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Depleted wide receiving corps squeezes out every last ounce


The last time Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley caught a pass was November 10, 2013 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He caught two passes that day, each for four yards. On Sunday, he reappeared on offense, streaking down the right sideline and hauling in a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback EJ Manuel.

"Seeing Big Easley run down the field for a touchdown, I can't tell you what it did for the sideline, and not just because we scored, but because of who it was. He's a fighter," head coach Rex Ryan said of the sparsely used wide receiver.

Easley spoke about his first career touchdown reception as if he had been there many times before.

"We were just at that point of the game where somebody had to step up and make a big play," he said. "EJ gave me an opportunity and gave me a quick throw and the line blocked real well up front and I was able to catch it and it was a foot race after that."

Easley's touchdown reception brought the Bills back to within a field goal (27-24) after putting themselves in a 24-point hole after three straight tunovers. On a day where the team was constantly fighting, perhaps no position group fought harder than the wide receivers.

Besides Easley, that group of healthy wide receivers included Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, and Denarius Moore. On a day when the offense ran 74 total plays, Woods and Hogan ran a high number of routes due to the lack of player rotation with three receivers out injured. Such frequent usage however, also led to productive games for both receivers. Woods grabbed seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, while Hogan gained 56 yards on six catches.

Woods' touchdown reception was the Bills first response to the most protuberant number on the scoreboard, the 27-points-in-six-minutes barrage the Jaguars laid on the Bills in the second quarter. But the offense immediately went back to work and showed that they would not go down easily when Woods tight-roped his way through the end zone for six.

"Catching the ball, the ball is in the air the ball is mine," Woods said. "My mindset is lock in on the ball and let my feet do the work and that's what [that catch] was."

The Bills offense has been dealing with injuries all season long, so by this point, Woods and Hogan understand the importance of their consistency in the offense. They lined up as the starting wide receivers Sunday afternoon with Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin inactive. Besides being down three receivers, tight end Charles Clay was quiet for most of the game, catching just three balls for 26 yards.

"We're all capable of making plays so it was nothing new," Woods said. "We do that in practice and finally had that opportunity in the game. Easley has been making those plays in practice and same for Hogan and same for myself. It was just an opportunity for us to step up with those other guys down. I just can't wait to get some guys back as well."

Quarterback EJ Manuel, also filling in due to injury, appreciated the toughness his wide receivers continued to show.

"There are a lot of tough guys on this team. One thing about it is [it's] not just physically [tough], but mentally [tough]. They stayed in the game and saw what was going on," he said.

That kind of heart is the standard of this group of wide receivers, and Ryan has come to expect it.          

"One thing about them is we know we get every ounce that they have," Ryan said. "The passion, the energy, all of that, we got every last bit of it. And we knew we would. You can count on those guys. There's no question about it."

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