ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With one perfectly placed pass up the sideline to Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford provided a glimpse why he might be ready to be the Lions starter. A few plays later, the No. 1 draft pick showed he still has a way to go after being stripped of the ball.
The interception, a series later, didn't help either.
Stafford was inconsistent yet unfazed by his performance as Detroit (3-1) closed its preseason with a 17-6 victory against the Buffalo Bills (1-4) on Thursday night. Though he's not planning to ask coach Jim Schwartz whether the job will be his or Daunte Culpepper's to start the season, Stafford felt ready.
"I feel extremely confident," he said. "We moved the ball really well."
All that's missing is finish. In making his second start this preseason, Stafford went 5 of 9 for 81 yards, including a 37-yard pass to Johnson -- and those two drive-killing turnovers.
Not that he's worried.
"It's something we can identify. It's not, 'We're not good enough to get it there or good enough to put it in,' " Stafford said. "We know we are. We've got talent. We've just got to make plays."
Fullback Jerome Felton scored on a 1-yard plunge late in first half to open the scoring. Tristan Davis then sealed the win with a 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Detroit finished with 249 yards rushing and 422 yards total offense.
The Bills have far bigger things to worry about, and are certainly in need of a healthy Terrell Owens to help it find the end zone.
With Owens, Trent Edwards and Lee Evans getting the night off, the Bills offense looked much like its sputtering self in failing to score a touchdown. Buffalo finished the preseason outscored 75-12 in the first half, and settled for two field goals -- including a 48-yarder -- by Rian Lindell in the second half against Detroit.
"We've got to pick it up," coach Dick Jauron said of a no-huddle offense that as a whole combined for six touchdowns in five games. "We have a long way to go."
At least Owens should be ready after missing his fourth preseason game while recovering from a sprained toe. Owens returned to practice this week and declared he'll be ready for the Bills' season opener Sept. 14 at New England.
Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick went 9 of 17 for 78 yards with an interception, and came up empty on a drive that began at the Lions 27 and ended when Lindell missed a 33-yard field goal.
"I don't know how much we showed or how much confidence we gained, because obviously we didn't produce a lot of points," Fitzpatrick said. "But I think we're going to be ready to go."
On the bright side, Bills first-round pick Aaron Maybin had a sack and forced fumble in only his second preseason game, and second-round pick Jairus Byrd had an interception.
For Detroit, reserve cornerback Chris Roberson made a case to make the roster with an interception and a fumble recovery as NFL teams prepare to make their final cuts this weekend.
"I felt this game was it, I had to prove," said Roberson, who spent time on the Lions practice squad last season. "Yeah, I definitely needed this performance."
Stafford got the start with Culpepper out after cutting his foot last weekend. He started strong by marching the Lions 58 yards on five plays and then hit Johnson on the fly in the end zone for what would have been a 34-yard touchdown. But the score was nullified by offsetting penalties.
Three plays later, Stafford lost the fumble. On the next series, he marched Detroit to the Bills 31 before being intercepted by Reggie Corner, who took advantage after receiver Keary Colbert stumbled on the play.
Schwartz still isn't saying who'll be his starter when the Lions open the season at New Orleans on Sept. 13, saying, "I'll just keep that to myself."
Johnson was encouraged by Stafford's outing.
"He did a good job today," Johnson said. "He's a smart kid and he knows what to do with the ball and knows where to put it. He has a bright future ahead of him."
Lions QB Brooks Bollinger, signed on Tuesday, finished 11 of 19 for 111 yards with an interception. Bollinger has the potential to become the Lions' third-stringer after Drew Stanton had surgery to repair a knee injury this week. ... Bills third-string RB Xavier Omon didn't return after hurting his calf. ... Billy Cundiff rounded out the Lions' scoring with a 32-yard field goal.
|Detroit's Chris Roberson (33) intercepts a pass intended for Roscoe Parrish in the first half. (AP)|
|Detroit (3-1-0) «||0||7||0||10||17|
|TD||Jerome Felton, 1 Yd run (Billy Cundiff kick is good), 0:16. Drive: 10 plays, 55 yards in 2:15.|
|FG||Rian Lindell 24 Yd, 3:23. Drive: 11 plays, 84 yards in 4:40.|
|FG||Billy Cundiff 32 Yd, 12:17. Drive: 13 plays, 57 yards in 6:06.|
|FG||Rian Lindell 48 Yd, 6:59. Drive: 6 plays, 45 yards in 1:49.|
|TD||Tristan Davis, 79 Yd run (Billy Cundiff kick is good), 6:42. Drive: 1 play, 79 yards in 0:17.|
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