The Buffalo Bills picked wide receiver Jerry Butler with the fifth overall selection in the 1979 NFL Draft. It didn't take long for the speedy wide receiver to flash the talent the Bills were looking for.
Butler started on the outside from the moment he arrived in Buffalo, recording 11 catches for 162 yards through his first three games. In Week 4, with the Bills hosting the New York Jets, Butler had by far the most impressive performance of his career. He and quarterback Joe Ferguson hooked up 10 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns.
The Jets jumped out to an early 17-6 lead before the duo combined for their first score to cut the lead to 17-12 after a missed extra point. The Jets pushed it to 24-12 before Butler took over. Touchdowns of 74 and 75 yards book-ended halftime to give the Bills their first lead of the game. A nine-yard touchdown brought Butler's total to four on the day and gave Buffalo a 33-24 lead. Fred Smerlas notched a fumble recovery touchdown to cap a 28-0 Bills run, and Ferguson found Joe Shipp in the fourth quarter for a 46-31 final score.
The 255 receiving yards was a single-game franchise record until Lee Evans broke it with 265 against the Houston Texans in 2006. Four touchdowns still stands as a team record, matched only by Don Beebe in 1991. "What happened was too wild to dream about," said Butler to Sports Illustrated after the game.
Let's put this game into historical perspective. Butler's 50 fantasy football points would have been the most ever in a football game until 1990, when Jerry Rice had five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. It's one of only 21 times an NFL receiver has ever topped 250 yards.
Butler would catch two touchdowns in a single game only three times in the remainder of his career. He would top out at 140 yards and nine receptions in different games as well, never matching his jaw-dropping totals from his fourth professional game. In fact, the only four touchdowns Butler would catch in 1979 were in this game.
While the 1979 Bills lost their final three games to finish 7-9 and out of the playoffs, the following year saw the team return to the post-season after a six-year layoff.