The Buffalo Bills dropped their second pre-season game by a final score of 36-14 to the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night. Things were as ugly as they were in last week's loss to Washington on occasion, but key players and units showed signs of life, starting with the first-team offense.
After a sluggish start by both the offense and the defense (Minnesota led 10-0 quickly in the first quarter), Ryan Fitzpatrick finally rallied his troops, leading a second-quarter touchdown drive capped off by a pretty 31-yard catch and run from Donald Jones. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills got good pressure - both Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams recorded a sack on Minnesota's first drive - but gave up big chunks of yardage, as well.
In the backup quarterback derby, there was definitive separation from the pack made by Vince Young. Running the second-team offense, Young played with great pace and appeared in command of Chan Gailey's offense. His 8-of-14, 123-yard performance was highlighted by a third quarter touchdown drive, which in turn was highlighted by a gorgeous 64-yard completion on a play-action go route to rookie T.J. Graham.
Tyler Thigpen, meanwhile, made some good throws early after taking over for Young, but tailed off a bit and ended his evening with an ugly interception that was returned by Audie Cole for a touchdown. (Cole would pick off Brad Smith moments later for another score.) If you weren't yet convinced that Young had nudged ahead of Thigpen to be Fitzpatrick's backup, the sizable gap in that race should be enough to sway you now.
Fitzpatrick was 8-of-11 for 58 yards and the aforementioned touchdown to Jones. For the second straight pre-season game, Graham led the team in receiving yardage, with 69 yards on just two receptions. Defensively, aside from the pass rush, there wasn't much to write home about; Vikings starter Christian Ponder was highly efficient, completing 10-of-13 passes to eight different receivers for 136 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, second-team quarterback Joe Webb ripped off two scrambles for 64 yards. Our guess is that Bills fan angst will flip to the defensive side of the ball this week.
Buffalo's third pre-season game - the one that annually features starters playing into the second half - will take place on August 25 (a Saturday) at Ralph Wilson Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Until then, feel free to dissect what you saw in Minneapolis tonight, Bills fans.