EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It took a while to get started, but once it did “Motor” was off and running.
Rookie running back Devin Singletary provided a much-needed spark to the Buffalo Bills’ offense in a 17-16 win against the New York Jets in the season opener Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Singletary was held to just one catch for 4 yards in the first half, but put on a show when his number was called in the second. His first career carry came with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter and gained 20 yards. That helped set up the Bills for their first points of the game by way of a 43-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka.
“There are four quarters in football. That’s all I was thinking,” Singletary said in the postgame locker room.
Once that fourth quarter arrived, the rookie from Florida Atlantic shined. He ripped off runs of 23, 12 and 15 yards on the team’s first possession of the final quarter. The last of those got the Bills down to the New York 3-yard line.
“Definitely was thinking the end zone,” Singletary said. “I’m going to have to go back and look at it. I think I could have set something up different, but I definitely was thinking the end zone.”
No matter, because on the next play, quarterback Josh Allen scrambled into the end zone for a touchdown.
Although he had to wait a long time for his number to be called, Singletary said he wasn’t feeling anxious.
“Not at all. You don’t want to force anything, you have to let the game come to you,” he said. “I just waited and did whatever the team asked. … We just had to execute the game plan and that’s what we did.”
A lot is expected of Singletary this season, especially after the Bills elected to cut veteran LeSean McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler. Singletary's 70 yards on just four carries gave him the third-highest rushing total in franchise history for a player making his Bills debut.
Singletary said those expectations did not result in any pregame jitters.
“I went in feeling comfortable,” he said. “We prepared for this moment.”
When it finally came Sunday, he seized it.
2. The Bills finally settled on an offensive line. Sort of.
Rookie Cody Ford got the start at right tackle, but split time with veteran Ty Nsekhe, which was the plan going into the game.
“It wasn’t one of those things where he messed up or I messed up and we got pulled,” Ford said. “It was one of those things where we had to do what we had to do to help the team win.”
Ford became the Bills’ first rookie tackle to start a season opener since Seantrel Henderson in 2014. Coach Sean McDermott said after the game that he wanted to allow Ford a chance to watch from the sideline and go over things with the coaching staff.
“So that was scripted out,” the coach said. “Wasn’t what Cody did or didn’t do. I thought, in fact, he played well at times in there. It’s good to have guys who can step in and play, and guys that maybe weren’t the starters that were prepared to play.”
The Bills’ protection held the Jets’ strong defensive front to just one sack, and that came off the left side of the line.
“The fact we were able to pull off the ‘W’ after having the slow start we did, it’s a testament to the guys we have,” Nsekhe said. “We’re a real battle-tested group and we’ve got a great defense that can cover up some of the mistakes we make."
3. The Bills hurt themselves with a pair of undisciplined penalties. In the first half, guard Jon Feliciano took a taunting penalty on a third-down scramble by Allen that came up short. The penalty took the Bills out of field-goal range and was the second penalty of the drive on Feliciano after an earlier false start.
In the third quarter, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was flagged for roughing the passer. Phillips tackled Jets cornerback Sam Darnold at the knees, leading to the flag. New York would score on the drive when Darnold found running back Le’Veon Bell from 15 yards out.
Overall, the Bills were penalized seven times for 55 yards. The Jets had eight flags against them for 67 yards.
4. Nickel cornerback Taron Johnson was ruled out of the game in the third quarter for the Bills with a hamstring injury. He was replaced in the lineup by second-year veteran Siran Neal. Following Bell’s touchdown run, the Jets went for two points. They were successful when Darnold scrambled and threw to the back of the end zone to Bell. Neal appeared to be in position to at least break up the pass, but was unable to do so.
5. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was back for the opening kickoff for the Bills with Andre Roberts out because of a quad injury. Micah Hyde returned punts in Roberts’ absence. Hyde made a fair catch at the 5-yard line, then let another punt bounce at about the 7-yard line, which allowed the Jets to down the ball at the Buffalo 2.
Tight end Tyler Kroft also did not play as he makes his way back from a broken foot. Kroft went through a lengthy pregame workout and appears close to being able to return.
Without Kroft, the Bills dressed three tight ends: Veteran Lee Smith and rookies Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. Sweeney’s first career catch went for 29 yards in the first half. Knox’s first career catch went for just 1 yard.
Knox, Sweeney, Ford and Singletary were four of six rookies to play in their first professional game for the Bills. First-round draft pick Ed Oliver and seventh-round defensive end Darryl Johnson Jr. were the others.
6. Punter Corey Bojorquez, whose inconsistent performance in the preseason has left his roster status in a state of continued jeopardy, had a strong first half. He punted twice, with the first going 35 yards and being downed at the Jets’ 5-yard line. Bojorquez got unlucky on the second, when it bounced into the end zone for a touchback. The Bills’ gunners needed to do a better job of getting down the field to down the ball. As it was, it was a 60-yard punt that netted 40 yards.
7. The Bills didn't have any major surprises on their inactives list. In addition to Roberts and Kroft, the Bills' healthy inactive players were offensive tackle Conor McDermott, guard Ike Boettger, offensive lineman Ryan Bates and safeties Jaquan Johnson and Dean Marlowe.
That left the Bills with just three safeties. Veteran Kurt Coleman backed up starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Neal, who played safety last year, conceivably could have filled in on an emergency basis if needed, until he went in at cornerback.
8. If you thought Hauschka missing a pair of field goals in the preseason was cause for concern, imagine being a Jets fan. Kicker Kaare Vedvik doinked an extra point no good off the upright in the first half, then followed that up by badly missing a 45-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter.
“I’m confident in myself and when I go out there and I see that I miss, it’s very simple, small things that I can identify right away,” Vedvik said. “I know what happened to me and what to correct. It’s just about going back and practicing those things.”
We’ll see if he gets that chance, considering what Jets coach Adam Gase said afterward, "We’ll see what happens on Monday. I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to have a conversation with the personnel guys and see what they want to do. We’ll have more as we go."