Sunday’s inaugural Bethlehem Steel Bowl Presented by Wilson Farms was everything we imagined it would be.
The regular-season exhibition between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium was a leaden exercise, borderline pleasureless from start to finish.
As you’d expect from a couple of teams already wondering what their 2016 draft slot will be.
Almost a quarter of the Bills’ active roster – 11 of the 45 players who got on the field – belonged to a practice squad inside the past four months. The Bills were down four offensive starters, including LeSean McCoy, the team’s solitary Pro Bowler.
Top defensive tackle Marcell Dareus suffered a shoulder injury on the first play of the second quarter and didn’t return. Special teamer Marcus Easley was carted off a few minutes later with his left leg immobilized.
The Cowboys were about as interesting. Kellen Moore, promoted from the practice squad three weeks ago, played like a quarterback who was on a practice squad three weeks ago.
And Moore nearly was adequate enough to win with a 48.6 passer rating.
Until deep reserve running back Mike Gillislee, also on a taxi squad three weeks ago, ran 50 yards for a touchdown with 2:25 to play, the Cowboys trailed by only three points, the game’s largest deficit until that moment.
The score was 6-3 at the end of the first quarter, 6-6 at halftime and 9-6 after three quarters.
Did I mention it rained all day, that it was 39 degrees with an 11 mph wind at kickoff?
Between this Gillislee fella and fifth-round pick Karlos Williams, you wonder why the Bills or any other team would sink so much money into any running back.
Sure, McCoy made the Pro Bowl, although he admitted it likely was more on reputation. McCoy said he didn’t have a Pro Bowl season.
Gillislee ran nine times for 93 yards and a touchdown. With his 60-yard TD last week at Washington, he became the fourth player in Bills history with rushing TDs of at least 50 yards in back-to-back games. The others were Antowain Smith in 1997, Cookie Gilchrist in 1964 and Elbert Dubenion in 1961.
C.J. Spiller had two TDs of 50 yards or longer his entire Buffalo career.
Williams carried 17 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. He has missed five games but has eight touchdowns. He has six rushing touchdowns to McCoy’s three. They have two receiving TDs apiece.
Big if true
In a Buffalo News story last week, former Bills GM Bill Polian criticized this year’s offensive line as “aging and unathletic.”
OK, but Buffalo ran for 236 yards minus McCoy. A week earlier, they rushed for 240 yards, with McCoy contributing only 29 yards.
The last time the Bills posted back-to-back 200-yard rushing games was in 1995.
They went for at least 220 rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time in three decades. The Bills did it three straight games in 1976, but went 0-3.
Bigger if untrue
Maybe rookie linebacker AJ Tarpley shouldn’t get too comfortable after his big game.
In Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tarpley recorded his first NFL sack. One day later, the Bills cut him. The Bills re-signed him to their practice squad and then promoted him again because of injuries.
Tarpley on Sunday snagged his first career interception and forced his first career fumble. The fumble happened on the kickoff following Gillislee’s 50-yard touchdown dash. The Cowboys never got the ball back.
We were denied the chance to witness a truly special matchup.
The only two players who dressed Sunday but did not get into the game were quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee was something to watch. He made 15 tackles, two for losses, with half a sack.
Lee provided more “D” than national anthem singer Ddendyl.
Who’s Ddendyl? She was a contestant on “The Voice” last year. Her presence was about as thrilling as the game.
We good here?
I’ve stopped caring.
Please stop asking.