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Bills WR Deonte Harty named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 18

Harty’s record-setting punt return provided the needed momentum to propel the Buffalo Bills to victory over the Miami Dolphins

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

For his late-game, history-making heroics during the Buffalo Bills’ Week 18 victory over the Miami Dolphins, wide receiver/return specialist Deonte Harty was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

With 13:55 left in regulation, Harty fielded a booming punt from Jake Bailey at the Bills’ four-yard line. After quickly disposing of the first Dolphins player in front of him, Harty shot out of a cannon, heading football north in a race for the end zone. Ninety-six yards and 12 seconds later, Harty reached paydirt for a very critical six points in Buffalo’s favor. Harty’s 96-yard punt return touchdown now stands as the longest return in franchise history, surpassing the previous record held by defensive back Keith Moody who had a 91-yard punt return against the New York Jets in 1977.

Up to the point of Harty’s return in last Sunday’s game, the Bills trailed the Dolphins 14-7. It appeared as though Buffalo’s offense would have another major hole to dig out of in terms of field position — perhaps best lucky to escape further bleeding by gaining a couple first downs before punting in an effort to flip the field back in their favor. Harty and the punt-return team had other ideas, and decided to flip the narrative about the game’s outcome.

Head coach Sean McDermott noted the huge impact that Harty’s individual effort had on the team, considering it the key moment in the game when momentum swung the Bills’ way.

As an added bonus (literally) for Deonte Harty’s productive weekend, his return earned him a fruitful roster bonus. Harty had an incentive that would pay him $250,000 if he finished the season with an average of 10.5 yards per return. Entering Sunday night, the 26-year-old Harty was averaging just 9.1 yards per return. After his record-setting 96-yard run, he finished the regular season with a 12.3 yard average and a nice bonus.