During Sunday's cathartic and profound 34-31 victory over the New England Patriots, several Buffalo Bills players exemplified the type of perseverance that it takes to beat a team like the Pats. We can talk about all of those players individually, but one I'd like to highlight this morning is receiver Donald Jones.
While receivers Stevie Johnson and David Nelson went off in the Bills' first two games, Jones - the hand-picked replacement for departed veteran Lee Evans - put up just 27 receiving yards. Chan Gailey came to his defense publicly while fans looked to replace him in the starting lineup.
Then, on Ryan Fitzpatrick's second pass of the game Sunday, a bullet glanced off of Jones' hands and into the waiting arms of Pats cornerback Kyle Arrington. Suddenly, Jones bore huge responsibility in the Bills' early 14-0 deficit. He'd go on to miss a few more throws, too. Meanwhile, Johnson and Nelson were doing their thing.
But when the Patriots took Nelson away, Jones stepped up big-time. Beating coverage deep, he hauled in receptions of 48 and 29 yards during Buffalo's furious second-half rally.
The big plays continued a trend for Jones. In Week 1 against Kansas City, with the game well in hand, Jones hauled in his only touchdown grab of the season. More noticeably in Week 2, Jones had a huge fourth-down conversion - and an even bigger break-up of a would-be interception - during the Bills' game-winning touchdown drive against Oakland. Even before his big plays against New England, he made less noticeable contributions, hauling in key conversion passes in a field goal drive that made the score 21-10 in favor of the Patriots at halftime.
In all, Jones caught five passes for 101 yards in yesterday's win, leading all Bills receivers in receiving yardage on a huge day for the offense. We spent a great deal of time last week talking about Jones and his role in the offense, even going so far as to say that he'd have opportunities to win matchups against a banged-up Patriots secondary. He got those opportunities, and when it counted, he delivered. It was a microcosm for how the Bills have performed in the second half during their 3-0 start.