ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Anthony Richardson fell prey to the one of the biggest pitfalls of rookie quarterbacks on his third pass attempt of his first preseason game.
The Indianapolis Colts rookie and receiver Isaiah McKenzie had a miscommunication in Saturday's preseason opener, resulting in Richardson's pass being intercepted by Buffalo Bills cornerback Dane Jackson.
But what happened next made as big an impression as the turnover itself. Richardson settled in, engineering two lengthy drives as he closed out the first quarter of his NFL debut, a 23-19 Buffalo victory at Highmark Stadium.
"I thought he had great poise," Colts coach Shane Steichen said. "I knew we had the early interception. That's my fault. We've got to do a better job communicating on that one. ... That starts with coaching, starts with myself. Other than that, I thought he was efficient."
Richardson faced numerous obstacles -- poor field position, penalties, a 28-yard missed field goal and a would-be 34-yard touchdown pass that was ultimately dropped -- but he overcame them all to complete 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards. The interception was the most notable adversity Richardson faced, but his ability to keep his head in spite of it was impressive.
Teammates, Richardson said, "are looking at me to control the offense. So, I can't be out there nervous. They're looking at me in my eyes like they're ready to play, so I have to be ready to play."
The interception came when the Bills sent a safety blitz off the right edge, leaving right tackle Blake Freeland with two rushers in his vicinity. Richardson and McKenzie were not on the same page on the required adjustment on such a blitz, leaving Richardson with few options. He forced a throw instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds, leading to the interception.
"I have to try to find a way to manage it as best as possible instead of trying to be Superman," Richardson said.
But Richardson bounced back. The Colts did not score during his time in the lineup, but what they did get was further evidence their rookie quarterback is equipped to handle the position in an NFL environment.
The Colts reached the Buffalo 40 on the next drive before being stuffed on a fourth down, then Richardson led a 77-yard drive on the Colts' third possession that ended with a missed field goal.
"You go out there and you have a s----ty pick the first time out, but you come back from that and you recover from that," center Ryan Kelly said of Richardson. "You go out there and just control the huddle, control the game and I thought he did a great job of that today."
The next step for Richardson remains unclear. He is still technically in a battle for the starting job with Gardner Minshew, who played with the second-team offense and was 6-for-6 for 72 yards on Saturday. The two quarterbacks have been splitting reps in practice and Steichen said he has not decided which quarterback will start next week's preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
Nevertheless, Saturday was meaningful for Richardson, who walked onto the field before the game and, in a moment of solitude, tried to absorb the opportunity in front of him.
"It's was like, 'Wow, I'm finally here. I finally made it on the big stage and the first NFL experience,'" he said. "I had to soak it all in before it got real out there."