Predictably, the Buffalo Bills' preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field on Thursday night was mostly dull and very sloppy.
The Vikings won, 17-10, before an announced crowd of 60,459.
"No. 1, it was good to see the fans come out and support the football team," coach Sean McDermott said. "It's always good to play at home. We look forward to making this a tough place to play and embracing that.
"In addition to that, I thought there were a lot of good things on the football field, a lot of good moments. That said, good teams don't beat themselves and we beat ourselves numerous times tonight, and we've got to get that corrected in order to go where we want to go."
The biggest highlight of the night for the Bills came with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter when rookie third-string quarterback Nathan Peterman made a perfect throw on a 1-yard fade route to Dez Lewis for Buffalo's first touchdown of the game. That pulled the Bills to within seven points.
Peterman was impressive in leading the 13-play, 79-yard scoring drive, setting up the TD with a 9-yard strike over the middle to tight end Logan Thomas on third and 3 from the Vikings' 10.
The rookie had a chance for back-to-back scores when, on the ensuing possession, Bills safety Joe Powell intercepted a pass to give Buffalo the ball at the Minnesota 30. However, the drive stalled after four straight incompletions from the Vikings' 17, the last of which was a drop by running back Taiwan Jones.
An exchange of field goals put the game in a 3-3 knot at halftime.
New Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka hit a 42-yarder to give the Bills a 3-0 lead :45 into the second quarter. That capped a seven-play, 37-yard drive, the last of the night led by starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Other than Hauschka's kick, it was not a good night for the Bills' special teams. Familiar sloppiness showed up in the form of four penalties called on the kicking unit, with three accepted.
The Bills' starting defense looked solid. End Eddie Yarbrough, who has been impressive during training-camp practices, picked right up where he left off at St. John Fisher while filling in for Shaq Lawson. He sacked Sam Bradford for a 6-yard loss to end the Vikings' first drive, and otherwise generated considerable pressure through the first half.
Yarbrough was better at rushing the passer than he was in run defense, but he did have a nice stuff of rookie Dalvin Cook for a 1-yard gain.
The Bills' starting offense was mostly unimpressive through its first two possessions, but picked things up slightly in the third series, which stretched into the second quarter.
Taylor was under heavy pressure through his first two series. After completing passes to Sammy Watkins on the Bills' first three plays from scrimmage, Taylor had problems finding open receivers on the next series.
Watkins, in his first game action since undergoing foot surgery in January, was one of the offensive standouts. He caught four passes for 39 yards, including a long of 14.
LeSean McCoy was in uniform for the Bills, but did not play. "I've been around LeSean for a long time and I like where he is at this point in training camp in terms of getting himself ready for the season," McDermott said. Jonathan Williams took his place as a starter and carried four times for 39 yards, including a long of 17, before suffering a hamstring injury. That could be a serious problem, given the Bills' lack of depth at running back.
Mike Tolbert added 27 yards on four carries, while Joe Banyard picked up 10 yards on three attempts.
In his three-series outing, Taylor completed five of eight passes for 46 yards and a passer rating of 78.1. He also had a 2-yard run. T.J. Yates took over and didn't do a whole lot better. He connected on six of 11 throws for 48 yards for a passer rating of 65.7 before giving way to Peterman.
Peterman clearly outperformed Yates, completing 13 of 25 passes for 112 yards and a score. The Bills' last-gasp hope late in the fourth quarter ended with a botched snap that Peterman was not looking for. His passer rating was 77.4.
"He did (have command)," McDermott said. "He moved the offense, had a couple chances to win the game at the end. I would have liked to see us convert those situations. That said, for Nate, in his first experience, first chance to get out there in an NFL game, I thought he handled himself. Was poised, showed good composure. He did a nice job."
Taylor got up slowly after being sacked, and had his knee treated briefly by the Bills' medical staff under a tent on the sidelines before returning for action.
The Vikings' Kai Forbath tied the game with a 36-yard field goal with 3:26 left in the first half. The score was all the team had to show for an 11-play, 60-yard march led by backup quarterback Case Keenum.
Keenum led the Vikings to the game's first touchdown on a seven-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by C.J. Ham. Keenum set up the score with a 24-yard completion on a sideline throw to Stacy Coley on third and 7 from the Buffalo 26. McDermott challenged the catch, but the call stood.
The Vikings made it 17-3 when third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rodney Adams. The scoring drive covered 71 yards in 14 plays.