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In a game bereft of big names, Bills slog it out

If you didn’t go to Saturday’s exhibition between the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills or watch it on TV, then why the flip do you want to read this?

You don’t.

Trust me.

The Colts’ 19-18 victory over the Bills in Orchard Park was dismal even by preseason standards.

Many of the top players didn’t dress. Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, guard Richie Incognito, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and cornerback Stephon Gilmore were held out.

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced on Twitter that quarterback Andrew Luck wouldn’t play. Twelve minutes later he tweeted Bills coach Rex Ryan “has never heard of the word preseason,” suggesting the Colts feared for Luck’s safety.

Bills starter Tyrod Taylor took one series and then spent the rest of the game in a bucket hat, leaving EJ Manuel and Scott Tolzien to quarterback most of the prime-time showdown.

Let’s take a look at the first-half stats, when the best available talent was on the field.

The Bills averaged 4.6 yards a play. The Colts went bonkers over the final two minutes – their first appearance on the Bills’ side of midfield – to reach 4.4 yards a play after just 2.6 yards prior to the warning. For comparison, the Colts and Houston Texans tied for the NFL’s worst per-play average last year at 4.9 yards.

The Bills and Colts in the first half combined to convert three of 15 third downs and 12 punts, not counting the one that got blocked.

Oh, yeah. The skies poured rain off and on in the first half, making the preseason experience all the more magnificent.

Blocked

IK Enemkpali’s path to Buffalo’s starting lineup encountered a road block with a twisted right knee 10 seconds before halftime. The injury might mean a dead end.

Enemkpali, the controversial outside linebacker the New York Jets waived last year for sucker punching quarterback Geno Smith, started Saturday night.

Enemkpali planted his right knee while trying to rush past Colts lineman Joe Haeg. Without contact, Enemkpali’s knee twisted awkwardly, and he went down. A cart was needed to get him off the field.

Two nights earlier, and one year to the day after breaking Smith’s jaw, Enemkpali punched Bills tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at practice.

What a statement, then, that Enemkapli was considered an important player in Rex Ryan’s defense. First-round pick Shaq Lawson will be out a couple more months because of shoulder surgery, and veteran Manny Lawson continues to recover from a partially torn pectoral muscle.

The job could land in the lap of Lorenzo Alexander, Bryson Albright or Eric Striker.

My main concern now is whether Striker has ever gotten over Macho Grande.

Buhleedat

Fourth-round pick Cardale Jones was drafted as a project. His first NFL performance looked like a solid building block.

With the Bills down, 19-12, with 1:03 to play, Jones drove the Bills 83 yards for a touchdown. He completed only three passes on eight attempts, but they went for 66 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown dart to Jarrett Boykin as time expired. Jones also ran for 12 yards on a fourth-and-10 play to keep the series alive.

The Bills went for the victory, and Jones’ two-point pass fell incomplete.

“That was exciting for the fans that stayed out there, man,” Ryan said.

Can’t stop, won’t stop

Bills tight end Chris Gragg has me blocked on Twitter, but that can’t prevent me from naming him my Superduper Player of the Preseason Game.

Gragg was responsible for eight points in the first half, only one fewer than the Colts scored.

He blocked a Pat McAfee punt that dribbled into the end zone and became a safety 6:32 into the first quarter. Nine plays later, Gragg caught a 19-yard Manuel lob into the end zone.

The 2013 seventh-round draft choice is fighting for a job. He finished with two catches for 26 yards.

Nick O’Leary grabbed two passes for 39 yards. Blake Annen had two receptions for 26 yards. Newly signed Jimmay Mundine made one catch for 5 yards. Free-agent signee Jim Dray was scratched with an ankle injury.

Again?

Marquise Goodwin might’ve hurt himself again. On a Manuel overthrow into the end zone, Goodwin chose to jump into the stands rather than slam on the brakes.

The frequently injured Goodwin emerged slowly from the seats and went straight to the Bills sideline, where he met with trainers and watched the rest of the game.

Big if true

When asked Thursday if Reggie Bush would play, Rex replied: “I don’t think so. I think that’s one that we’re going to probably put him on ice a little bit.”

Bush returned a punt 3 yards three minutes into the game, was ready to field another on Gragg’s blocked punt, returned the ensuing free kick 22 yards and let the next punt roll into the end zone.

Thanks, Obama

Colts running back Robert Turbin had one carry for 2 yards. His big play happened on the game’s third snap and held up as the Colts’ top average in the first half.

They ran for 0.6 yards per attempt, with leading rusher Josh Ferguson pounding out 3 yards on eight carries.

We good here?

We didn’t learn much about the Bills on Saturday night. The first preseason game is supposed to be our first game-situation glimpse at the early draft picks, but Shaq Lawson’s and Reggie Ragland’s summers are over.

Taylor played one series, but he didn’t have Watkins of Dez Lewis anyway. LeSean McCoy had two touches. Safety and former captain Aaron Williams sat out with a concussion, so we didn’t get to see him make his return from a serious neck injury.

So I don’t know if we’re good here. Leave me alone.

email: tgraham@buffnews.com

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