Tight end Mark Campbell has been missing in the Buffalo Bills' offense so long he was beginning to wonder if the team knew he existed.
But Campbell wasn't ignored Sunday as he became the first Bills tight end to catch three touchdown passes in a game during a 37-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
"It was just one of those things when I felt I was always open in the red zone and the ball was where it needed to be," said Campbell, who is the first Bills player with three TD catches since Andre Reed in 1993. "It's kind of one of those things that happens in practice a lot, and in games it doesn't happen. But today it did. I haven't had a three-touchdown game since high school. I was having so much fun that you feel like you just can't be stopped. I guess I was in a zone. That's what it felt like."
The red zone has been Campbell's favorite zone this season. He came into the game having scored two touchdowns on passes inside the 20-yard line.
But Campbell had been silent recently, going three straight games without a reception. On Sunday, he became quarterback Drew Bledsoe's go-to guy.
"I didn't get a ball in three weeks, and that's frustrating," said Campbell, who has 14 catches for 172 yards and a team-high five touchdowns for the season. "But winning cures all that. When you're winning, it's easy to deal with. If you're losing, you feel like you've got to be able to do something to help. I feel like I'm the kind of guy who can do both block and catch. While I feel like I've blocked well the last three weeks, I haven't been able to make plays. What happened today confirms to me that when you get the opportunities you have to capitalize on them."
The Bills took advantage of Campbell's mismatch against Rams safeties Rich Coady and Adam Archuleta. Campbell twice beat Coady for touchdowns, including a leaping 19-yard score despite tight coverage.
"You don't hear a lot about Campbell," coach Mike Mularkey said. "He's very quiet about his business and works hard. The whole tight end group does, and he's the leader of it. He takes his catches when he can get them, and obviously he enjoyed it today."
Jim Ritcher was added to the Bills' Wall of Fame during a ceremony at halftime. Ritcher spent 13 of his 16 NFL seasons in Buffalo, where he played offensive guard for 222 games, including the playoffs. Ritcher was a key blocker during the Bills' four-year Super Bowl run and earned Pro Bowl bids in 1991 and 1992.
"I'm so excited," Ritcher said prior to the game. "I'm feeling guilty in a few ways because I know of so many guys who should go up there before me, guys who mentored me in the early years . . . whether they were coaches or players.
"I've thought of what a thrill it was coming down that tunnel and the knot in your stomach you have and how exciting it is."
The Rams cried foul over some of the rough tactics by the Bills' defensive backs. Wide receiver Torry Holt accused Bills cornerback Nate Clements of taking a shot at his knees, even on plays where Holt wasn't involved.
Holt had to come out of the game briefly after being hit in the knee early in the third quarter.
"That was totally surprising," Holt said. "I never had anything like that happen to me before. I asked him throughout the course of the game, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'Well, you cut me.' I said, 'Well, I don't go exactly for your knee to take you out and hurt your career.' I cut around the shin and around the ankles. I don't go right at the knee. He went right for my knee. I thought that was totally inappropriate and wasn't necessary. To me, that wasn't clean football."
Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes on tipping a pass in the air and then coming down with the interception:
"I have to be humble about it. It's just God-given athletic ability. You say you haven't seen anything like that, but I haven't been here all that long, either."
Veteran free safety Izell Reese, who lost his starting job to rookie Rashad Baker, was added to the inactive list Sunday. Cornerback Troy Vincent, wide receiver Josh Reed, running back Shaud Williams, defensive tackle Tim Anderson, offensive guard Mike Pucillo and offensive tackle Dylan McFarland were the other inactives.