NFL preseason: Bucs start fast, roll past Bills 27-14

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald provided quarterback Josh McCown and the rebuilt Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense a hand in helping run up the score on the slow-starting Buffalo Bills.

McDonald returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown and McCown directed two scoring drives in a 27-14 preseason win Saturday.

Doug Martin scored on a 1-yard run, and McCown hit first-round pick Mike Evans on a perfectly placed 24-yard fade pass to the right corner in helping the Bucs (1-2) build a 24-0 first-half lead.

McDonald’s touchdown came 1:37 after Connor Barth hit a 43-yard field goal to put Tampa Bay ahead 10-0.

With Buffalo facing first-and-20 at its 22, Adrian Clayborn burst around the left side to sack EJ Manuel and force the ball loose. McDonald scooped it up and rumbled into the end zone.

McCown finished 13-of-16 for 112 yards, with a touchdown and interception in playing the first half. Evans, drafted seventh overall, had three catches for 44 yards.

The announced sold-out crowd that came to get its first glance at the $130 million in renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium also got a look at a team that still needs plenty of polish.

The Bills (1-3) spent much of the first half extending their preseason-long struggles on offense.

Manuel played three quarters and finished 19-of-28 for 198 yards with an interception and a 14-yard touchdown to Mike Williams, a former Bucs receiver acquired by Buffalo in a trade last spring.

It was the first touchdown Bills starters scored this preseason after being limited to four field goals on their previous 18 possessions.

The touchdown, however, came against Tampa Bay’s second-string defense midway through the third quarter.

Fred Jackson scored on an 8-yard run on the Bills’ second possession of the third period.

The Manuel-led offense spent much of the first 30 minutes going backward and was booed off the field at halftime. Buffalo managed 82 yards and six first downs through eight first-half possessions and never got beyond the Bucs 43.

Manuel struggled, completing nine of his first 18 attempts for 67 yards, with two turnovers.

Running back C.J. Spiller also coughed up the ball when he was struck by linebacker Mason Foster while making a catch over the middle at midfield.

Discipline was an issue, too. The Bills were flagged three times over a five-play stretch. Add in Jackson being stopped for a 5-yard loss, and it led to Buffalo facing one third-and-40.

Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas wasn’t impressed by his former team’s offensive output midway through the second quarter. Thomas posted on his Twitter account that the starting offense “should play the entire game.”

Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin (neck), tight end Lee Smith (foot) and safety Da’Norris Searcy (stinger) were hurt in the first half and did not return. Buffalo played minus rookie first-round pick receiver Sammy Watkins (bruised ribs), and starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams (leg injury).

Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald did not return after hurting his knee.

Titans 24, Falcons 17: In Atlanta, rookie Bishop Sankey’s 3-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion with 5:45 remaining gave Tennessee its first lead as the Titans rallied to beat the Falcons.

Sean Renfree led Atlanta to the Titans’ 4-yard line but couldn’t complete a fourth-and-2 pass to Julian Jones with 1:08 remaining.

Matt Ryan was sharp for Atlanta (1-2) as he threw first-half touchdown passes to Julio Jones and Devin Hester.

Each starting quarterback left after one series in the third quarter.

Ryan completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards with the two touchdowns. Jake Locker hit 12 of 17 passes for 188 yards for Tennessee (2-1). Locker threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington late in the first half.

Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger played most of the second half as the Titans rallied.

Texans 18, Broncos 17: In Denver, Peyton Manning and Emmanuel Sanders found their rhythm after an early miscue, connecting for two long touchdowns in the final 67 seconds of the first half for the Broncos.

Manning was whistled for taunting following his second toauchdown toss to Sanders. The Broncos said that was apparently the first such penalty in the five-time MVP’s career.

Manning ran up to D.J. Swearinger and gave an earful to the Texans’ swaggering second-year safety who leveled Wes Welker with a forearm to the face one play earlier. Welker, who has a history of head injuries, was evaluated for a possible concussion.

Dolphins 25, Cowboys 20: In Miami Gardens, Florida, former Tulane standout Orleans Darkwa ran in from 1 yard with 1:45 left, and the Dolphins rallied from two scores down in the final minutes.

Gator Hoskins caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore earlier in the fourth period for Miami.

Ryan Tannehill completing 13 of 21 passes for 119 yards with an interception for Miami, and Knowshon Moreno had 64 yards on 10 carries in his preseason debut.

Tony Romo played the first half and completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards for the Cowboys. Tyler Patmon had a 9-yard interception return for a score and LaRon Byrd caught a 27-yard touchdown pass for Dallas, which got field goals of 52 and 50 yards from Dan Bailey.

Ravens 23, Redskins 17: In Baltimore, Joe Flacco’s final throw was a touchdown pass, providing a positive ending to an uneven performance by the Ravens’ first-team offense.

Robert Griffin III concluded his poor outing with an interception, leaving the Washington Redskins much to consider.

Flacco went 16-for-23 for 180 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown throw to Steve Smith with 25 seconds left in the first half.

Griffin, on the other hand, never found his groove. The third-year quarterback went 5 for 7 for 20 yards in the first half and was sacked three times.

Rams 33, Browns 14: In Cleveland, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford reinjured the left knee he had surgery on last season and the Rams won despite having four other starters hurt.

Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown pass, and celebrated rookie backup Johnny Manziel had a 7-yard touchdown run. Manziel was also sacked twice by Rams rookie Michael Sam, who punctuated the first takedown by mimicking Manziel’s “money” sign.

Vikings 30, Chiefs 12: In Kansas City, Missouri, quarterback Matt Cassel threw for 152 yards and a touchdown for Minnesota.

Cassel, benched and then released by the Chiefs two years ago, found Cordarrelle Patterson for a 53-yard scoring strike on the Vikings’ first offensive series.

Teddy Bridgewater threw two touchdown passes to tight end Allen Reisner later in the game.

Alex Smith was 14 of 24 for 124 yards with two red-zone interceptions. The Chiefs’ first-team offense still has not scored a touchdown in 16 preseason possessions.