For the first time in franchise history, the Buffalo Bills finished the preseason undefeated, and they did it in dramatic fashion.
The Bills came back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit on Thursday night at New Era Field to score 21 unanswered points and grab a 27-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
So, for the fourth week in a row, I’ll start with the arrows pointing up.
What a fantastic game Yarbrough played. From the very first play of the game and into the fourth quarter, he was making plays on defense and showing up on the stat sheet. He finished with 10 total tackles, including two for a loss. Unless the team decides to keep five defensive ends, Yarbrough is still probably on the outside looking in, but at the very least, he put a great game on film to show the rest of the league.
Murphy helped pave the way for the big fourth quarter comeback with his electrifying 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. He also finished with 27 yards rushing and and another 10 receiving.
If there was a guy squarely on the bubble that needed a good showing it was McCloud, and he gave it. The second-year wide receiver finished with five catches for 48 yards, which both led the team. He’s had a good month since training camp began, but now the question is, was it good enough?
It doesn’t matter that he only had two catches on the night, grabbing the game-winner with just eight-seconds left on the clock, it’s going to get you an Arrow Up. Sills could very well be a practice squad candidate, and making the final big play of the preseason will surely be remembered by the coaching staff and front office.
In every single preseason game this year, the Bills scored using their two-minute offense either at the end of the first half or game. Head coach Sean McDermott and his staff made it a point of emphasis since Day 1 of offseason workouts all the way back in April, constantly practicing game situations and even using headsets to get communication down as far back as OTAs. Thursday night, there was no panic for anyone when the Bills got the ball with 1:08 remaining in the contest, down three points. Six plays later, they were in the endzone celebrating a soon-to-be victory.
The head coach deserves credit for having a group of players that was still willing to play and fight as they did in the final quarter of the final preseason game. It would be easy to just try to get the game over and get to the regular season, but that’s not the mentality he’s instilled in this group. Also, he did a very good job with clock management in the fourth quarter in order to help put his offense in situations they could take advantage of and ultimately have a chance to win.
Fresh off of signing his new two-year extension, Hauschka drilled a 54-yard field goal. By doing so, he was able to calm down some who have been concerned about his inconsistency this preseason.
The rookie showed off his big leg by also drilling a 54-yard field goal and then connecting on the three extra points in the fourth quarter. With Hauschka’s new deal, McLaughlin won’t be sticking around past this weekend, but good for him to show he can make those kicks, because plenty of teams may now be calling.
No, it wasn’t the best performance for a quarterback, but it was pretty good overall. The UB product completed 22 of 33 passes (66.7%) for 175 yards and the final game-winning touchdown. He also ran for another 78 yards (9.8 yards per-carry) and a touchdown, totaling 253 total yards and two touchdowns. And, of course, he led the team on their final drive, going six plays in 1:01, capped off by the touchdown pass to Sills.
The Bills simply didn’t play good enough defense in the first half. They allowed the Vikings to convert on 6 of 10 third downs, and gave up 215 total yards, including 157 of them through the air.
Although it’s less than they’ve had the last two weeks, seven penalties is still too many.
- Three-and-outs on offense
Before the last two drives in the fourth quarter comeback, the Bills had the ball for eight drives. On five of them, they failed to convert a first down. Four resulted in punts after three plays. The other was a lost fumble on third down.
THE BIG PICTURE:
Of course it’ thes preseason and it absolutely does not matter to anything that happens in the regular season, but winning is always more fun than losing. The Bills did that four times and gave their fans plenty to be optimistic about. It was a great comeback with great energy Thursday night for a group of players who may not be in the NFL come the end of this weekend.
Now comes the hard part - roster cuts. Every NFL team must get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday, and even if someone survives that initial cut, they can’t relax quite yet. Every team will have a chance to claim any players released who have less than four years experience. The Bills are ninth in the claim order, which means they’ll have a pretty good shot at getting players they place a waiver claim on. But anyone they are awarded will force them to release someone else. By Monday morning, we’ll all know who’s on the roster preparing to play the New York Jets for Week 1 next Sunday.
Ah, the regular season. It’s finally here. We can finally get down to dissecting the next opponent and talk about game plans and strategy. It finally matters again.
Congratulations, you’ve survived another preseason.