After leading 13-3 at the end of the third quarter, the Buffalo Bills surrendered 12 straight points but the Jake Fromm-led offense managed to grind out a fourth-quarter comeback to come away with a 16-15 victory over the Detroit Lions. It was a cagey but controlled performance from the Bills, who were without key starters like Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Jordan Poyer, Jerry Hughes, Matt Milano, and Tremaine Edmunds. With so many veterans out, it was the young guns who had the spotlight, and many shone through as both teams worked through the entirety of their depth charts. While this game likely didn’t put anybody over the edge to confirm their spot on the 53-man spot, several players certainly helped their stock with strong performances.
The main story of the night stemmed from Buffalo’s defensive line – especially the edge rushers. Led by rookie Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, the Bills wreaked havoc all night against both the run and pass. Detroit running backs were held to three yards-per-carry, while Rousseau and Darryl Johnson registered two of the team’s four sacks. Efe Obada flashed from multiple alignments, but both he and rookie Boogie Basham were flagged for roughing the passer.
Levi Wallace had one of the most impressive defensive plays of the night with a fantastic pass breakup in the endzone against Tyrell Williams, showing once again why he’s the favorite to hold onto the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Tre’Davious White. Linebacker Andre Smith should be on everybody’s radar after a strong game. He totaled eight tackles and had a big interception negated by Obada’s aforementioned penalty. Siran Neal – a player many had high hopes for – struggled to defend wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s quickness, giving up three receptions to the rookie in the first half. In the second half, the younger members of the secondary had growing pains, making costly penalties and giving up big catches that allowed the Lions to get back in the game.
On offense, Davis Webb was the headliner. He played the most offensive snaps, stepping in after Mitchell Trubisky and before Jake Fromm. He finished 11-for-16 for 90 passing yards, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Devin Singletary, while adding 26 rushing yards on two carries.
Tight end Tommy Sweeney had two catches for 34 yards, both of them nice catches and runs for first downs. Matt Breida had 10 carries for 27 yards and added 2 catches for 15 yards. Cody Ford looked solid on the interior, returning to the field after his previous season was ended by injury. Spencer Brown was up and down throughout the game, and the line started to struggle in the second half, especially once Jake Fromm went in. The former 5th round pick was sacked twice in key situations and looked shaky for much of his time on the field, but had a nice deep ball to Marquez Stevenson on a fourth-down play on the last drive, and found his rhythm in time to lead the game-winning field-goal drive.
On the special teams front, things went about as expected. Tyler Bass was perfect on the night with three field goals and an extra point, and Matt Haack was accurate with his punts, putting three of his five inside the 20-yard line. All three of the candidates for the returner job Isaiah McKenzie, Marquez Stevenson, and Brandon Powell had a chance to return kicks, and McKenzie and Powell both had punt returns, but none of them really shined.
Without just about all of their stars, Buffalo looked like the dominant team for most of the game, despite allowing Detroit to make it close at the end. Look for a more polished performance next week when the Bills take on the Chicago Bears.