The Buffalo Bills did nothing to calm observers' angst about their offensive struggles Saturday, not scoring until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled their starters during a 27-14 win in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bucs scored 24 first-half points and held Buffalo's first-team offense off of the scoreboard until the third quarter. Buffalo's first-teamers did score twice in the third quarter, but those touchdowns came against Tampa's reserves.
Against the starting defense, the Bills were unable to move the ball with any efficiency at all. EJ Manuel went 9-for-18 in the first half and only guided the Bills to 82 yards in eight first-half possessions. He also threw an interception and fumbled a ball that was returned by Clinton McDonald for a second-quarter touchdown to give Tampa a 17-0 lead. Rookie receiver Mike Evans added a late touchdown on a 24-yard pass from Josh McCown to give Tampa its halftime advantage. The Bills were booed off the field at halftime.
"When you play poorly, you should get booed. I don't have any problems with that," coach Doug Marrone said. "I don't think any of us are happy."
The Bills finally scored with their first-teamers on the unit's 18th drive of the preseason. The Bills did finally look impressive on their first third-quarter drive, going 85 yards in nine plays. Mike Williams capped off the drive by catching a 14-yard Manuel pass to score in his first game for his hometown team.
But the drive came against Bucs reserves, taking away a lot of meaning behind the score that proved more symbolic than anything. Players didn't put too much stock into it either way – either to mask their genuine concern or to hide what they feel is a potent attack ready to strike in the opening season.
"We look at it as, 'That's how we have to adjust,' " Williams said. "If we are ever down like that – which we don't want to do again – that's how we want to adjust. We have to come out strong."
The Bills' defense actually limited the Bucs to 231 yards, but the poor position throughout the first half doomed Buffalo, much like it did at crucial points last season. Several key penalties and a handful of lapses on defense did the team in in the second quarter.
"I guess guys just weren't prepared," safety Aaron Williams said. "They just needed to have fire. Guys were ready for pregame. We came out strong the first couple series and for some reason just went flat."
Why the Bills would be so flat four games into the preseason is a mystery. But the Bills (1-3) have one more chance to improve this preseason when they host the Detroit Lions on Thursday.
C.J. Spiller led the Bills with 36 yards on nine carries. Fred Jackson had a touchdown among his five carries, which went for a total of 15 yards. Williams ended the day with 46 yards on three carries.
McCown went 13-of-16 for 112 yards for Tampa (1-2). Doug Martin has 38 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown.
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