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Bills Starters Show Improvement In OT Win Over Jaguars

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills' starting offense finally put a touchdown on the board, and Marcus Easley impressed in his debut as a starting wide receiver. The starters led the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-10 at the half, but the Jaguars' reserves raced out to a second half lead. The Bills forced overtime and ultimately won the game, 35-32.

Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit his first 11 passes of the night for 165 yards and two touchdowns in his strongest performance to date this pre-season. The offense hadn't scored a touchdown in two pre-season games. Stevie Johnson caught four of those passes for 76 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown bomb to make the score 17-0.

The other passing touchdown went to Easley. After being placed on IR a year ago and battling a knee injury during camp this year, Easley got the start in place of the injured Donald Jones and made the most of it. He hauled in five passes for 51 yards and threw a key block to spring Fred Jackson for a long run. This physicality is exactly what Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are looking for, and it wouldn't be surprising if we hear of Easley getting the starting nod on September 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fred Jackson started the game at running back and rushed the ball for 33 yards on nine carries, fumbling once with Corey McIntyre recovering. C.J. Spiller ran for 21 yards on just four carries, and Brad Smith added 19 yards on four totes.

On defense, Kyle Williams celebrated his new contract with a sack of David Garrard. Antonio Coleman also picked up a sack. Paul Posluszny was booed every time his name was announced, from what I could tell on the radio. (He expected that coming in, for what it's worth.) Shawne Merriman was given the night off to deal with his nagging groin injury, but Marcell Dareus played with the starters after his scare earlier this week.

After the half, Buffalo's reserves gave Jacksonville chances. A Reggie Corner pass interference call kept a drive alive after a fourth down stop, and the Jags ultimately tied it up on their first drive of the second half. Two Buffalo possessions later, Jacksonville took back a Tyler Thigpen pass for a pick-six to give Jacksonville the lead. A Blaine Gabbert touchdown pass began the fourth quarter and seemingly put the game out of reach.

But in the fourth quarter, the Bills' reserves rallied, led by two Da'Norris Searcy forced turnovers and Thigpen at quarterback. Buffalo mounted a late drive deep into Jacksonville territory, scoring a late touchdown with 38 seconds left when Thigpen found Paul Hubbard in the end zone for the touchdown and two-point conversion to tie it up.

The overtime session allowed Levi Brown to get some work, and he led Buffalo on a scoring drive on their only possession of the extra frame. Rian Lindell's boot with 3:08 remaining in overtime gave the Bills their first win of the pre-season.

I didn't have an opportunity to watch the game, but Brian was in Orchard Park for most of the game and will have his reactions in the morning. At the very least, they looked better tonight - and some Bills fans might come down off the ledge. The Bills face the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 1 to wrap up their exhibition schedule.