Rookie punter Shawn Powell was one of the unsung heroes of the Buffalo Bills’ win over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.
With 4:51 left in the game and the Bills nursing a five-point lead, Powell booted a 52-yard punt from the Buffalo 47 out at the Miami 1.
It was directed at the right sideline to keep the ball away from Miami return man Marcus Thigpen. The ball took one good bounce at about the 8 and caromed out of bounds in front of the goal line. Miami’s drive from the shadow of its own end zone ended with an interception by Bills safety Jairus Byrd.
“It was a little too far to do an Aussie kick but it was close enough that it could easily go in the end zone,” said Powell, referring to the end-over-end pooch kick he uses when he gets across midfield. “I just tried to have that perfect placement. It’s better to be lucky than good sometimes. When I hit it I knew it was up there. I thought he was probably going to fair catch it. I saw him run away from it and said to myself, ‘Let’s see if we can get a good bounce on it.’ It was a real good feeling.”
Powell had five punts inside the 20, tying a Bills team record. His net average on seven punts was 40.9 yards.
The Bills kept C.J. Spiller on the bench for six red-zone plays at the end of the first half against the Dolphins. Tashard Choice was on the field instead. Spiller’s 20-yard run got the Bills to Miami’s 20 with 1:09 left. A third-down pass to Stevie Johnson put the Bills at Miami’s 4 with 15 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three incomplete passes and the Bills settled for a 19-yard field goal by Rian Lindell.
Why no Spiller?
Here’s what coach Chan Gailey said: “We have certain play situations where if we know we’re gonna throw the football anyway, if it’s not something he might be vital in, then we’ll put Tashard in there. Or if it’s Fred [Jackson], we’ll put Fred in there, to give [Spiller] a blow and to pass protect and to slip out if we need him to slip out, things like that. We don’t do it a lot, but we’ll do it some. We’ll do it anywhere on the field if that’s what we need.”
Gailey said Spiller is part of the Bills’ red-zone packages.
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on the red-zone struggles against Miami:
“We’ve been pretty good this year. We had our struggles in Houston. We corrected a lot of that and did a good job in New England. I sort of made this excuse yesterday – and I don’t want to make excuses – but those guys do a lot of different things on defense, and I thought they did a good job. I think being a Thursday night game and not having the normal preparation might have had a little bit to do with what went on down there. We’ve just got to continue to work at it. I don’t think that’s a weakness for us. I see it as a strength.”
The Bills came out of Thursday’s game in good health. Receiver Brad Smith was limited a bit by a sore hamstring. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams had a hyperextended elbow but played through it.
Gailey said running back Fred Jackson and defensive end Chris Kelsay have a good chance to play against Indianapolis. Jackson sat out with a concussion. Kelsay sat out with a sore neck.
“We hope to have them both next Wednesday for practice,” Gailey said.
Gailey on Jackson: “The report I get is that he feels a lot better and the steps you have to go through now – everything’s going according to plan.”
While the players have the weekend off, the Bills’ coaches will be on the job.
“We’ll work Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening,” Gailey said.
New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Fitzpatrick in last week’s game. The blow knocked Fitzpatrick’s helmet off. Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo was fined $10,000 for his late hit on Spiller.
Leodis McKelvin became the first Bill with two punt returns for touchdowns in one season. Jairus Byrd was the first Bill with an interception and a fumble recovery in a game since 2010 (Drayton Florence).