If you didn't get to watch this game live, you could be forgiven for not seeking out a recording. In an effort to avoid injuries (possibly inspired by the stories about Washington's lousy turf), Rex Ryan took the unusual move of leaving his entire starting defense inactive during Buffalo's third preseason game. LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Cordy Glenn also stayed out of this one, and while Tyrod Taylor, Eric Wood, Richie Incognito, and Sammy Watkins all made appearances, they were brief.
That left the backups to cover the full game, including matching up against Washington's first string offense for the first half. For one quarter, the second string held its own. Buffalo took a 3-0 lead on one of the drives by the starting offense, and the defense stuck to its assignments, limiting Kirk Cousins to 17 passing yards. They were also the beneficiaries of some major drops by Redskins receivers.
After the first quarter, the difference in ability manifested. Washington scored three touchdowns largely due to missed tackles by Buffalo players. The Bills weren't able to tackle anyone on defense, and the offense was being run roughshod by Preston Smith and the other members of Washington's front seven. Buffalo was only able to contribute another field goal.
Finally, Jay Gruden benched his starters, and the game evened up again. Jonathan Williams bounced off of two arm tackles and scampered to a 37 yard touchdown run, making the differential 21-16. Following that, the teams traded stalled drives for most of the game. EJ Manuel (who played almost the entire game with Cardale Jones injured) got the ball with two minutes to go, but the Bills had to punt. The team got the ball back on a quick three-and-out, and drove down to the goal line. A Greg Little touchdown catch was overruled due to a ticky-tack pass interference penalty, and the game-winning drive fizzled with a sack and an interception.
Walter Powell isn't just fighting for a roster spot anymore. He's making a legitimate push for the #3 receiver position. He did a great job returning punts, and while his receiving line didn't stand out (5 catches, 55 yards, three punt returns for 57 yards), he continued to make difficult catches look doable while displaying integrated technique in his route running. The Murray State product has arguably been this year's training camp star.
The referees were atrocious in this match. Buffalo was charged with 13 penalties, and Washington 10. It was a long, ugly game. Buffalo was twice penalized for roughing the passer on routine, textbook sacks. The referees negated a touchdown with a weak pass interference call, and they missed two dirty tackles by Washington: A body slam that forced Jonathan Williams to leave the game with a rib injury, and DeAngelo Hall diving at Chris Gragg's knee, causing another injury.
Lorenzo Alexander was on fire for the second week, blowing up a number of pass plays. Unfortunately, his sack was taken away by the aforementioned penalty.
The offensive line (especially the backups) had a day to forget. Free rushers were coming in off the edge, and as the game went on the middle of the line opened up like a sieve.
Nick O'Leary did himself no favors by fumbling a reception at midfield. Dez Lewis dropped two passes, although he slightly made up for it by being in position to down a punt at the one yard line. Ryan Groy had an awful whiff that gave a rusher free passage to Manuel.
Glenn Gronkowski set a strong block on the Williams touchdown run. He also successfully converted a third and short as the runner. Could he be making a push for a roster spot after all? The severity of Gragg's knee injury may factor into that.
In addition to Gragg's knee and Williams' rib injury, backup cornerback Jonathan Dowling appeared to take a major knee injury when he fell awkwardly on the turf.