ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The outcome was as predictable as Alabama vs. Mercer.
Only this was an NFL preseason game between starting players of the Super Bowl-favorite Buffalo Bills against the reserves for the Denver Broncos.
The Bills ripped the Broncos, 42-15 in preseason game No. 2 here Saturday on a warm Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium. (By the way, Alabama beat Mercer, 48-14 last season.)
This might be a good time for a reminder the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers combined to go 0-6 in the preseason last year. Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers combined for ZERO preseason pass attempts.
The Packers wound up 13-4 and the No. 1 NFC playoff seed and the Rams won the Super Bowl.
"That's why this is a great time -- it doesn't count but in the end you get to evaluate all your guys,'' said Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Still, that doesn't Denver's reserve defense can't step up and tackle better.
"We were getting (moved back) at the line of scrimmage,'' Hackett said. "Those backs weren't getting touched until later. So we've got to be better there in the run game with the defense."
The Broncos got three field goals from Brandon McManus, including a 55-yarder, and Brett Rypien made his move in the No. 2 quarterback competition by engineering two scoring drives in the second half.
But the Bills countered with 6 touchdowns off their first six drives.
"You give up six touchdowns on six drives, obviously nobody did good,'' Hackett said. "So we've got to evaulate group as a whole, we've got to tackle better, hold the point better. Everything."
At least it's only a 3-hour flight home.
The difference in this preseason game, at least in the first quarter, was philosophical. Bills coach Sean McDermott believes in giving his good guys a little bit of work, injury risk be darned. Hackett believes as Rams coach Sean McVay and Packers coach Matt LaFleur do, that the injury risk outweighs the reward of preseason performance.
Still, it wasn’t all bad for the Broncos.
Either Bills new edge rusher Von Miller makes a huge difference (and the Broncos know he does) or the No. 2 Broncos’ offense is better than we thought. On the opening drive, backup quarterback Josh Johnson completed four passes, two of them to rookie Montrell Washington, and the Broncos marched from their own 21-yard line to the Bills’ 15 against Buffalo’s top defense – sans Miller, who was held out against his former team – before settling for a 33-yard Brandon McManus field goal.
"We came out and had a nice, long drive versus 1 defense, which I really appreciated, they really got after them,'' Hackett told 9NEWS sideline reporter Rod Mackey at halftime. "And then defense, we've got to stop them. We've got to stop them and score touchdowns not field goals.''
The No. 2 Denver defense, however, was no match for Josh Allen and the Bills’ offensive starters. Allen needed just six plays to go 70 yards, capping the drive with a pocket moving, 28-yard heave to the end zone where Gabe Davis caught it between two Broncos’ defensive backs.
The Bills were up 7-3.
Case Keenum replaced Allen after that first series and with help from starting receivers Davis, Stefon Diggs and Isaiah McKenzie, systematically engineered and 80-yard drive on just 8 plays for another touchdown.
It was 14-3 Bills early in the second quarter. Which was predictable considering the only starters the Broncos played were tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, right guard Quinn Meinerz and right tackle Calvin Anderson on offense and outside linebacker Malik Reed and defensive tackle DeShawn Williams on defense.
Meinerz played because they wanted to pair him up Anderson and Cam Fleming at right tackle. Reed was poked in the left eye on the first play of the second quarter and didn’t return. His eye was swollen afterwards but he said he will be fine.
Johnson moved the Broncos again just enough on his third series for McManus to kick a 43-yard field goal, but Keenum and the Bills’ backups continued to shred Denver’s defense with a 78-yard drive.
Johnson was 8 of 16 for 70 yards in the first half. Brett Rypien started the second half with a nice 28-yard completion to Darrius Shepherd. Rypien played well, completing 22 of 26 for 191 yards and a touchdown.
"I'd say both those guys have done a really good job,'' Hackett said. "Again we're looking for that consistency. There were some good things that Josh did today. And there were some opportunities that he missed.
"Ryp, I believe he had a pretty good day. But both those guys are battling it out. They support each other, they're there for each other, they're making sure and we just want to keep that competition rolling."
The Broncos’ running game, though, struggled again as it picked up just 32 yards on 17 carries.
Allen was 3 of 3 for 45 yards with a touchdown in his only series. Keenum was 16 of 18 for 192 yards with a touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half. That’s a combined 19 of 21 for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. No. 3 QB Matt Barkley was 7 of 8 for 65 yards. That's 26 of 29 for 302 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions combined.
And Bills’ running backs Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook, Duke Johnson and Raheem Blackshear combined for 202 yards rushing on 24 carries through the third quarter.
Punter Sam Martin suffered an ankle injury during the warmup period and didn't participate in the game. McManus made all three of his field goals off Corliss Waitman holds. Waitman, though, left the ball at the 20 twice on two inside-the-20 punt attempts. ...
Offensive lineman Casey Tucker was carted off the field in the third quarter with a dislocatedbig right toe. "It looked like a unicorn sticking straight up,'' Tucker said. It was popped back into place and Tucker said he didn't think surgery was necessary. He left hobbling on a crutch and boot on his right foot. ...
Cornerback Michael Ojemudia suffered a dislocated right elbow. He left with a brace and sling around his right arm.
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