Manuel got the start for the Bills in Saturday's 43-19 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and made the most of his limited reps. Typically, starters play into the second quarter and even the second half in the third preseason game, but the Bills are conducting a quarterback battle between Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor, and all three players got time early on in the game.
The Steelers kept many of their defensive starters in the game into the second quarter, so it made sense for Ryan to shuffle the quarterbacks early to get them time against roughly equal competition. Initially, Manuel finished the game having attempted just two passes -- granted, both attempts connected for a total of 83 yards and a touchdown. That was the end of Manuel's time until the third quarter, when the Bills surprisingly put him back in the game. Buffalo scored twice with Manuel under center for his initial run, and running back Fred Jackson also put up 48 yards on five carries.
Cassel came into the game after Manuel in the first quarter and also got two drives under center. The Bills didn't manage to put more points on the board with Cassel in, though. He completed 6 of 7 passes, but only for 38 yards. He also took a sack for a loss of 1 yard, but did not throw an interception.
Next was Taylor, who closed out the first half and stayed in the game into the second. Taylor played incredibly well, completing 12 of 13 passes for 122 yards, with one carry that went for 20 yards and a touchdown. He got the biggest look of any of the quarterbacks ... until Manuel went back in the game.
Manuel went ahead and completed his next two passes when he was put back in, the second one going for his second touchdown of the game. He wound up being pulled again, and finished 7-of-8 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He also did this:
Pittsburgh starter Ben Roethlisberger didn't play much, completing 2 of the 4 passes he attempted. He only threw for 30 yards, but did not throw an interception. He was sacked once for a loss of 6 yards. It wasn't a great day for him, obviously, and Le'Veon Bell actually lost yards on his two carries. It was a rough start to the game for the Steelers in general.
In the end, though, it wasn't all bad for them. Michael Vick had a solid outing, oft-injured running back DeAngelo Williams survived another contest (three carries, 15 yards and a touchdown) and wide receiver Martavis Bryant caught three passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. That includes a 63-yard reception. Bryant has been one of the standout players in camp and should be a big focus of Pittsburgh's offense going forward.
Landry Jones got the most playing time for Pittsburgh quarterbacks, finishing out the game after Vick and Roethlisberger. He played well, tossing a touchdown and throwing for 77 yards, but Pittsburgh's defense gave the offense little chance to go out and win the game, and Buffalo took home the big win.
3 things we learned from Saturday's games:
1)makes strong case to start Week 1 for Washington
Though most of the focus following Washington's 31-13 win over the Ravens Saturday night will probably be devoted to the bench-clearing brawl that erupted in the first quarter, the biggest story for Washington is how Kirk Cousins performed in Robert Griffin III's place.
Cousins started slowly, as he threw an interception on Washington's first drive of the game. But then he got into a groove, completing 20 of 27 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown pass on the night. ESPN's Dianna Marie Russini reported Saturday afternoon Cousins is expected to start Washington's season opener, but head coach Jay Gruden was noncommittal when asked after the game who his quarterback for Week 1 will be.
Gruden also reiterated the team's stance that it was blindsided when the independent NFL doctor who examined Griffin Thursday didn't clear him to play.
Gruden: "this had nothing to do with the Washington Redskins. People want to make like we're incompetent," but reiterates it was on doctor.— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 30, 2015
It has been a tumultuous few days in Washington, but if Griffin has to miss any time in the regular season with the concussion he suffered last week, Cousins appears to be the front-runner to get the starting job.
2) Philadelphia offense looks great again
Sam Bradford completed all 10 of his passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night. Philadelphia has scored 115 points in three preseason contests.
Chip Kelly caught a lot of grief this offseason for his dramatic makeover, but so far it appears to be paying off. A lot of the Eagles' success hinges on Bradford, who has torn his ACL in two consecutive seasons. No one has ever questioned the former number one overall pick's ability; the question has been whether he can stay on the field. If Bradford's performance this preseason is any indication of what's to come, this could be the year he finally lives up to the hype.
3) Bridgewater appears ready for prime time
Teddy Bridgewater impressed once again in the Vikings' 28-14 win over the Cowboys Saturday, as he completed all seven of his passes for 76 yards. The big play of the night came when Bridgewater connected with newly acquired wideout Mike Wallace for a 39-yard gain late in the first quarter. Minnesota scored a field goal at the end of the drive.
Given that starting quarterbacks often don't play in the fourth preseason game, Bridgewater's August may have wrapped up Saturday night. The second-year QB has gone 29-of-35 for 295 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games, and has also only taken one sack. Bridgewater showed flashes during his rookie campaign, and appears to have built on that as he readies himself for his sophomore season.
Buffalo Bills 43, Pittsburgh Steelers 19
The Steelers struggled on defense through the first two preseason games and it was more of the same on Saturday. Buffalo's starting offense looked dominant and it's safe to say most analysts aren't predicting that will be the case when the regular season gets under way. Manuel and Jackson both took advantage of that, with 170 yards and two touchdowns passing from Manuel and 48 yards and a touchdown from Jackson. Buffalo dominated the game, winning 43-19. Even Matt Simms, who isn't in the quarterback battle, completed all five of his passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.
It appears as if Andrew Luck is ready for the games to start counting, as he threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason in Saturday night's affair. Luck connected with veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson for a 32-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter.
Luck finished 12 of 21 for 161 yards on the night, and Adam Vinatieri hit field goals on the first and last Colts possessions of the first half.
