THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Not good enough.
That was the message delivered by receiver Stevie Johnson after the Buffalo Bills returned to practice Saturday, two days after the offence produced a preseason-opening dud.
"It’s only so long where you can be the old Bills getting beat around this conference," Johnson said. "Preseason game, practice, we’ve got to be better if we want to get to where we want to be."
The high expectations the Bills (No. 19 in the AP Pro32) carried into training camp were dealt a setback after the offence bumbled through a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
Buffalo’s starters managed just two first downs and 40 net yards in three possessions. Worse yet, they settled for a field goal on their second drive, which began at the Redskins 21 following a fumble recovery.
Instead of looking like the productive offence that helped the team get off to a 5-2 start last season, the Bills on Thursday resembled more the unit that came unraveled in losing eight of its final nine games.
Johnson refused to use limited playing time or first-game jitters as an excuse.
"We’re the ones (starters) so we’ve got to play like ones," Johnson said. "It’s only so long before it’s going to be Week 1, when we’ll be going out there and playing against the Jets. So let’s get it going."
The Bills look to rebound in preparing for a game at Minnesota on Friday.
Coach Chan Gailey was pleased in being relayed Johnson’s comments, because they echoed the message he issued to players in a meeting before practice.
"I’m glad he feels that way. If everybody doesn’t feel that way then we’re in trouble," Gailey said. "We made progress last year, but it’s not going to happen just because we did it last year. You’ve got to make it happen again this year."
Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked on the first play from scrimmage and didn’t convert a first down until his third and final drive, and only after the Bills went with a no-huddle attack. He finished 6 of 14 for 61 yards passing, including two completions to Johnson.
The second- and third-string units were just as ineffective behind Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young, who are competing for the backup job.
Thigpen failed to score despite a possession in which he took seven snaps inside the Redskins’ 10 yard-line.
Young took over to start the second half, and finished 5 of 12 for 50 yards, and led the Bills with 37 yards rushing. That included a 21-yard keeper on third-and-20.
Lack of discipline was a big issue for Buffalo, which was penalized 14 times for 134 yards. Things got so bad that fullback Corey McIntyre, rookie offensive lineman Mark Asper and rookie receiver T.J. Graham were each flagged for false-start penalties four plays apart during Buffalo’s first possession of the second quarter.
"Yeah, that is just undisciplined," Gailey said. That is my fault. I have to get that straight."
The starters looked a little bit better in practice Saturday, especially in the red zone. Fitzpatrick went one stretch completing three consecutive touchdown passes.
He hit David Nelson in a crowd over the middle. He hit Derek Hagan with a quick out to the left, and then the receiver deked past cornerback Stephon Gilmore on his way into the end zone. And Fitzpatrick threw a perfect fade pass, hitting T.J. Graham on the run in the right corner of the end zone.
The offence then took a step back in closing practice when it failed to score during a two-minute drill session. Practice ended when Fitzpatrick missed Johnson deep over the middle in what appeared to be a miscommunication between the two.
Running back Fred Jackson was unhappy with the team’s performance on Thursday, but considered it a good lesson and something the Bills can build off of.
"If we go out there and play like that, we’re going to lose a lot of football games," Jackson said. "We can’t overreact, but we do need to learn from it."
NOTES: WR Nelson returned to practice after missing the preseason game and much of the previous 10 days with a sprained right knee. … DT Spencer Johnson was held out with what Gailey called a minor injury to his left shoulder. … Gailey said C Eric Wood (coming off season-ending right knee surgery) is targeted to make his preseason debut in two weeks, when the Bills host Pittsburgh.