Barkley led the Bills on a 10-play drive on the next possession and capped it off with a touchdown to Cam Phillips in the back right corner of the endzone. The 10-play drive didn’t feature a play longer than 10 yards on it, but Barkley kept the chains moving when it mattered and eventually got the job done.
The next drive was derailed by a bad snap by Russell Bodine over the head of Barkley, which doesn’t bode well for Bodine in his attempt to make the roster after a lot of additions to the offensive line this offseason.
The most impressive play of the first half was a pass under duress by Barkley to a diving Isaiah McKenzie for 38 yards. However, another Bills fumble — by newcomer TJ Yeldon — ended the promising drive.
In the second half, in which UB rookie quarterback Tyree Jackson took over under center, the Bills had a few highlights. Eddie Yarbrough had an impressive sack on third down with under five minutes left in the third quarter — against Chad Kelly, the nephew of Jim Kelly — which gave the Bills a bright spot in a rather dull third quarter. Other than that, the biggest highlight in the period was a near reception by Foster on a nearly 40-yard pass by Jackson. The Colts challenged the play and overturned the call on the field — but still, in a game where the statistics don’t matter but the flashes do, it was nice to see Jackson let it fly and Foster make the effort to try to make the play. Jackson’s first completion came later in the quarter on a nice throw to McKenzie for 24 yards.
In the biggest blunder defensively for the Bills, Chad Kelly broke off a 33-yard touchdown run on a read-option play, with just under 10 minutes left in the game, that the Bills just didn’t seem at all prepared for. It was a highlight for the local boy Kelly, but a lowlight for the Buffalo defense.
Although, all negativity from Bills fans after the Kelly run vanished instantly. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Christian Wade burst free for a 65-yard touchdown run to extend the Bills’ lead to 24-13. Wade is a former professional rugby player and a newcomer to the NFL as part of the International Player Pathway program. The 65-yard run was Wade’s first carry in an NFL game. Whether it’s a sign of things to come or just a one-time thrill, Thursday’s big run will certainly be a moment to remember for the young Bills running back.
All in all, Thursday was just the first of four preseason games. But that’s not what matters. To paraphrase what Josh Allen said on the television broadcast, it’s just good to have football back.