ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Lions third-string quarterback Kellen Moore threw two touchdown passes in making one last case to make the roster in a 23-0 win over the Buffalo Bills in their preseason finale on Thursday night.
The Bills might have lost more than the game because rookie receiver Sammy Watkins did not return after reinjuring his left ribs in the first quarter. The first-round pick was hurt on the Bills’ second possession, when he was struck in the side by linebacker Ashlee Palmer while running a slant route.
Watkins briefly attempted to stay on the field before jogging to the sideline. He was attended to by team doctors and trainers before being escorted to the locker room. Watkins was held out of a 27-14 preseason loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday after he initially hurt his ribs a week earlier at Pittsburgh.
Buffalo dropped to 1-4 and has failed to settle the backup quarterback spot. Jordan Palmer went 9 of 22 for 73 yards and three interceptions in making his debut two days after being signed.
The next step is for teams to make their final cuts to establish their 53-player rosters by Saturday.
Moore went 8 of 13 for 81 yards and two touchdowns on four drives in the second quarter after taking over for Dan Orlovsky. He hit Jeremy Ross on a 1-yard pass to put the Lions up 10-0 with 5:55 left in the first half.
He then closed the half by efficiently running the two-minute offense. Taking over at the Bills 47 with 41 seconds left, Moore went 3 of 4 for 47 yards. He capped the drive by hitting Corey Fuller in stride on a post pattern for a 25-yard touchdown with 9 seconds remaining.
Moore finished the 17 of 28 for 172 yards and no turnovers in a game the Lions (3-1) rested most of their starters, including quarterback Matt Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Seventh-round pick Nate Freese hit all three field-goal attempts, including two 53-yarders.
The Lions’ defense continued its postseason string of first-half domination. Detroit gave up 97 yards net offense, had four sacks and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus’ interception of Palmer’s pass set up the first touchdown in the opening 30 minutes. The Lions finished the postseason allowing just six points in the first quarter and 22 in the first half.
The Bills’ offense continued to take steps backward. And the loss of Watkins could be a severe blow to a team preparing to open the season at Chicago on Sept. 7.
Watkins, selected fourth overall out of Clemson, was the Bills’ most dynamic offensive player in training camp before being sidelined.
Nothing went right for the Bills’ offense. Coach Doug Marrone elected to play many of his starters after an unproductive preseason. The EJ Manuel-led first-stringers were shut out in three series and finished the preseason combining for two touchdowns and three field goals on 23 possessions.
Manuel finished 3 of 7 for 56 yards and was sacked twice. He was late on his throw that led to Watkins’ injury.
Palmer completed just three of his first nine attempts, including an interception, and was sacked twice. In signing Palmer, the Bills cut Thad Lewis, who went 2-3 last season but struggled during training camp.