- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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Meanwhile, the Bills' defense stifled Eli Manning and the Giants' offense early, forcing a three-and-out and then a turnover before starters were pulled from the game.
Here are some thoughts on the Bills' first game of the year:
Manuel final stat line: 2-for-7 for 19 yards. His first completion was a 10-yard gain to tight end Lee Smith on the first drive, while he completed a screen pass to Mike Williams on the second drive. Otherwise, Manuel's brief outing was shaky. He had two passes batted down at the line and had a third -- his final throw of the night -- nearly intercepted in the red zone. It's a small sample size to evaluate, but the Giants may have benefited from Manuel keying on a single receiver from the pocket.
Watkins going without a catch wasn't his fault. On the third play of the game, Manuel overthrew Watkins on a deep ball down the left sideline, while his final throw to Watkins came in late and was broken up. Like Manuel, Watkins didn't play beyond the first two series. If there was anything to take away from his performance, it would be his ability to gain separation on that first shot down the field. We've seen plenty of that from Watkins in training camp.
To the surprise of few, the Bills' defensive line was a force in its only action early in the game. Rashad Jennings' first two runs were both stopped for a loss, while Kyle Williams broke through the line to strip-sack Eli Manning on the Giants' second series. Between Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, and Marcell Dareus, the Bills have three Pro Bowlers from last season on their line. It's likely the league's best.
Jeff Tuel looks to have won the first episode of the Bills' backup quarterback battle. Tuel replaced Manuel in the final minute of the first quarter and went 12-for-17 passing for 74 yards. Tuel found Robert Woods for a 2-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal, while Tuel's interception came on a pass intended for T.J. Graham that was deflected. Thad Lewis, who was the Bills' No. 2 quarterback last season, came on in the third quarter and had his first drive end on an interception in the end zone. He finished 10-of-16 for 87 yards.
In a bit of a surprise, Robert Woods wasn't on the field with Manuel. Instead, the Bills started Watkins and Mike Williams, with Chris Hogan subbing into the slot. Woods came on with Tuel and was still on the field late in the third quarter with Lewis. It's unclear if the Bills aren't happy with Woods or were just giving their backup quarterbacks a better target. Woods had been running with the first team for much of camp.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini