The Bills' offense looked very sharp -- yes, you read that correctly -- in taking a 17-0 lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars before a Kids Day Crowd of 50,615 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. At least they gave some hope that the season might not be so long and dreary after all.
Buffalo had the big lead early in the game when both teams were playing their starters before Jacksonville scored 32 straight points. Most of the damage was done by the Jags' reserves in the second half while the Bills backups stumbled in ways that are all to familiar.
Rian Lindell finally ended the game with a 40-yard field goal 12:26 into overtime.
The Bills came back and scored twice in the fourth quarter and tied the game, 32-32, with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when receiver Paul Hubbard scored on a 4-yard touchdown catch and caught a conversion pass from Tyler Thigpen. The marathon game became laugable with both teams making mistakes amid video reviews and overtime.
Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bills to three scoring drives on their first three possessions. He opened the game with 10 straight completions for 154 yards and two TDs on his first three series. He found Marcus Easley for an 11-yard touchdown on their first possession of the second quarter and connected with Stevie Johnson on a 52-yard TD on the next series.
And, by the way, Fitz shaved his beard.
Some other notes:
* Andy Levitre started at left guard and was moved to left tackle, continuing the rotation during the practice last week with Demetrius Bell and reserve guard Chad Rinehart.
* Fred Jackson had a bulk of the action in the backfield in the first half after complaining last week that he didn't know where he stood on the depth chart. He had 19 plays to C.J. Spiller's seven until late in the first half, when Spiller was given more time with the first-string offense.
* Fitz was 11 for 11 before throwing his first incompletion, a pass attempt for Easley that was knocked down. He played only the first half, completing 11 of 12 passes for 165 yards passing and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
The third preseason game is usually the most telling because the starters on both teams play longer than they do in other games.
The Bills looked very efficient on both sides of the ball. Jackson gained 33 yards on nine carries on the first three possessions. Spiller had 21 yards on four carries. Kyle Williams, who recently signed a six-year contract worth $39 million, had a sack. Johnson had five catches for 76 yards. Easley had five catches for 51 yards and the TD.
Jacksonville answered with a 74-yard scoring drive, capped when quarterback David Garrard scambled for a 4-yard touchdown through the Bills' defense. Josh Scobee kicked a 45-yard field goal seven seconds before halftime to bring Jacksonville within a touchdown.
The Jags' reserves outplayed the Bills' backups in the third quarter before Bills running back Bruce Hall scored from the 5 with eight minutes remaining. Backup QB Tyler Thigpen threw a terrible interception when his pass intended for -- who? -- landed in Jacob Cutera's hands for an easy 16-yard return into the end zone.
Still, the Bills were the much better team in the first half. Are they making progress? Is Jacksonville's first-team defense that bad? It could be a combination of both.
--- Bucky Gleason