INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 14, 2005) -- Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman never felt right in his first NFL start. The Indianapolis Colts played even worse -- they couldn't do anything right without Peyton Manning.
Losman threw a touchdown pass and the Bills returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to beat Indianapolis 17-10 in an ugly preseason game.
"The whole night, I really didn't feel comfortable running or throwing," Losman said. "The ball just didn't come out right, sometimes it happens."
Losman, a first-round pick in 2004, played into the third quarter and was 11-of-19 for 88 yards, throwing a 5-yard TD pass to Lee Evans in the final minute of the first half.
But the Colts were not themselves.
With 20 players out because of injuries, Manning, the NFL's two-time MVP, taking just three snaps and two-time rushing champion Edgerrin James not playing at all, the offense struggled. The league's highest-scoring team in 2004 ran 15 times for minus-5 yards and mounted two scoring drives on their brand new turf.
It was that kind of night.
The Bills and Colts combined for 26 penalties and four fumbles. The first quarter took nearly an hour. The officials messed up the game's first touchdown call -- first ruling Lauvale Sape 's blocked punt return was a safety. Even the scoreboard was wrong at one point, briefly reading Broncos instead of Bills. The loudest cheers came when a Pee Wee football player scored on a long touchdown run during halftime.
Colts coach Tony Dungy did everything he could to hide the poor performance.
"We tried to keep you going late so you'd miss deadline and would not be able to write about it," he joked. "As bad as it looked, though, we did have some individual performances that were really good."
|It wasn't always smooth sailing for J.P. Losman and the Bills, but they did get the win.|
Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi was 10-of-21 for 135 yards with one interception and was sacked once in the first half, while Travis Brown finished 14-of-30 for 163 yards with one touchdown -- long after the Bills starting defense had departed.
Rookie Levon Thomas caught six passes for 67 yards -- all in the second half -- and dropped several others, while rookie Anthony Davis was the leading rusher with three carries for three yards.
"I thought our defense hung in there and didn't give up a lot of big plays," Dungy said. "I definitely thought it was a step in the right direction."
Bills coach Mike Mularkey said he liked what he saw from Losman, too.
Losman stumbled early, sometimes looking antsy in the pocket and was smacked squarely by linebacker Kendyll Pope on one run. His receivers also bobbled several passes.
But Losman settled down in the second quarter, taking the Bills on a 68-yard drive that led to a field goal and closed out the half by finding Evans for a 17-3 lead.
"I didn't know what to expect, whether it was the same thing as in college, the same thing as last year, what music to listen to before the game," he said. "All those things play a factor in psyching yourself out, but really it's the same old game."
Losman's troubles re-emerged in the second half. On the first play, he lost the ball on a scramble and Josh Mallard recovered, putting the Colts at the Buffalo 6.
No problem. Indianapolis lost three yards on its next three plays and Mike Vanderjagt hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt that drew boos from the smattering of fans still left.
"I never saw him at a point where he was flustered," Mularkey said of Losman. "I told him at one point to take everything that happens, even that fumble, and store it away as a learning tool."
Sorgi led the Colts on a 55-yard drive that produced Vanderjagt's 42-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
But on the Colts' next series, Sape blasted through the middle, blocked Hunter Smith's punt, scooped it up and scored before losing the ball in the end zone. The officials first ruled safety, saying the Colts had recovered a fumble. The call was challenged and then reversed, giving the Bills a 7-3 lead.
"It still baffles me," Mularkey said.
Indianapolis scored its only touchdown when Brown, a former Bills backup, hit wide-open Bryan Fletcher for a 31-yard TD pass late in the third quarter. That made it 17-10. The Colts never threatened again.
Buffalo's Willis McGahee carried four times for 16 yards. He limped off the field in the first half, returned for one series and did not play again. Bills officials said McGahee was not injured.