ORCHARD PARK (AP) — It’s been a rocky road en route to their first playoff berth in 17 seasons but were just a few more ups than downs for the 2017 Buffalo Bills.
Of those ups, without one of them, Buffalo would not be in the playoffs. It’s the catch of the year.
No, not Tyler Boyd from Andy Dalton. It might sound weird that fans might forget about the “catch of the year.” Not all of them have but Dalton to Boyd is overshadowing it, perhaps because that’s the catch and run that officially clinched Buffalo’s Sunday playoff game, a 1 p.m. road kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So while that Bengals play may have clinched the playoff berth, it was Deonte Thompson’s amazing catch on a pass from then-quarterback Joe Webb in overtime during a blizzard against the Indianapolis Colts that kept the playoff hope alive. Also hidden? The fact that Thompson’s short tenure in Buffalo is a career-best season for DT.
On the catch, Webb chucked up a prayer to Thompson as the receiver streaked down the right sideline.
In a game played in deep snow with winds swirling in New Era Field with consistent gusts of up to 20 mph, Webb completed the 34-yard pass and three plays later, running back LeSean McCoy took a carry 21 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Not to mention the play was made with two minutes left in OT in must-win situation in terms of the team’s playoff dreams, which recently became a reality. Is it the play of the year? Webb wouldn’t take that kind of credit. Heck, with the elements, he didn’t even know it was caught in the moment.
“I didn’t really look at the ball, I was focusing in on DT,” said Webb. “I was just trying to put the ball somewhere close to him because the wind was blowing like crazy. I had some linemen in my way so I had to look around them but once I heard the crowd I automatically knew he made a great catch. I just ran down the field and said ‘man, you just saved my tail.’ I loved it.”
The pass wasn’t perfect, but just getting it in the ballpark in those conditions was the impressive part. Thompson had to contort his body to reach back and make the grab while falling in inches of snow.
That was a great job by DT tracking the ball, that was big time by him,” Webb said.
According to both Webb and Thompson, the play call was dependent on coverage. If it was single-press coverage, they’d run a go-route. The other option? A curl. Colts’ defender Kenny Moore pressed.
As soon as he saw press, Thompson told himself he had to make a play. He knew he’d get the ball.
“I saw that ball in the air and I knew what was on the line so I didn’t take my eye off it and I made sure I secured that catch. Put my team in the position to win that game,” Thompson said. “I’ve been asking for it the whole game I was running by him the whole time, but you try to be careful with throwing the ball in those conditions. I was asking for it, I was ready for it.”
Since Day 1 with the Bills, Thompson’s made sure he’s always ready. That’s the attitude he took upon joining the Bills and in the long run, it’s paid off. Thompson’s been around a bit, including a first stop in Buffalo sandwiched between two years in Baltimore and Chicago before his return to the Bills.
Thompson spent 2012 to 2014 with the Baltimore Ravens after signing as an undrafted free agent.
In total, Thompson’s played 11 games with the Bills and in that time frame he’s quietly had a career year even excluding the first five games of this season he spent with the Bears. As a Bill, Thompson has 27 grabs and 430 yards, both career-bests.
It’s the first time I’ve really been in this role on any team I’ve been on. It’s really just taking advantage of that, I’ve been around a little bit, and being a leader for other guys a bit,” Thompson said.
But that’s no easy test and a rarity for a player to show up midseason and have a career-year.
″(Being released) came out of nowhere,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t call the transition easy, but it was just putting in the time. It wasn’t as hard for me as others because I’ll put in the time. Being in the building all day, getting with the quarterback, OC (Rick Dennison), receiving coach (Phil McGeoghan), learning the offense and just being ahead of the game.”
With that success a passion has come for Thompson, too. A passion for more… more Buffalo.
The 28-year-old is hopeful he’s found a long-term home with the Bills.
“Oh yeah, I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is where I want to be at. I just love it here. I love the fans, I love my teammates, I just love the whole organization,” Thompson said.