The Pro Football Hall of Fame game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio culminated a weekend in which the league honored seven of the 287 best players to ever play the game by enshrining them into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The game began with the introduction of all seven 2014 Hall of Fame inductees (Andre Reed, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams). Jim Kelly was part of the pre-game coin toss for the Bills as their honorary captain, while Harry Carson was the honorary captain for the Giants.
Andre Reed led the Bills’ pre-game huddle, with Strahan doing the same for the Giants. The game was also the first that included referees wearing headsets, wireless tablets on the sideline, and 33 yard extra point tries.
Both teams had many of their starters play well into the first quarter, with the New York getting a slight edge over Buffalo 7-3. The Bills’ first-team defense forced a three-and-out on the Giants’ first possession, and then Kyle Williams got a sack and forced fumble of Eli Manning on the second New York possession, which put the ball at the Giants’ 20.
Williams said it was “good” to play and get his first sack.
“It’s always good to come out and get your feet under you,” said Williams. “You’re never ready to practice or play football until you come to a practice and you’re never ready to play in a game until you get your feet under you in game. First preseason game for us is down and I’m looking forward to the next four and getting ready for September.”
Buffalo’s offense got a first down on its first possession before punting, and then another one on its second before New York’s defense stopped them, and settling for a 30 yard Dan Carpenter field goal. The Giants offense, against a Bills defense with mostly second-teamers, answered with a 12 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 3 yard touchdown run by rookie running back Andre Williams, ran for 37 yards on drive.
E.J. Manuel was 2 of 7 for 19 yards, with two batted balls at the line of scrimmage, two passes for Sammy Watkins incomplete, and a pass that was almost intercepted by linebacker DeQuan Williams. Manning was 6 of 7 for 43 yards with the lost fumble.
Manuel said it “felt very good” to get his first action, and that “it meant a lot” for the first game time to be at the Hall of Fame game.
“To see Andre Reed get inducted and a fellow Seminole, Derrick Brooks, who has been very pivotal in my career as well in college was awesome,” said Manuel.
Manuel also said that seeing Jim Kelly at the pre-game coin toss was “awesome”, especially seeing he was “doing a lot better.”
On Buffalo’s third possession, backup quarterback Jeff Tuel led a 15 play, 80 yard drive, finding Robert Woods for a 3 yard touchdown. Tuel was 8 of 11 for 43 yards and the score on the drive.
Former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who played for Marrone, completed two passes on an 8 play, 52 yard drive that ended in a 47 yard field goal for rookie kicker Brandon McManus to even the score at 10. Marcuse Easley blocked a punt in the last two minutes of the half, giving the Bills the ball inside the Giants’ 40.
Tuel took the team inside the 10, but a ball that bounced off the shoulderpads of receiver T.J. Graham and the hand of cornerback Zachary Bowman was intercepted by safety Cooper Taylor. Tuel ended the half 12 0f 17 for 74 yards, a touchdown and a pick, while Nassib was 5 of 8 for 49 yards.
Running back Fred Jackson thought the offensive performance for the first team was “ok” but “not where we want to be”.
“But we did make some plays we had opportunities,” said Jackson. “”A lot of stuff can be corrected.”
Jackson said there is a lot to build on, with “definitely some positives’ the team can use by looking at film.
In the second half, Thaddeus Lewis played much of the second half. The best offense came from handing off to Bryce Brown, a camp standout who brought his momentum into the game, rushing for much of his 40 yards after halftime.
Lewis threw an interception on the Bills’ first possession in the end zone, looking deep for Marcus Easley, with Bowman stepping in front of him. Buffalo appeared to get the ball back with an interception of Nassib from rookie linebacker Preston Brown, but the turnover was negated by a roughing the passer penalty by defensive tackle Stefan Charles.
Still, the Bills defense forced a punt, and a 26 yard pass for a third down to Robert Woods put Carpenter in position to make a 51 yard field goal to take the lead. Early in the fourth quarter, Nassib went to Corey Washington on a deep pass, and he broke a tackle from cornerback Michael Carter and went 73 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-13.
Possessions by both teams left little over three minutes left in the game, with Lewis getting sacked and fumbling for a 20 yard loss to make it 3rd and 30, and a potential first down catch by Caleb Holley on fourth down would not have counted due to Lewis being across the line.
The Bills return to training camp at St. John Fisher College for a night practice on Tuesday, while the Giants will be back at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Wednesday for a night practice.
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