Newly acquired Rams QB Nick Foles threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason as well, and finished the evening 10-of-11 for 128 yards.
Philadelphia Eagles 39, Green Bay Packers 26
Bradford wasn't the only Eagles quarterback who tore up the Packers' secondary Saturday night. Mark Sanchez went 13-of-19 for 150 yards and two touchdown passes, as Philadelphia rolled to its third preseason victory.
The Packers suffered a scary moment in the first quarter when wide receiver Randall Cobb left with a shoulder injury, but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting it's likely just a sprain. Green Bay lost number one wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the season last week when he tore his ACL.
Washington 31, Baltimore Ravens 13
But Cousins recovered, and Washington scored 31 unanswered points to win the game. But besides the latest QB controversy in the nation's capital, many people will be talking about a first half brawl between the two clubs that exploded after Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson drove Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken to the ground head-first.
The Ravens quickly stepped in, and veteran wideout Steve Smith Jr. was ejected for his efforts -- though his son didn't seem all that upset about it. Washington cornerback Chris Culliver was thrown out of the game as well.
Gruden and John Harbaugh both yelled at each other during the skirmish as well, but shook hands after the contest.
Andy Dalton led an opening touchdown drive for the Bengals, but was removed afterwards because of an apparent neck injury. Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said at halftime Dalton was "fine," and taking him out of the game was just a precautionary measure. Dalton completed all of his first six passes for 52 yards, and scored on a one-run touchdown run.
Backup QB A.J. McCarron took over for Dalton, and lit up the Bears' defense to the tune of 149 yards and a touchdown. McCarron completed his first seven passes, including a touchdown toss to Marvin Jones.
The Gang Green appear more ready for the regular season than their counterparts, as they dominated the Giants in the Meadowlands Saturday night.
After struggling in his first two preseason games, Ryan Fitzpatrick went 9 of 14 for 127 yards and two touchdown passes. Veteran Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie scored on a 59-yard interception return as the first half was coming to a close.
Minnesota Vikings 28, Dallas Cowboys 14
The Bridgewater-to-Wallace connection may get a lot of play this season for the Vikings, and it showed its potential Saturday night when Wallace reeled in a 39-yard pass from Bridgewater in the first half. Bridgewater had his third consecutive strong preseason outing, and will likely finish August on a high note.
Tony Romo was playing without Dez Bryant, but still managed to toss two touchdown passes in his limited playing time. Romo went 5-of-8 for 88 yards in the loss.
With Johnny Manziel sitting out, all ears were on Jameis Winston in this one. He didn't impress, either, going 6 of 15 for 90 yards and an interception.
Josh McCown engineered two long touchdown drives for the Browns, and finished his night 17-of-23 for 117 yards. Travis Benjamin had a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown as well in the Cleveland blowout victory.
Ryan Tannehill's strong preseason continued Saturday night, and the Dolphins were able to squeak by the Falcons. Tannehill threw for 145 yards in less than one half of play, completing 15 of 19 passes and throwing a touchdown pass, too. He wasn't sacked despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line, which lost center Mike Pouncey to a knee injury.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan was sacked three times in the four series he played. He went 3-of-7 for 49 yards.
Star kicker Steven Hauschka booted through a 60-yard field goal to propel the Seahawks past the Chargers Saturday night. He made two field goals earlier in the game as well.
Russell Wilson struggled in this one, as he went 7 of 15 for 56 yards. The Seahawks haven't scored a touchdown with him under center all preseason long.
The Chargers lost their starting QB Philip Rivers to an apparent hand injury, but he told CBS in the third quarter he felt "good."
The Broncos didn't score a single touchdown while Peyton Manning was in the game, but were still able to power their way to victory. Denver gained 110 yards on the ground, and halfback Juwan Thompson scored a touchdown.
Manning was 14-for-21 for 124 yards, and was sacked twice by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
The Broncos' defense stifled the 49ers' offense, as starter Colin Kaepernick only went 2-of-5 for 13 yards. The most impressive player on San Francisco may have been Blaine Gabbert, who went 9-of-11 for 96 yards in relief of Kaepernick.
Randall Cobb (WR, Packers): Suffered what is believed to be a shoulder injury, though reports after the game indicate it probably isn't serious. That's a big relief for the Packers, considering they lost Nelson for the season just last week.
Andy Dalton (QB, Bengals): He was taken out of the game after the opening touchdown drive with a neck injury, but Lewis said to the media Dalton is "fine." The Bengals QB was hit a couple of times in the series.
Philip Rivers (QB, Chargers): Rivers appeared to be in serious pain after jamming his finger against Seattle linebacker Kevin Pierre-Lewis. But Rivers told CBS' Tracy Wolfson in the third quarter he was "good," and would've kept playing if it were a regular season game.
Mike Pouncey (C, Dolphins): Pouncey is reportedly receiving an MRI on his knee Sunday morning, but told reporters after the game he isn't "too worried about it."
Leonard Williams (DE, Jets): The first-round pick left Saturday's game with a knee injury, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reports X-Rays apparently came back negative.
Timmy Jernigan (DL, Ravens): The second-year defensive lineman left Saturday's game with a knee injury. He was one of three defenders who Baltimore lost in the contest.
Tre Mason (RB, Rams): The former third-round pick exited the contest with a strained hamstring, but coach Jeff Fisher said afterwards Mason it was only "mild."