ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The cheers went up the instant Willis
McGahee took the field. How's that for pressure?
"I was like, 'Man, I better do something," the Buffalo Bills
running back said.
And McGahee delivered, scoring the go-ahead touchdown in his NFL
preseason debut and helping the Bills to a 16-6 victory over the
Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
McGahee scored on a 1-yard plunge, and finished with 13 carries
for 58 yards and one catch for 9 yards. After 19 months of
recuperation and countless questions about his health, McGahee
finally began providing some answers after missing all of his
rookie season while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
"Another step up the ladder," McGahee said. "I'm taking nice
strides. I'm not rushing it. I'm just moving along, forward
It was an encouraging start for McGahee and the Bills (1-0)
under rookie coach Mike Mularkey, Pittsburgh's former offensive
coordinator who took over following Gregg Williams' dismissal last
Besides McGahee, the Bills showed confidence in what had been an
underutilized running attack last year. And Buffalo's defense was
strong, registering two turnovers and three sacks in limiting the
Broncos to a pair of field goals by Jason Elam.
It was a different story for Denver (0-2), which continued to
struggle on offense after a sloppy outing in last week's 20-17 loss
Starter Jake Plummer went 3-of-11 for 40 yards passing and two
interceptions, giving him three in two preseason games.
No worries, said Plummer, who has three more preseason games --
starting with next week's game at Seattle -- to get the kinks out.
"What's the date today?" Plummer said testily in response to a
reporter's question. "We've got a month left to play. If we go out
and stink it up this bad in the first week of the season, then I'll
There's suddenly fewer concerns in Buffalo now that McGahee is
showing he can provide the Bills with a solid 1-2 rushing punch
when teamed with starter Travis Henry.
The cheers went up when McGahee first took the field, lining up
beside Henry late in the first quarter. And the crowd was already
on its feet in anticipation before McGahee followed two blockers
into the end zone, putting the Bills ahead 10-3 with 4:37 left in
the second quarter.
"It felt great to just get into the end zone. That was a goal
of mine," McGahee said. "It was really good to hear all of those
cheers. It means a lot."
McGahee's confidence appeared to grow as the game progressed. On
the Bills' first drive of the third quarter, McGahee reeled off a
strong 16-yard scamper to the left, and followed it up with a few
nifty cutbacks, breaking three tackles, for a 6-yard gain.
This is what everyone hoped to expect from McGahee. He's the
former Miami star the Bills selected 23rd overall in the 2003
draft, knowing that he would need at least a year to recover after
he was hurt in his final college game, the national championship
against Ohio State.
McGahee had already provided a glimpse of his talent when he
scored four times, all from within 2 yards, in a controlled
scrimmage against Cleveland earlier this month.
"I think the rust is getting further off," Mularkey said.
"Comparing him to the scrimmage to the preseason game, I think he
started stronger than he did. He ran well."
Buffalo's Rian Lindell rounded out the scoring with three field
goals, including a 42-yarder to put the game away with 2:10 left.
Rookie quarterback J.P. Losman, the second of Buffalo's two
first-round picks in April, had an encouraging performance,
finishing 5-of-5 for 55 yards passing. He also ran three times for
Plummer struggled in Denver's first two drives, both ending with
interceptions. He didn't get much help as his receivers dropped
several easy catches, including one by Ashley Lelie, whose bobble
led to Terrence McGee's interception.
RB Garrison Hearst had nine carries for 44 yards in playing
his first game since Denver signed him this offseason. ... Bills
starter Drew Bledsoe went 4-of-6 for 27 yards passing and an
interception that came when Broncos CB Willie Middlebrooks stripped
receiver Eric Moulds of the ball at the Denver 2. ... Broncos LB
Terry Pierce sprained a ligament in his left knee.