The Buffalo Bills scraped out a 16-15 win against the Detroit Lions in their first preseason game of 2021, thanks to some clutch play by Jake Fromm and Marquez Stevenson. The pair hooked up for a 42-yard gain on 4th-and-10—a play that ultimately led to Tyler Bass’s game-winning field goal.
It was a classic preseason opener, featuring a slew of resting starters, 14 combined penalties, and the usual late-game combination of poor tackling and poor blocking by the backups’ backups. The Lions opted to roll out their first stringers to start the game, while the Bills left out roughly half of their starting 22. With those circumstances in place, Buffalo worked out a respectable 13-3 halftime lead over the Lions. Their defense, featuring a revamped set of edge rushers, consistently won their one-on-one matchups against the Lions’ offensive line. They were also successful limiting any damage in the passing game, and Detroit finished the first half with an average of 2.7 yards per play.
Offensively, the Bills focused on their running game, almost to a fault. Devin Singletary and Matt Breida rotated the duties with Zack Moss sidelined by injury, combining for 69 yards on 18 carries. Starter Mitchell Trubisky threw two passes, in comparison. The offense began to balance out after Davis Webb, and later Fromm, entered the game.
The traditional preseason ebb and flow continued throughout the game, as each side shuffled one set of players for the next set in the rotation. The Lions hit on a magic formula in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points to take the lead. Running back Craig Reynolds was their star, with six carries for 49 yards and the team’s only touchdown.
However, Detroit’s field goal to take the lead happened with a full minute and a half remaining on the clock. Fromm was able to find a target after a few misfires, and the Bills came away with the win.
Wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins suffered a knee injury and wasn’t able to return to the game.
Running back Antonio Williams had a stinger in the second half, but came back to the field later in the game.
Safety Damar Hamlin had a left leg injury in the closing minutes of the game, and walked off the field under his own power.
- The career debut for Greg Rousseau was exactly what we could’ve hoped it would be. He sacked Jared Goff on Detroit’s opening drive, winning the one-on-one matchup against fellow first rounder Penei Sewell.
- Boogie Basham didn’t make it into the game until later in the rotation, but the second rounder did come away from the game with a QB hit on the stat sheet.
- Even with Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, and Mitch Morse not playing tonight, the starting offensive line was pretty solid. Spencer Brown had a few whiffs, but also a few pancakes. Cody Ford acquitted himself well in a return to action from his torn meniscus.
- Linebacker Andre Smith was all over the field tonight, leading the Bills with eight tackles. He had one tackle-for-loss.
- Devin Singletary looked very comfortable as an early focal point of the Bills’ offense, with eight carries for 42 yards and a six-yard touchdown catch.
- The Bills were extremely run-heavy for most of the night. Tommy Sweeney was the team’s leading receiver, with two catches for 34 yards.
- Mitchell Trubisky made his Bills debut tonight by throwing two passes and completing one for three yards. His snap cadence was top-notch, though.
- Jake Fromm actually made his career debut tonight—there was no preseason in his rookie year. It started poorly, but he found rookie Marquez Stevenson for a 42-yard gain on fourth down, leading to the game-winning field goal.
- Rough debut for rookie Olijah Griffin, who was cleanly beaten off the line on a catch-and-run that led to the Lions’ game-winning field goal.
- Also having a rough go was backup tackle Bobby Hart, who had a hand in both of Fromm’s sacks.
- Tyler Bass was perfect on all three field goals, including a 50 yarder. He also converted the team’s only extra point attempt.
- Matt Haack looked good in the punting game. He averaged 44.2 yards over five punts, and the Lions only averaged 1.8 yards per punt return.