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Tim Graham: Bills fans should hope all those penalties aren't a red flag

Tim Graham

What we see in the preseason easily could be rationalized and justified and washed away by the mere fact these exhibitions don't count in the standings.

The real games are a month away. There's time to make strategic corrections, to coach up those players.

Sean McDermott isn't willing to make excuses when it comes to penalties, even in the preseason. There were far too many in Thursday night's 17-10 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field.

"Good teams don't beat themselves," McDermott said, "and we beat ourselves numerous times tonight. We've got to get that corrected to get to where we want to go."

Accountability and discipline are among McDermott's core principles. That approach is one of the factors that drew the Pegulas to him.

But his Bills didn't look much different Thursday night than the recidivists who played for Rex Ryan and Doug Marrone.

Buffalo committed 13 penalties, with 10 marched off for 106 yards. Two were declined, and another was offset by a Vikings flag.

"We talk a lot about the process," McDermott said. "There's a process of developing a football team and evaluating our football players.

"That said, penalties are not a part of the process in terms of winning football."

Just 2:43 into the second quarter, the Bills already had six penalties (one declined) for 52 yards.

Twice, the Bills pulled off the dreaded two-fer.

On a second-quarter kickoff, B.T. Sanders was offside and Trae Elston committed a facemask. Two plays later, Elston was zapped for pass interference, surrendering 34 yards in the span of seconds.

On a fourth-quarter play, guard Jordan Mudge was flagged for holding and receiver Brandon Reilly was called for an illegal block above the waist.

The types of penalties bothered McDermott more deeply.

Defensive end Marquavius Lewis, who otherwise had a fantastic game with a sack and two more tackles for losses, roughed Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke on a third-and-14 incompletion.

"The pre-snap and the post-whistle penalties, I can't have it," McDermott said. "Those are not a part of a winning formula.

"All the penalties, obviously, limited us offensively and sometimes defensively from what we were trying to get done."

The Bills essentially matched last year's preseason opener, when Ryan's squad committed 11 penalties for 106 yards. The Bills had 13 penalties for 104 yards in the third preseason game.

Preseason penalties have correlated to regular-season totals over the past decade, with Ryan's and Marrone's teams among the NFL "leaders" in calls and yardage against.

Each of the past five seasons, Buffalo finished among the 10 worst teams in preseason penalties and no better than 11th-worst in the regular season. Buffalo was dead last in 2015 (fourth-worst in preseason) and second-last in 2014 (ninth-worst in preseason).

The last time Buffalo finished outside the bottom 10 in preseason penalties was under Chan Gailey in 2011, when they were fourth-best and then fifth-best in real games.

I would

Tyrod Taylor insisted on developing that all-important connection with Sammy Watkins.

They took 16 snaps together over the first three series before backups replaced them. Taylor threw to Watkins on each of the first three plays for gains of 5, 11 and 14 yards.

Of Taylor's eight passes, five went to Watkins for four completions and 39 yards. Taylor's only other completion was a dump to running back Jonathan Williams.


In the hotly anticipated showdown between former Houston Texans backup quarterbacks, Case Keenum outplayed the Bills' T.J. Yates.

Our first gander at Yates didn't provide any comfort when considering a Taylor injury.

Yates completed six of his 11 passes. He connected with receiver Philly Brown three times for 23 yards and with tight end Nick O'Leary on a 16-yard play. The rest was shaky. The Vikings sacked him twice.

Keenum was 11 of 16 for 121 yards and in the third quarter guided Minnesota on the game's first touchdown drive.

Thanks, Obama

Moritz Bohringer got into the game but still is looking for his first NFL reception.

Who is Moritz Bohringer?

Why, he's the former Schwabisch Hall Unicorns star!

He began playing football in Germany four years ago and in 2016 became the first draft pick in NFL history to be selected directly from Europe. He didn't play at a college.

Bohringer is so obscure, the NFL apparently spells his name incorrectly. He's listed as "Boehringer" by the league, but the Vikings say it's actually without the first "e."

He has one career preseason target, coming in last year's opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. But nein catches.

We good here?

Still too soon to say. Buffalo's starters looked decent against Minnesota's starters.

Running back LeSean McCoy didn't play because the Bills like where he is physically and don't need to see what he can do. Then Williams played well anyway.

As McDermott says, it's all about the process. One exhibition game is a small part of the overall plan.

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