ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Matt Ryan’s pass attempts were much like his Indianapolis Colts’ preseason debut: relatively short and efficient in a 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
(Note: The attached video is a previous 13Sports report on the opening of 2022 Colts training camp.)
Tyler Bass made a 46-yard field goal as time expired as Buffalo scored on three consecutive possessions in the final 8:10 to rally from a 14-point deficit. Matt Barkley oversaw the comeback in finishing 18 of 24 for 224 yards, with Raheem Blackshear rushing for touchdowns of 1 and 3 yards over a span of 4:19 to tie the game.
Buffalo won its ninth straight preseason outing, which ranks as the NFL's second-longest active streak behind the Baltimore Ravens who have won a league-record 21 in a row.
Otherwise, most eyes were on Ryan. Acquired in a trade with Atlanta in March, the 15-year veteran stuck to either checking the ball down or handing it off to Nyheim Hines over four series in both teams’ preseason opener.
With Von Miller and the rest of the Bills’ starting defense watching from the sideline, Ryan finished 6 of 10 for 58 yards, with two incompletions occurring on fourth-down attempts. On the bright side, Ryan didn’t commit a turnover during a first half in which the teams combined for six overall.
Ryan’s backup, Nick Foles threw an interception and lost a fumble, which was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Bills rookie linebacker Terrel Bernard.
With Buffalo also resting Josh Allen and its entire starting offense, Case Keenum struggled in throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. Receiver Jake Kumerow also lost a fumble.
Keenum’s performance was a disappointment for a player the Bills are counting on to be Allen’s backup after acquiring the 10-year veteran in a trade with Cleveland. He finished 11 of 18 for 86 yards with his second interception coming one play after Bills safety Jaquan Johnson picked off Foles to give Buffalo the ball at the Colts 15.
Under Keenum, the Bills managed just 119 net yards offense and five first downs in the first half.
Foles, an offseason free-agent addition, finished 7 of 11 for 72 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered running back Ty’Son Williams.
Ryan’s best completion came on the opening play of Indianapolis’ third drive, when he stepped up in the pocket, avoided a defender, and hit Michael Pittman on a crossing pattern for a 17-yard gain.
The drive ended seven plays later when Bills rookie cornerback Christian Benford got his hand on the ball to break up a pass intended for Pittman on fourth-and-4 at Buffalo’s 43.
Ryan is projected to become the Colts’ fourth different opening day starter in as many years since Andrew Luck retired. He takes over after Indianapolis parted ways with Carson Wentz, who took the blame for the Colts squandering their playoff chances by losing their final two games, including a 26-11 season-ending dud at Jacksonville.
Coach Frank Reich provided Ryan the preseason start in part to provide the starter an extra chance to ramp up for the season-opener at Houston on Sept. 11. Reich is also mindful of how the Colts got off to a slow start in opening last season 1-4 under Wentz.
Sam Ehlinger, the Colts’ sixth-round pick out of Texas last year, finished 10 of 11 for 88 yards with touchdown passes to tight ends Jelani Woods and Michael Jacobson.
ROOKIE VS ROOKIE
Bills first-round draft pick, CB Kaiir Elam, got the better of Colts second-round draft pick, WR Alec Pierce, in forcing Indianapolis to go three-and-out on its opening possession. Elam stayed tight to Pierce on a slant route and got his hand on Ryan’s attempt on third-and-3 at the Colts 12.
Colts: PK Jake Verity, who is competing with Rodrigo Blankenship, was wide right on an extra-point attempt.
Bills: Rookie sixth-round pick, P Matt Araiza (nicknamed “Punt God” at San Diego State), hit an 82-yard punt, which dribbled into the end zone.
RB Jonathan Taylor was the Colts only offensive starter to get the day off. Then again, he did enough the last time he visited Orchard Park, by scoring four touchdowns rushing and another receiving in a 41-15 win in November. The five-TD performance set a franchise record.
Colts: CB Isaiah Rodgers who had an interception and recovered a fumble, did not return after sustaining a head injury in the first half. ... WR Keke Coutee did not return due to a groin injury.
Bills: Elam returned after being evaluated for a head injury late in the second quarter.
Colts: Host the Detroit Lions on Aug. 20.
Bills: Host the Denver Broncos on Aug. 20.