ORCHARD PARK, NY (AP) 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. He’s the former Buccaneers 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 just 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.