The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns didn’t combine for a particularly exciting matchup, but with one quarterback battle and one potential quarterback battle, there was plenty to talk about on Thursday.
Going into Thursday’s preseason game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel were all in the conversation to be the team’s starting quarterback. It was Taylor who was given a chance with the starters on Thursday, with some suggesting he could earn the starting role overall with a strong performance.
And it ultimately was a strong performance from him, all things considered. The Bills had Taylor working with the “starting offense” despite the team being without its top couple receivers and top couple running backs. Guys like Bronson Hill and Deonte Thompson were the “starting” receivers for Taylor. Despite all of that, he completed 7 of 10 passes for 65 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He took one sack for a 9-yard loss and rushed 41 yards on four carries.
Again, this is a strong performance, all things considered.
Manuel came in after Taylor in the third quarter, and played the remainder of the game. Manuel struggled with his accuracy at times, but he did wind up leading Buffalo on a 12-play, 86-yard drive to take the lead in the final minutes of the game. He wound up throwing a 14-yard touchdown to Andre Davis and also converted the two-point conversion with a pass to give Buffalo the 11-10 lead with under two minutes to go.
So it was a pretty close battle, all things considered. Taylor did a lot with a little and Manuel came through in the clutch. Neither player took the starting job on Thursday, and the Bills will likely look ahead to the ever-important third preseason game before making a decision.
3 things we learned from Thursday’s games
McCown struggles, Manziel doesn’t
The Cleveland Browns don’t have a quarterback battle on their hands, but it’s probably safe to say Josh McCown isn’t as safe as, oh, Andrew Luck. Johnny Manziel is McCown’s backup, but he saw time with the starters in training camp and played well in the team’s first preseason game. So things got pretty interesting when McCown struggled in Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
McCown completed 7 of 10 passes for 57 yards, which sounds fine, but two of those incompletions were actually interceptions, and one of them was pretty egregious:
He hung the ball up a little too long, and Buffalo cornerback Ronald Darby took advantage with the interception. Darby actually had both picks of McCown, and it’s safe to say that McCown is probably not a fan of his at the moment. Manziel came in after that point and actually played quite well, once again. He had two huge completions, the second of which resulted in this beauty of a touchdown:
Manziel had 9 of 12 completions for 112 yards and a touchdown before the final drive with under two minutes to go, and he started forcing passes at that point. He finished with 10 of 18 completions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Detroit might be OK without Suh, RG3 has rough day
Losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency is a pretty big deal, but the Detroit Lions got out to a pretty good start on the defensive side of the ball on Thursday. And by “a pretty good start,” we mean “they completely dominated the Washington offensive line from start to finish and it wasn’t pretty one bit.”
It was the opposite of a clean pocket for Robert Griffin III, on basically every single dropback he had on the night. He was sacked a total of three times for a loss of 16 yards, and all three sacks were big hits. Even on the plays in which he wasn’t sacked, he took a big hit while standing in the pocket to deliver a pass. It was a brutal game, and he finished with 2 of 5 completions for just 8 yards.
Griffin actually wound up leaving the game with an injury after he went down to recover a fumble and was at the bottom of a pile. He left the game with what Washington called a shoulder stinger, though he was also evaluated for a concussion (and cleared). It’s not as though he were playing incredibly well and the line let him down, but the line certainly did him no favors whatsoever.
It was an ugly, ugly game for Washington’s offensive line and a strong showing by a “depleted” Lions group.
Football is hard, you guys
Having a first-and-goal is one of the most-exciting things for an offense. Unless the defense is absolutely on their game, you’re pretty much guaranteed points of some kind. Even if you can’t punch it in on the first three downs, there’s always a field goal. It all just starts with execution and making sure you don’t … do whatever it was Washington did below:
We can probably guess that this isn’t the way Washington drew up that play. Probably. It’s safe to say Jay Gruden didn’t have “completely do the opposite of what you’re supposed to do on first-and-goal” written down in the playbook, and it’s also probably safe to say that’s not what the quarterback heard threw his helmet. Football is hard, you guys, and sometimes this kind of thing happens.
Washington 21, Detroit Lions 17
As noted above, it was an abysmal day for Washington’s offensive line, or at least it was for its starters. Despite Kirk Cousins completing 8 of 12 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown and Colt McCoy completing 5 of 6 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown of his own, neither player was sacked like Griffin. While you may be able to blame one of the sacks on Griffin, he was taking a lot of shots in the pocket with very little time to throw the ball. Still, it’s an interesting situation.
Detroit let Matthew Stafford play a series and he completed 6 of 8 passes for 78 yards, and was sacked once for a loss of 7 yards. His backups played so-so football, though Dan Orlovsky had a pair of touchdowns, hitting both Zach Zenner and Jeremy Ross for scores. Zenner put up 22 yards on four carries and had five receptions for 59 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Detroit led into the fourth quarter, but Cousins hit Rashad Ross for a touchdown to take the lead and the win.
Buffalo Bills 11, Cleveland Browns 10
Talk of these teams is dominated by its quarterbacks — for better or for worse — and for the most part, there’s not a whole lot else to say. Darby had a big game for the Bills, snaring the aforementioned pair of interceptions. However, the team was without basically all of its starters and top backups at both running back and wide receiver. On defense, they managed to sack McCown three times with starter Marcell Dareus getting in on the action.
For Cleveland, they still have some things to figure out at the running back position but neither Terrance West nor Isaiah Crowell have done anything to really take control of the starting job. West had 11 carries for 42 yards on the day, a per-carry average of 3.8 yards. Crowell had five carries for just 14 yards, a per-carry average of 2.8 yards. It wasn’t a particularly exciting matchup on the scoreboard until the Bills scored and converted a 2-point conversion with under two minutes remaining.
This article was written by James Brady from SB Nation SB Nation National Feed and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.