Detroit Lions suffer costly injuries in 24-20 preseason loss to Buffalo Bills
Matthew Stafford made his preseason debut Friday night against the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions looked as good as they have all summer (which isn’t saying much).
But it’s tough to come away from a third preseason game feeling worse about the regular season than the Lions did Friday.
Stafford completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and led the first-team offense on two scoring drives, but the Lions lost two of their more irreplaceable players to potentially serious injuries in a 24-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field.
Linebacker Jarrad Davis suffered a right leg injury on the game’s second play from scrimmage, and center Frank Ragnow left with a right knee injury midway through the second quarter.
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Both players were non-weight-bearing after their injuries and had to be helped off the field by Lions trainers, and Davis was swarmed by concerned teammates before he was carted to the locker room.
Lions coach Matt Patricia said Davis and Ragnow are headed for more testing Saturday, and while he didn't want to speculate on the nature of the injuries, he said he had no regrets about playing his starters in a mostly meaningless game.
"I think we can argue either side of the coin on all this," Patricia said. "Hindsight is 20-20. So for us, we try to stick to the plan. We’re looking at reps, we’re looking at numbers, we’re looking at possibilities of when we can get guys out there, when we think they’ve had enough during the course of the week to take a look at it. Guys can get injured during practice, guys can get injured during the game. I mean, it’s football, to some aspects of it. Injuries are part of the game and that’s something that we all have to deal with."
Davis, who led the Lions in tackles and finished third on the team in sacks last season, was slated to start at middle linebacker for the third straight year and make calls for a defense that’s thin in the back seven.
Rookie second-round pick Jahlani Tavai replaced Davis in the lineup and made one tackle.
Ragnow moved to center this season after playing every snap but one last year at left guard. He had a strong training camp, and his injury could create a worrisome domino effect on a mediocre offensive line.
Graham Glasgow replaced Ragnow at center Friday – he started every game at the position last year – and is the Lions’ likely Week 1 starter against the Arizona Cardinals if Ragnow is out. But with Glasgow was ticketed for right-guard duties, and his move back to the pivot means Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins would take over as the Lions’ starting guards.
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Stafford, who was held out of the Lions’ first two preseason games, sluggish losses to the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, played five series and 33 offensive snaps Friday and left with a 10-7 lead.
The Lions scored on a short field on their third offensive series, when Justin Coleman forced a Cole Beasley fumble that Quandre Diggs recovered at the Buffalo 27-yard line.
Oday Aboushi – another candidate to play guard snaps this fall – and T.J. Hockenson were called for drive-stalling penalties, and after Stafford threw complete but short of the sticks to C.J. Anderson on third down, Matt Prater came on for a field goal.
The Lions failed to take advantage of another short field after C.J. Moore forced a fumble on a Buffalo kick return, but Stafford led an eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter. Hockenson, the Lions’ first-round pick, had two catches for 47 yards on the drive, and Ty Johnson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-3.
Along with Stafford, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Damon Harrison and Mike Daniels were among the Lions who made their preseason debuts Friday, and all left the game by the midpoint of the second quarter.
Davis, who missed two weeks early in training camp with an undisclosed injury, also was playing his first game of the preseason Friday. He was hurt when teammate Devon Kennard crashed into his right leg as both players chased LeSean McCoy on a carry up the middle.
David Fales replaced Stafford at quarterback for the Lions’ final two drives of the first half and played into the fourth quarter. He finished 3 of 8 passing for 22 yards.
Josh Johnson, who’s competing with Fales and the injured Tom Savage to be Stafford’s backup this fall, went 5 of 10 for 71 yards and finished out the game for the Lions, who got a 61-yard field goal from Matt Prater at the end of the first half and a 1-yard touchdown run from Mark Thompson in the fourth quarter.
Josh Allen was 3 of 6 passing for 49 yards for the Bills.
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