Penalties, turnovers and a shaky first-half performance by EJ Manuel contributed to a 27-14 Bills loss to Tampa Bay at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Saturday.
All three of Buffalo's turnovers came prior to halftime as Manuel and the first-team offense failed to put together any meaningful drives in the first two quarters. Once the Bills second-year QB and his teammates finally showed a spark, it came on two consecutive drives in the third quarter against Tampa Bay's second-string unit.
After a CJ Spiller fumble, Doug Martin put Tampa Bay on the board first, leaping over the line of scrimmage and into the end zone for the 7-0 lead. Martin put the Bucs in excellent position, taking a 21-yard pass from Josh McCown to the goalline just a play earlier. The Tampa Bay running back beat Brandon Spikes down the middle, bobbled -- but caught -- the short pass and worked his way close to the end zone where the play was initially ruled a touchdown. The call was reversed after replays showed Martin hitting the turf at the 1.
After a Connor Barth field goal, The Bucs' defense made it 17-0 on a Clinton McDonald fumble recovery and touchdown. Manuel was hit and stripped of the ball by Michael Johnson and McDonald scooped it up, rumbling 17 yards to the end zone.
Mike Evans, the rookie receiver who was linked to Buffalo in plenty of mock drafts last spring, padded the Bucs' lead just before halftime, hauling in a 24-yard scoring pass from McCown.
Manuel and Buffalo's first-team offense finally got going in the third quarter, marching 85 yards to the end zone on nine plays, marking their first touchdown of the preseson (19 drives total). Manuel completed passes of 21 and 23 yards before drilling a 14-yard strike to Mike Williams for the Bills' first points of the day.
Buffalo cut the deficit to 10 points thanks to Fred Jackson's 8-yard scoring run, capping off a 60-yard drive that saw Manuel complete all four of his pass attempts, including an 18-yarder to Robert Woods along the near sideline.
Manuel finished the day 19-28 for 198 yards with one touchdown and one interception in three full quarters of playing time, before giving way to Dennis Dixon in the fourth.
Dixon, listed behind Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel on the depth chart, hadn't thrown a single pass during the preseason before entering Saturday's contest. Dixon lasted only one drive (0-1 passing, 13 rushing yards, one fumble) before Tuel entered the game. Tuel threw for 90 yards on 8-14 passing. Lewis did not see any playing time.
Spiller led the Bills with 36 rushing yards on nine carries while Bryce Brown picked up 24 yards on two carries. Mike Williams looked in mid-season form, making a beautiful tip-toe catch along the far sideline early on and then hauling in Manuel's only touchdown pass of the day. Williams finished with 46 yards on three receptions.
As a team, the Bills outgained the Bucs in total yardage, 353 to 231, however also led in penalties (12) and turnovers (3).
Buffalo wraps up the preseason with its fifth and final game Thursday evening at Ralph Wilson Stadium against the Detroit Lions. Hear the call at 7 p.m. on WGR 550 and the Buffalo Bills Radio Network.
TB - 6:28 - Doug Martin 1-yard run (Connor Barth extra point is good) - TB 7 BUF 0
(Drive info: 5 plays, 39 yards, 2:17)
TB - 9:58 - Connor Barth 43-yard field goal attempt is good- TB 10 BUF 0
(Drive info: 8 plays, 27 yards, 4:05)
TB - 8:34 - Clinton McDonald 17-yard fumble return (Connor Barth PAT is good) - TB 17 BUF 0
(Drive info: 3 plays, -3 yards, 1:37)
TB - 1:05 - Mike Evans 24-yard pass from Josh McCown (Connor Barth PAT is good) - TB 24 BUF 0
(Drive info: 11 plays, 82 yards, 5:56)
BUF - 6:23 - Mike Williams 14-yard pass from EJ Manuel (Dan Carpenter PAT is good) - TB 24 BUF 7
(Drive info: 9 plays, 85 yards, 3:31)
BUF - 2:39 - Fred Jackson 8-yard run (Dan Carpenter PAT is good) - TB 24 BUF 14
(Drive info: 6 plays, 60 yards, 2:19)
TB - 4:49 - Patrick Murray 27-yard field goal attempt is GOOD - TB 27 BUF 14
(Drive info: 13 plays, 51 yards, 7:55)
TB - 231
BUF - 353
TB - 132
BUF - 264
TB - 99
BUF - 89
TB - 5/50 yards
BUF - 12/80 yards
TB - 1
BUF - 3
Time of Possession
TB - 35:04
BUF - 24:56