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Bills young wideouts deliver

Posted Dec 20, 2010

With veteran wide receiver Lee Evans out of the game against the Miami Dolphins, it was easy to see why people thought the Bills would struggle to get yards through the air against the sixth best pass defense in the NFL. With contributions from the talented young receivers, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills proved the doubters wrong and had a successful day; spreading the ball to seven different targets and leading the Bills to their first AFC East win of the year. Fitzpatrick was 16-26 passing for 223 yards, with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 98.7.

The grizzled quarterback credits his success to those young, unproven receivers who stepped up and made big plays to help the team win.

“The young guys, those young receivers made some great plays out there,” Fitzpatrick said. “I told them I am going to give them a chance, I am not afraid to throw it to any of them because I know if we get matchups that we are going to come down with it most of the time and they made some good plays.”

On the Bills first touchdown drive, the offense overcame two penalties and on third-and-goal from the 18, Fitzpatrick threw a rocket pass and connected with rookie David Nelson to take the early lead in the beginning of the second quarter.

“We’ve been practicing that route all week and it was something we thought we could get,” said Nelson. “They gave us a little different look but at the same time, Fitz just trusted me and put the ball where I could get it and I came down with it.”

Earlier on the drive, Nelson, made a key 20 yard reception to get the Bills in scoring position. Nelson finished with 61 yards on three catches.

The former University of Florida Gator, knew with Lee Evans out of the game, many of the Dolphins would key in on Steve Johnson and was fully aware that he and the other young wide outs would have to step up and continue the momentum the Bills have been able to get lately.

“We expected a lot of attention to be paid to Stevie,” said Nelson. “He is a great playmaker and he does a lot of great things for us and I think a lot of stuff would be to him. We had two guys on him on that play and I got lost in the shuffle and they lost where I was and Fitz did a great job of finding me.”

Nelson discussed how the receivers have formed a bond lately and due to the talent the Bills have with that position, they push one another to do great things and you can see the results of that on Sunday.

“All year long, we have had somebody else step up,” said Nelson. “Every game somebody falls down and somebody has to step up and that is how it is in this business. We challenge each other individually and we challenge each other collectively and we knew this was going to be a big game for us and we knew we had to come in and play and I think we stepped up to the challenge.”

Buffalo native and former University at Buffalo star Naaman Roosevelt also made Ryan Fitzpatrick’s day easier by making two catches for 35 yards, most notably a 24-yard reception to keep the drive alive on a 3rd-and-3 from their own 21-yard line.

“The fade that Naaman caught down the sideline on Davis, I mean, what a great play,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s a hard thing to do to throw that and to be on the same page as your receiver. We’re talking about a guy that hasn’t really played. I think he got his first NFL catch (Sunday). For him to react and know where I’m putting the ball (was great).”

That catch allowed for the Bills to keep the ball and they would eventually go on to score a touchdown to go up 17-7. That touchdown in turn, was what ended up securing the win for Buffalo.

Making the touchdown catch was Steve Johnson, who scored on a double post play.

“It’s a one-on-one coverage with Stevie and the first post took out the safety and clears it for Steve one-on-one with the corner,” said Fitzpatrick. “With that guy he’s so special so talented. You just give him a chance. Give him a chance and he came down with it.”

“I stayed flat on the route,” said Johnson of the play. “When we studied film this week we watched how they were going to defend it. I stayed flat on the route. He kinda still made a play on the ball but we were able to connect on it. If we had run that play like we usually run it, it may have been intercepted or knocked down. That’s from film study right there.”

The touchdown gave Johnson his tenth of the year, one short of the franchise’s single season record. Though Johnson was the focus of the Dolphins defense, was still able to haul in six catches for 69 yards, including that key score.

Head coach Chan Gailey was obviously very proud of what he saw from his young receivers and noted how clutch their performances were against a solid divisional rival on the road.

“These young guys have ice water in their veins,” Gailey said. “They didn’t bat an eye and they did what we asked them to do. Naaman (Roosevelt) made a big play, I know Donald (Jones) made a couple big plays. Of course David Nelson has made them all year and then Stevie (Johnson) did his normal stuff, so it was pleasing to see, it probably surprised a lot of people but it did not surprise me.”