Buffalo Bills fans made it plenty clear who they prefer in the competition to be the team’s starting quarterback.
Just two passes into his first game in a Buffalo uniform, Kevin Kolb heard the boos fill Ralph Wilson Stadium. His intended pass for Marquise Goodwin was batted into the air by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and grabbed by safety Jamarca Sanford.
It was an inauspicious start for Kolb, who completed just three of his first eight passes for 17 yards in an eventual 20-16 win by the Bills.
“Obviously it started slow. It took a little while for the game to come to me,” Kolb said. “But I’m happy with the way it finished. I felt like I got in a little bit of a groove; we got in a little bit of a groove. I’m a little bit disappointed there in the first quarter in myself, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen live action, been a long time since I’ve been on the field. I’ll just keep getting better and keep pushing.”
Kolb played the entire first half against the Vikings, finishing 13 of 21 for 111 yards, the one interception and a passer rating of 55.9.
It was the first time he had appeared in an NFL game since Oct. 14, 2012, when he was knocked out of a game against the Bills while with the Arizona Cardinals.
“You guys know when y’all knocked me out last year, it’s been a long time from now,” he said. “It was just nice to get back out there and feel the sweat a little bit. … Little bit unhappy that it took so long.”
Kolb missed the Bills’ first preseason game because of a knee injury. That, coupled with an excused absence to attend a funeral, means he hasn’t gotten nearly as much work as rookie EJ Manuel in their battle to be the team’s starter.
When Manuel was introduced at the start of the third quarter, the cheers from the Buffalo faithful made it clear who was their favorite. But Kolb was less concerned with crowd reaction and more focused on his own performance.
“I’ve been booed plenty of times in my career. I’d like to boo myself when I don’t throw a good ball,” he said. “I definitely don’t hear them whenever I’m out there. You’re just upset you didn’t complete the ball and continue the drive.”
In seven possessions, Kolb led the Bills to a pair of field goals. Four possessions ended in punts, including two three-and-outs.
“I think he probably got off to the same start as EJ got into last game,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “It’s tough when you come into those games. You want to get in that rhythm.”
Kolb did so toward the end of the first half, leading a pair of scoring drives. The first covered 59 yards in 15 plays, during which Kolb went 7 for 8.
The second scoring drive started with just 38 seconds left in the first half, with Kolb leading the team 52 yards in seven plays.
“Forget the competition; it was good to get back in the groove for myself,” he said. “I think knocking off the rust … that’s what it felt like I was doing. When I went out there, I was just overthinking things and that happens whenever you’re excited about something. It’s happened to me a couple times in my career. You get there and you start overthinking things. You’re not reading and reacting like you normally do, then you let it all fly out the window and you just start playing football again.”