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CANTON — With running back David Wilson out indefinitely, rookie Andre Williams showed glimpses he can provide the New York Giants’ ground game some fresh legs.
The fourth-round draft pick and Heisman Trophy finalist out of Boston College had seven carries for 48 yards and scored on a 3-yard run in a 17-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game.
Rookie receiver Corey Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 73-yard pass up the right sideline from backup Ryan Nassib with 13:18 remaining. Washington reached back to catch the partly under-thrown pass, then stepped around flat-footed defender Kamaal McIlwain.
Williams’ performance was encouraging for the Giants after Wilson sustained his second neck injury in less than a year during training camp.
Getting additional playing time as the No. 2 back behind newly acquired starter Rashad Jennings, Williams provided a 1-2 punch to the Giants’ new-look running game that was slowed by injuries last season. And the two took the pressure off quarterback Eli Manning.
Though Manning lost a fumble while being sacked on the second series, Williams helped bail out the offense on the third possession. He had five carries for 37 yards, which he capped with a strong run up the middle to put the Giants ahead 7-3 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Williams led the nation with 2,177 yards rushing last season, the fifth highest total in NCAA history.
On Sunday, he showed great burst on a 21-yard gain off a sweep to the left to set up his score.
Manning finished 6-of-7 for 43 yards passing through three series, in unveiling a quick-tempo offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.
“We didn’t get off to a great start,” Manning said, referring to his fumble. “The first game back, you’re going to work out some of the kinks. ... I thought there were some improvements. It was a good start.”
For Buffalo, starting quarterback EJ Manuel had several lapses during two series. He completed just 2-of-7 attempts for 19 yards, and nearly had a pass intercepted by linebacker Jacquian Williams inside the New York 10. Manuel never looked off his intended target Sammy Watkins and was fortunate to have Williams bat the ball down.
Watkins, the Bills’ first-round pick, was held without a catch after being targeted three times. Two passes from Manuel directed Watkins’ way were tipped. Manuel also was late in finding Watkins flying up the left sideline, and overthrew him by a few yards.
It was a disappointing debut for Watkins, who had made numerous highlight-reel catches during the first two weeks of training camp.
Though Manuel said “he felt good,” running back Fred Jackson said there’s plenty the Bills need to correct.
“We were OK. Not where we want to be,” Jackson said.
Bills backup Jeff Tuel hit Robert Woods for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to put Buffalo ahead 10-7 early in the second quarter.
Dan Carpenter made two field goals, including a 51-yarder. New York’s Brandon McManus hit a 47-yard field goal
The Bills are coming off a 6-10 season in which they extended their playoff drought to 14 seasons — the NFL’s longest active streak.
The Giants (7-9) had a busy offseason attempting to restock a team that has missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.
The NFL unveiled a few new wrinkles that will run through the first two weeks of the preseason.
New York’s Josh Brown hit two and Carpenter hit his extra-point attempt, all of which were snapped from the 15-yard line rather than the 2.
The game also featured goal posts that extended 35 high rather than the previous 30 feet.
Coaches and players on the sidelines also had the opportunity to view pictures of plays on tablets and in color — an improvement over the black-and-white still photos that were printed off on paper.
The game was played a day after the seven-member 2014 class was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The group included former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and former Bills receiver Andre Reed, who capped his induction speech by catching a pass from former teammate and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
Both Reed and Strahan gathered their respective teams at midfield for a pre-game pep talk.
Kelly, who is recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, served as the Bills honorary captain during the coin toss and received a big cheer from the crowd. Former Giants linebacker Harry Carson was New York’s honorary captain.
Giants tight end Daniel Fells did not return because of a sprained knee.