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Monday, August 10, 2009
Five Bills observations from Hall of Fame Game


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills opened their preseason schedule Sunday night with a 21-18 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

Here are five Bills observations from Fawcett Stadium:

 
  Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
  Bills receiver Terrell Owens got involved early in Buffalo's Hall of Fame game loss to Tennessee.
1. If you had to guess which team opened camp one week ago and which opened two weeks ago ...

The Titans appeared to be the much sharper squad when their first- and second-teamers were on the field. The Bills opened training camp on July 25, making them the first in the NFL to break out the air horn, at least a week before 13 other clubs. The Titans got started on July 31.

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards had only one series and concluded it with an interception at the Titans' 7-yard line.

Tennessee seemed to come up with the big play when it needed one against Buffalo's top players. On the game's first drive, Titans coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake punt that rookie A.J. Trapasso executed exceptionally, hiding the ball behind his back as he swung his leg and then dashing up the left sideline for a 40-yard touchdown.

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins was 7 of 10 for 82 yards. Collins picked on second-year right cornerback Leodis McKelvin for 19 yards to convert a third-and-15 situation on an eventual touchdown drive.

"The third-and-15 was a critical down in that series," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "We can't let people off in that. The percentages are highly in our favor, and we just gave up a first down."

Early in the second quarter, the Bills were denied on third and fourth down from the Titans' 5-yard line. The Bills needed 2 yards for the first down on each snap.

"We've got to convert that and thought we had a chance to," Jauron said.

2. Buffalo's no-huddle looked like it was no problem.

Bills fans who haven't had the chance to watch them at St. John Fisher and caught their first glimpse of the no-huddle offense Sunday night on NBC's broadcast might feel disillusioned that it looks nothing like the K-Gun.

But the system implemented by offensive coordinator Turk Schonert came off as natural against a live opponent.

"We'll certainly get better at it, too," Jauron said. "We would like to keep moving, but for the first night I was pleased. I don't recall that we had an illegal procedure or a delay of game."

None of the Bills' quarterbacks looked awkward or out of place in the no-huddle offense. Even fourth quarterback Matt Baker seemed comfortable barking out signals and getting the offense organized at the line.

As Jauron has pointed out before, NFL players don't need to be taught how to huddle, which is why the Bills have practiced without one all summer.

3. Xavier Omon and Demetrius Bell helped themselves.

With third running back Dominic Rhodes on the sideline with a sore knee, Omon enjoyed extended action after Marshawn Lynch (one series) and Fred Jackson (removed in the second quarter) left the game.

Omon finished with 11 carries for 36 yards and four receptions for 25 yards.

"Xavier ran tonight like he's been running all year in our OTAs and in our preseason," Jauron said. "He ran well. He found the holes. He stayed low. He showed power. He moved some people. He made some people miss."

Bell, the second-year project from Northwestern State, started at right tackle in place of the injured Brad Butler and played well into the third quarter. Jauron said Bell suffered a minor shoulder injury late in the game.

"Hopefully, it's nothing serious, but I'm very pleased with what he's done to this point," Jauron said.

4. Lynch showed his fans some love.

As Lynch trotted back to the locker room after the game, he broke into a sprint when he saw a group of Bills fans holding a banner that read "Free Marshawn."

"That's what I'm talking about!" Lynch said with a big smile.

Lynch reached over the fence and swiped the homemade sign, which referred to the three-game suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down for repeated transgressions. Lynch appealed, but Goodell last week upheld the suspension, which will cover Buffalo's first three regular-season games.

The fans who made the sign -- Andy Lock, Andrew Simmons and Ian Simmons of Williamsville, N.Y. -- also started a "Free Marshawn" chant at Saturday night's Hall of Fame inductions, which Goodell attended.

After a little anxiety Lynch wouldn't bring their banner back, Lynch emerged from the locker room and handed it back -- freshly autographed.

5. Don't read too much into this game, Bills fans.

It was merely one preseason game. The Bills still have four more to play, their next exhibition taking place Saturday at home against the Chicago Bears.

On Sunday night, we didn't get a true sense of what their personality will be on either side of the ball.

We got only a quick glimpse of the no-huddle offense with Edwards at the controls. He got Terrell Owens involved quickly, hitting him for 16 yards on their second play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Edwards found Owens for 11 yards and another first down.

But one series can't indicate too much. Two series for the defense also isn't enough time to get an idea, even though the pass defense looked soft on both drives. First impressions often are misleading.

The next game probably won't be enlightening either. Wait until the second-to-last preseason game Aug. 29 at Pittsburgh before trying to figure out what you're going to be doing in January.