ORCHARD PARK, New York — Bills coach Doug Marrone defended his decision to play his starters in their preseason finale, even if it led to rookie receiver Sammy Watkins leaving the game after aggravating a rib injury.
"One of the big questions is the quarterback with Sammy, they really haven't played in a lot of games," Marrone said, following a 23-0 loss to the Detroit Lions on Thursday night. "You don't want to just throw them in there during the season."
Marrone had no definitive update on Watkins' status except to say the injury is to the same ribs the first-round draft pick hurt two weeks ago in a 19-16 loss at Pittsburgh.
"He could be out, he could be in," Marrone added, referring to the Bills' opener at Chicago on Sept. 7. "I'm not getting involved. The injury stuff is just too hard on me."
Watkins was hurt on Buffalo's second possession, when he cut in from the right side on a slant pattern. Quarterback EJ Manuel never looked Watkins off and was a little late on the throw. Watkins reached out to knock down the ball, when he was hit by linebacker Ashlee Palmer.
"It was a tight throw, and he probably just got a little banged up," Manuel said. "He'll be fine."
Watkins had better be after the Bills invested heavily to land him in the draft. Buffalo traded its 2015 first-round pick to Cleveland to move up five spots and select the Clemson product with the fourth pick.
The Bills (1-4) produced their latest dud on offense.
Manuel went 3 of 7 for 56 yards and was sacked twice.
Things went even worse for Jordan Palmer, who unraveled in his debut for Buffalo. He went 9 of 22 for 73 yards passing and three interceptions two days after being signed to compete for a backup spot after the Bills cut Thad Lewis.
Marrone acknowledged he put Palmer in a tough spot, and didn't rule out the team shuffling its backups again this weekend.
Palmer was disappointed with his performance.
"I've been doing this for a long time, and I needed to a better job moving the team better and protecting the ball better," said the fifth-year player who was cut by Chicago on Sunday. "It was frustrating."
Lions third-string quarterback Kellen Moore threw two touchdown passes in making one last case to make the roster before the final cuts have to be made by Saturday.
Moore went 8 of 13 for 81 yards and two touchdowns on four drives in the second quarter after taking over for Dan Orlovsky. He hit Jeremy Ross on a 1-yard pass to put the Lions up 10-0 with 5:55 left in the first half.
He then closed the half by efficiently running the two-minute offense. Taking over at the Bills 47 with 41 seconds left, Moore went 3 of 4 for 47 yards. He capped the drive by hitting Corey Fuller in stride on a post pattern for a 25-yard touchdown with 9 seconds remaining.
Moore finished the 17 of 28 for 172 yards and no turnovers in a game the Lions rested most of their starters, including quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Seventh-round pick Nate Freese hit all three field-goal attempts, including two 53-yarders.
The Lions' defense continued its postseason string of first-half domination. Detroit gave up 97 yards net offense, had four sacks and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus' interception of Palmer's pass set up the first touchdown in the opening 30 minutes. The Lions finished the postseason allowing just six points in the first quarter and 22 in the first half.