Jordan Matthews found himself getting anxious.
The Buffalo Bills' No. 1 receiver sat out the entire preseason with a chip fracture in his sternum. Then the first half of Sunday's season opener against the New York Jets came and went at New Era Field with Matthews making just one catch for 14 yards.
"It definitely took me a while just to be able to get back into it," he said. "The whole first half, I still was just feeling like, 'you know, come on, get back into football mode, get back into football mode.' I was just feeling it out."
The moment Matthews officially could be declared back from injury can be time stamped at 8:36 of the third quarter. It was then he caught a simple 6-yard in route from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, then shook the attempted tackle of Jets cornerback Buster Skrine for a 47-yard gain down the left sideline. That set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Andre Holmes a few plays later, extending the Bills' lead to 14-7.
"Once I got comfortable, it was like, 'ok, I'm ready to go out there and just play some ball now.' Tyrod found me across the middle, so we were able to get something good out of it," Matthews said. "These guys make it easy because everybody here is working toward the same mission. There aren't a bunch of guys out here trying to do their own thing. It's so much about team, so the whole time guys were like, 'hey Jordan, it's coming.' That type of encouragement, that type of teamwork helps those big plays happen."
Matthews finished with just those two catches (on three targets) for 61 yards, but a 21-12 victory were the only numbers he cared about.
"We won, and that's the main thing," he said. "The biggest thing about our team, I can tell, is we're a mature bunch. So we're not going to say, 'ok, just because we won, there's not things we can correct, things we can get better at.' As receivers, we've got to take it upon ourselves, like ok, what did we do in the pass game, on certain plays where we could have came open. That's my biggest focus. We're going to go back to figure out what we can do to get better."
After losing out to John Miller in the competition to be the Bills' starting right guard, veteran guard Vlad Ducasse was inactive Sunday.
Also inactive for the Bills were wide receiver Kaelin Clay, cornerback Greg Mabin, offensive tackle Conor McDermott and tight end Khari Lee. Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy (concussion) and rookie linebacker Tanner Vallejo (knee) were previously ruled out because of injury.
With Mabin and Clay inactive, the Bills used just four cornerbacks and four wide receivers against New York.
The Jets made quarterback Bryce Petty inactive, which meant Christian Hackenberg served as Josh McCown's backup. Also inactive for New York were recently signed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, defensive back Derrick Jones, guard Dakota Dozier, tight end Neal Sterling, safety Rontez Miles (eye) and tight end Jordan Leggett (knee).
The 25th anniversary of the “Comeback Game” was celebrated during halftime. Highlights of the game, including the classic calls of the late Van Miller, played on the scoreboards.
Former kicker Steve Christie and tight end Pete Metzelaars were the “leaders of the charge,” who pumped up fans prior to kickoff.
A video message from the former architect of the comeback, quarterback Frank Reich, played on the scoreboard during the ceremony. Reich is the current offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. Fireworks shot off when the video of Christie’s winning kick played.
“We’ve all gone back on this game to know how not only this team, but Buffalo itself is so resilient, Christie said. “Thank you for loving us, and we all love you.”
Some of the other players who took part in the ceremony were Andre Reed, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Chris Mohr, Carwell Gardner, Mark Maddox, Darry Talley, Kenny Davis, Adam Lingner, John Fina and Jim Pitcher.
“We are so excited to be here and be a part of the greatest game the NFL has ever seen,” Reed said. “This game will go on forever.”
Left tackle Cordy Glenn started for the Bills, but shared playing time with rookie Dion Dawkins. Glenn nursed a left foot injury much of the summer.
"Build him up, build him up, acclimate, acclimate," coach Sean McDermott said. "Just trying to put him in a position to be successful as well with coming off of the injury so I thought he did some good things."
There were no visible signs of protest during the national anthem on either sideline. … The Bills were introduced as a team, instead of individually. … Newly elected team captains Lorenzo Alexander, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Taylor and Stephen Hauschka took part in the coin toss for the team, and had a ‘C’ on their jerseys. … Taylor became the franchise's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks, passing Joe Ferguson's total of 1,174 yards. Taylor now has 1,186 rushing yards in 30 games. ... Proceeds from the team’s 50/50 raffle were designated for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Story topics: Cordy Glenn/ Dion Dawkins/ Eric Wood/ Jerel Worthy/ Joe Ferguson/ John Miller/ Jordan Matthews/ Kyle Williams/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Sean McDermott/ Stephen Hauschka/ Tanner Vallejo/ Tyrod Taylor/ Vlad Ducasse