Bills 20, Vikings 16

Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes put Vikings starter Christian

Ponder on his back on the very first play from scrimmage.

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel then provided the knockout punch to

start the second half in leading Buffalo to a 20-16 preseason

victory over Minnesota on Friday night.

And just like that, the new-look Bills – coming off a near

top-to-bottom offseason transformation – continue to show signs of

shedding their long-losing past by improving to 2-0.

”We’re breeding an attitude around here,” center Eric Wood

said. ”And we’re trying to be the toughest team out there each

week. And you don’t do that by going out and laying an egg in the

preseason.”

So far so good for a team that has gone 13 seasons without

making the playoffs and not enjoyed a winning finish since 2004,

when Buffalo went 9-7.

Hughes keyed a sturdy defensive effort with two sacks and a

forced fumble, and backup linebacker Jamie Blatnick recovered a

fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Hughes was starting in

place of defensive end Mario Williams, who was held out after

complaining of soreness following practice Wednesday.

”That’s what we’ve been practicing for the first few months,

since minicamp, we’ve been practicing being stingy,” said Hughes,

who was acquired in a trade with Indianapolis in May. ”Everybody’s

flying around to the ball, just creating havoc. So us practicing

like that, it’s great to see it put on game film.”

And Buffalo finally found its groove on offense when Manuel took

over in the second half. Greeted by cheers as he took the field,

Manuel hit all six attempts, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to

Brad Smith, to cap a 14-play, 80-yard second-half opening drive in

putting Buffalo ahead 20-3.

Manuel, a first-round draft pick out of Florida State, finished

10 of 12 for 92 yards passing in continuing to inch his way toward

securing the starting job after veteran Kevin Kolb struggled in the

first half.

The Vikings (0-2) again sputtered on offense without their top

threat, running back Adrian Peterson, who continues to be rested

through the preseason.

Starter Christian Ponder went 5 of 12 for 53 yards passing

through five series. Backup Matt Cassel wasn’t much better in a

first half in which the Vikings combined for 74 yards of offense

and four first downs.

”The only thing I could say to myself while that was happening

was, `I’m glad it’s the preseason,”’ Vikings coach Leslie Frazier

said. ”Let’s get this out of the way now. We definitely don’t want

to be doing this in September.”

And yet Frazier had to acknowledge having some concerns, even

though he wasn’t anticipating the Bills to come at them with an

exotic blitzing attack.

”We could’ve done some things better, no matter what they

did,” he said. ”We didn’t execute as well as we could have.”

Ponder certainly didn’t see Hughes coming, when he was sacked

for a 7-yard loss on the first play.

”If this was a game that counted, it’d be tough,” Ponder said.

”But it’s more practice for us.”

The Vikings could start by practicing snapping the ball.

Backup center Joe Berger snap the ball over Cassel’s head and

into the end zone, which led to Blatnick’s go-ahead touchdown with

8:45 left in the second quarter.

The Vikings made the score respectable with two touchdowns in

the fourth quarter behind third-string quarterback McLeod

Bethel-Thompson. Running back Joe Banyard scored on a 1-yard

plunge, and Bethel-Thompson hit Rodney Smith with a 35-yard

touchdown pass with 4:36 left.

The Bills have won two preseason games for the first time since

finishing 2-2 in 2010. And coming off a 44-20 win at Indianapolis

on Sunday, they’ve now combined to score 64 points under new coach

Doug Marrone. That’s five more than they managed in four preseason

games last year under Chan Gailey.

Not all they news was positive after Kolb struggled in making

his preseason debut. The seventh-year player returned to practice

this week after missing eight days because of a death in his family

and after twisting his left knee while slipping on a wet rubber mat

in practice Aug. 3.

Though Kolb’s knee looked fine, his accuracy was off. He went 10

of 17 for 66 yards and an interception on his first six

possessions. He then hit three of four passes for 45 yards in the

final 38 seconds of the first half on a drive that ended with

Dustin Hopkins 35-yard field goal that put Buffalo ahead 13-3.

NOTES: Bills backup receiver Kevin Elliott was carted off the

field during the first half after it appeared he hurt his left leg.

… Vikings WR Jarius Wright sustained an upper body injury and is

still being evaluated. … Hopkins also hit a 35-yard field goal.

… Vikings kicker Blair Walsh hit a 36-yarder, and also missed

wide right from 49 yards in the first quarter.

Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org