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The Buffalo Bills' first play from scrimmage was an omen of things to come Sunday.

Thurman Thomas took a wicked shot to the ribs on the play, hobbled to the sidelines and never returned to the game.

Thomas had sore ribs after the game, and his status for next Sunday is uncertain.

"The X-rays were negative, but we are still looking at him," coach Wade Phillips said.

"I'm going to have some more tests on Monday," Thomas said.

The injury came on a short pass. Doug Flutie rolled to the right and threw back to the left. Thomas leaped for the ball and was drilled by Colts cornerback Tyrone Poole.

The injury put Jonathan Linton into action for much of the game. The Bills wanted to use a spread attack with one running back against the Colts. Linton, not Antowain Smith, is the backup to Thomas in the one-back set.

The Bills had 12 penalties for 90 yards.

"We had enough penalties for two or three games," tackle John Fina said.

Four of them were false starts or illegal motion. Two were offensive holding, both on Ruben Brown. Five were on the defense.

Noise in the RCA Dome hindered the Bills at times.

"It was a factor," Eric Moulds said. "I didn't get the call a couple of times, but I just kind of went on our formation and read it that way."

"It didn't hurt us that much," Fina said. "But when you're down there in the shotgun it does hurt a little bit. One time (on a false start) I should have been watching the ball. I heard the quarterback and Jerry (Ostroski) didn't, so I was moving back. You start adding them all up and it's too many." The Bills thought they could burn the Colts' blitzing defense with passes. However, penalties and mistakes kept putting them in third-and-long situations.

The Bills' 15 rushing attempts were fewer than in any game last season. And only 11 were by the running backs.

"We're short on identity at this point," Fina said of the offense. "We ran so much of that spread offense and we didn't run the ball. I don't know if that's who we're going to be, or who we are, or where we're going, but we need to figure that out before the week is out."

Rookie Peerless Price caught three passes for 51 yards in spot duty. Kevin Williams, however, saw most of the action as the third receiver in the first half. The Bills wanted to use a more experienced receiver on the road in a hostile environment.

"You go with experience first," Phillips said. "But I thought Peerless looked good. He played well."

Flutie was sacked five times, all in the second half. That's three more than in any game last year.

"We hit our hot reads a lot for gains against their blitzes, but when it's third-and-12 and third-and-15, I wasn't going to be content to get it to Eric for a 6-yard gain," Flutie said.

The Bills report there are 1,000 tickets remaining for the home opener against the New York Jets Sunday night.

Inactive for the Bills were Keion Carpenter, Jay Foreman, Bill Conaty, Victor Allotey, Joe Panos and Dan Brandenburg. . . . Dusty Zeigler started for Panos at right guard and played the entire game. . . . The gunners on the punt coverage unit were Daryl Porter and Antoine Winfield. . . . Peyton Manning now has thrown 103 passes against the Bills without being sacked.

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