Watkins injured, Bills struggle in third preseason game
by Joe Buscaglia,posted Aug 16 2014 10:18PM
The first-team offense of the Buffalo Bills had one of their best days since training camp started during a joint practice on Thursday night. That success didn’t translate into their next time on the field, as EJ Manuel and company struggled all the way through their five drives allotted by the Bills’ coaching staff.
EJ Manuel and the first unit, for the third straight outing, failed to perform a function that is essential to the survival of most offenses in the NFL. After a total of 10 drives in the preseason, the Manuel-led Bills have yet to score a touchdown.
“There wasn’t any looks that we didn’t see throughout the week in practice,” said tight end Scott Chandler. “We just have to finish drives. We have to get in the end zone.”
It wasn’t for a lack of effort. On two separate drives the Bills had the ball deep into the territory of the Pittsburgh Steelers and were set up with a fourth-and-short opportunity they elected to go for. Both attempts followed through with the same result: a pass that fell incomplete and a turnover on downs.
On their nearest attempt, which also happened to be their fifth and final drive on the field, the Bills had two straight shots at the end zone to end the drive, but each fell incomplete and kept the first-team without their coveted touchdown.
"Man, coming off the field, it was frustrating, I'm not gonna lie. We got down there and I even pleaded to Coach Marrone to let us go for it on the fourth down. Went to the right place with the ball, the defense just made a good play on it. Just gotta go back to the drawing board," quarterback EJ Manuel remarked. "We've just gotta capitalize truly because, we need that get fixed obviously before we play Chicago."
Manuel finished the evening completing 17-of-27 passes for 148 yards, but also chucked an interception right into the midsection of Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier. The pass was intended for Chandler down the seam before the rookie Shazier undercut the route and forced the turnover.
The performance of the first-team offense isn’t the only worry of the team following the contest. First-round pick and starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins injured his ribs during the team’s first drive of the game. He walked slowly to the locker room for examination and did not return to action.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported during the game that the injury to Watkins is not considered serious.
The Bills came back to tie up the game in the second half, but the team couldn’t overcome their poor start and fell to the Steelers 19-16 at Heinz Field.
The two teams had previously faced off against one another on Wednesday and Thursday for a joint practice session on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
The first-team defense for the Bills struggled as well, allowing both a 76 and 16-yard touchdown pass from the arm of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The longer of the two occurred when Steelers receiver Antonio Brown ran a simple slant pattern and made cornerback Corey Graham and safety Duke Williams collide into one another. Markus Wheaton was the other touchdown recipient.
The Bills continued their prowess against the run in the preseason, however. The first unit allowed just 11 yards on five carries, bringing up their preseason total to just 29 yards on 15 total carries for designed run plays.
The second-team defensive line stood out for the Bills, with a strip-sack by defensive tackle Stefan Charles being the highlight. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen picked up the ball and scampered down into Pittsburgh territory before being brought down. Buffalo was able to take the ball and punch it into the end zone in the third quarter on a Boobie Dixon one-yard touchdown run.
The Bills were without left tackle Cordy Glenn (illness), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), left guard Chris Williams (lower back), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) and linebacker Ty Powell due to injury. Doug Legursky started the game at left guard, Corey Graham made his third straight start at cornerback.