Former British rugby star Christian Wade stole the show and lit up social media with a 65-yard touchdown run on his very first carry in his very first NFL game, speeding past deep reserves in the fourth quarter of the Bills’ 24-16 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday night at New Era Field.
But the more critical performance among those vying for playing time in the Bills’ crowded backfield belonged to Devin Singletary.
“He's very natural. That's one thing when I first saw him. He's got great vision. Great short quickness. He’s a true back,” future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore said. “People think he's small, but he's really not. He's got a thick lower body. He's a true running back.”
The 5-foot-7, 203-pound Singletary, a third-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic, shined in his first NFL action, leading the Bills in rushing yards (27), carries (nine) and catches (three on three targets for 21 yards) in the first half. He did not play in the second half.
Singletary also picked up four first downs, including three on the team’s first touchdown drive of the game, a 10-play, 46-yard march in the second quarter that gave the Bills a 7-0 lead. Singletary touched the ball on seven of those 10 snaps, including on the first six plays of the drive. He contributed three catches for 21 yards and four rushes for 16 yards on the possession.
“All I really had to do was run,” Singletary said. “The line opened up some holes for me. So I just had to make some moves and get what I could get.”
Singletary converted third-and-1 and third-and-10 during the scoring drive, that last one on a screen pass inside the red zone, when he picked up 10 yards to give the Bills first-and-goal on the Indianapolis 9.
T.J. Yeldon then rushed up middle for one yard before Matt Barkley completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Cam Phillips in the right rear corner of end zone, giving the Bills a 7-0 lead with 9:36 remaining in the first half.
In his first football game ever. On his first NFL touch.
— NFL (@NFL) August 9, 2019
Singletary is third on the depth chart behind LeSean McCoy, who did not play in this game, and Gore, who received the start and finished with two carries for seven yards and one catch for four yards.
“I'll have to look at the film, but overall, both in the run and the pass game, I thought he did a good job,” coach Sean McDermott said about the rookie. “And some of the things you look for that it's not too big for some of these young guys. And he looked into the game and focused.”
Singletary lined up behind Barkley after Gore and Josh Allen were removed from the game late in the first quarter.
Their first drive together with the second-team offense sputtered, but their second series resulted in the touchdown, as the Bills’ offense took advantage of excellent field position after Isaiah McKenzie returned the ball 12 yards into Indianapolis territory.
Yeldon, on the roster bubble, fumbled deep in Colts territory late in the first half, short-circuiting another potential scoring drive.
Senorise Perry, also fighting for a roster spot in Buffalo’s crowded backfield, ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Bills a 14-0 lead with 1:01 remaining in the first half.
Wade’s touchdown run, the video of which was quickly posted online by the NFL’s primary Twitter account, staked the Bills to a 24-13 lead with 9½ minutes left in the game.
Singletary embraced the compliment from Gore, high praise considering the source.
“Oh, yeah, definitely coming from Frank. That’s major,” Singletary said. “If he said I’m natural, then I guess I’m natural.”