Detroit’s starters on both offense and defense played into the second quarter Friday night in Detroit’s Week 3 preseason matchup with the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field.
Matthew Stafford started at quarterback after sitting out the first two preseason contests. He finished 12-of-19 passing for 137 yards with an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Ty Johnson. Stafford finished with a 102.3 passer rating in what’s likely to be his only game action before the season opener in Arizona in a couple weeks.
Detroit led the game 10-7 before removing most of their starters on both sides of the ball late into the second quarter.
The Bills’ first-team offense added a touchdown late in the second quarter against Detroit’s reserves on defense, and the Bills’ backups added to the lead in the second half, helping Buffalo to an eventual 24-20 victory.
Running back Mark Thompson had a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Detroit and place kicker Matt Prater added field goals of 23 and 61 yards to round out Detroit’s scoring.
Injury report: It was a tough night on the injury front for the Lions.
Starting MIKE linebacker and defensive team captain Jarrad Davis left the game with a right leg injury just two plays into the contest. He was rolled up on from behind by teammate Devon Kennard on a run by Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy. Davis couldn’t put any pressure on the leg as he was helped off by trainers.
After being evaluated by doctors on the sideline for a bit, he was transferred to a cart and taken to the Lions locker room for more evaluations. He did not return.
Starting center Frank Ragnow was rolled up on by a Bills defender midway through the second quarter. He too needed to be helped off the field, putting little weight on his right leg. He was taken right to the locker room and also did not return.
Turnover prowess: The Lions ranked second to last in the NFL last year with just 14 takeaways. It’s something that’s been a big focus this offseason. Detroit forced two turnovers last week in Houston and got two more this week against the Bills.
Cornerback Justin Coleman punched the ball loose from Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley and right into the arms of teammate Quandre Diggs for the recovery at the Buffalo 27-yard line in the first quarter. Detroit turned the takeaway into a 23-yard field goal.
Later in the second quarter, Detroit’s special teams got in on the action as safety C.J. Moore swatted the ball out of Bills return man Victor Bolden Jr.’s hands at the Buffalo 18-yard line. Rookie safety Will Harris, who recovered and returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown last week in Houston, got his second recovery of the preseason.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin also had an interception that was called back on a very questionable roughing the passer call on Lions linebacker Christian Jones.
Areas for improvement: While the third week of the preseason is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Lions are still technically in the preseason, and there are some things that came up Friday they can clean up over the next week before they trim their roster and get ready for the regular season.
The penalties added up, totaling nine for 81 yards for the Lions. There was a particularly sloppy sequence for Detroit’s defense that included a roughing the passer penalty on Jones, an unnecessary roughness call on safety Tracy Walker on a late hit out of bounds, and a taunting penalty by A’Shawn Robinson before another play could be run after the Walker penalty. Those 45 yards in penalties led to the Bills’ first touchdown of the game.
Ball security can also be improved upon. Jamal Agnew muffed a punt in the first quarter that he was lucky to recover. It cost the Lions 11 yards in field position.
Driving for a potential game-leading touchdown late in the fourth quarter, rookie wide receiver Travis Fulgham fumbled trying to get extra yards after a 15-yard reception down to the Buffalo 15-yard line with a little under three minutes left in the game.
Next week: At Cleveland