For the past three weeks the Bills recorded no takeaways, resulting in three straight losses. Thursday night, Bills' safety Jairus Byrd came up with two takeaways himself in the Bills' 19-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The last time Byrd had two takeaways happened to be four games ago in the Bills' last victory, a 19-16 overtime win in Arizona.
Byrd finished the night with four tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and two passes defended. Byrd now accounts for six of the Bills' 14 takeaways this season and also leads the team with three forced fumbles.
With 1:54 left in the fourth quarter, Byrd made a fully extended, diving interception in front of wide receiver Davone Bess, after Bess beat cornerback Justin Rogers down the left sideline. The interception marked Byrd's third of the season.
Byrd said playing under the lights really lit a fire under the defense even with the short week.
"A Thursday night primetime game you're going to have natural adrenaline and be up for this game, but to play on such short notice, you have to rely on your adrenaline to get you over the top because you are tired," Byrd said. "I know I'm going to feel it tomorrow especially in the predicament we're in. It's a must win so we had to go out and play hard."
On Miami's seventh offensive play, quarterback Ryan Tannehill found wide receiver Brian Hartline over the middle for 17 yards, but rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore knocked the ball loose. Byrd recovered the fumble setting the Bills up for their first scoring drive of the game.
Gilmore, who finished the game with three tackles and the forced fumble, admitted Byrd has a knack for making plays when the defense needs it.
"He's a playmaker," Gilmore said. "He made some great plays and I'm proud of him. He makes plays in practice, so it wasn't really a surprise."
Head coach Chan Gailey also praised his safety for being in the right place at the right time.
"He has great football knowledge," said Gailey about Byrd. "He has instincts and he anticipates where the ball is going very well. He is around the ball a lot. He makes a lot of football plays."
On Miami's first drive of the second quarter, Byrd caught Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess in stride as he cut across the middle to force a 3rd-and-4 from Miami's 45. Tannehill threw an incompletion on the next play forcing the Dolphins to punt.
The next Miami drive started again with Byrd making a play on Hartline. Tannehill tossed a deep pass along the left sideline, but Byrd timed his hit perfectly to break up the pass and a potential big gain.
On that same drive, Miami faced a 3rd-and-6 from their 41 when Tannehill found Bess again over the middle. Byrd made a diving tackle on Bess before he could even get started to force another Dolphins' punt.
Byrd admitted the Bills needed this game to break their three-game losing streak.
"We dug this hole for ourselves so every game is a must win and we're approaching it like that," Byrd said. "We're just kind of forgetting what was behind and we're just saying it's a seven-game season. We're just kind of focused on what's ahead not behind."
Late in the third quarter, Byrd made his way up to the line of scrimmage to stuff running back Daniel Thomas for no gain. Miami ended up missing a 50-yard field goal try later on that drive.
The Bills defense sealed the win after linebacker Bryan Scott intercepted Tannehill's pass at the Buffalo 42. Byrd said it's a relief the defense could close out the game.
"It feels great," Byrd said. "When the weather gets like this, this is when the defense has to step up big."
And on Thursday night Byrd was their biggest playmaker.