Wide receiver Lee Evans went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his three-year career Sunday, and he did it in typical big-play fashion.
His 77-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter allowed him to record the 115th 1,000-yard season in Bills history and become the first Bills receiver to crack the barrier since Eric Moulds finished with 1,043 yards in 2004.
"It's big," said Evans, whose 1,016 yards tops his personal high of 843 in 2004. "You never know how things are going to work out. To get your first 1,000-yard season, it certainly means a lot."
It means even more to Evans considering how he reached the milestone. His touchdown catch was his third of 75 yards or more, setting a club record. Moulds is the only other Bill to have three touchdowns of 70-plus yards in a season. Evans and Cincinnati's Chad Johnson are the only NFL receivers with three touchdowns of 50-plus yards this year.
More important to Evans was his touchdown Sunday proved to be the turning point in the Bills' 31-13 victory over the New York Jets.
"The Jets were expecting another route," Evans said. "It was a double move, kind of a pump-and-go. The safety and the corner both bit on it and I was running wide open.
"We knew we were going to have opportunities in this game. I let one slide a little earlier and was able to make up for it later. It was a big play in the game and a play we needed. Once we got that we really got on track and got rolling."
Reaching 1,000 yards in a season is the goal of every receiver, but Evans is not done yet. Within his sights is Moulds' single-season franchise record of 1,368 yards set in 2002.
"Wow," Evans said. "That's probably off down the road. Certainly he's done so much for this organization. It's a record that's up there and it's a record that's meant to be broken, so hopefully I can do it."
With cornerback Terrence McGee out with a sore ankle, rookie cornerback Ashton Youboty got his first extensive action of the season.
The Bills' third-round draft pick had been inactive for 11 games and did not play in the one contest he dressed for. The fact that he missed a large portion of training camp due to the death of his mother had a lot to do with his lack of playing time.
But Youboty has gotten more work in practice in recent weeks. He apparently impressed the coaches because he was the third cornerback in nickel situations.
"It's definitely been a long wait," Youboty said. "It's fun cheering your teammates on, but it's even more fun being out there and doing some work yourself. [The coaches] told me to be ready on Wednesday and then Thursday they put me in the nickel package and I was getting a lot of reps. By Friday, they worked out a couple of guys to see if they could go and they let me know.
"The NFL is about opportunity, making the most of those opportunities. I just go into practice every day and work hard on my technique, so when the opportunity comes I can perform."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell wasn't surprised how well Youboty played.
"Ashton Youboty is improving every day in practice," Fewell said. "He's got really good hips and he always stays on top of his receiver. I had no hesitation in saying, 'If Terrence couldn't play, let's work Ashton in there and let's get him some reps.' I think he just stepped up and responded well. The game wasn't too big for him. I'm telling you, he acted like he has been there before.
"I think we found out a little bit about Ashton today. I don't want the injuries to occur, but it's good that we had this opportunity to get Ashton in the ball game and find out how he responds."
The Bills' special teams showed no fear, but plenty of respect for Jets kickoff return ace Justin Miller, who entered the game leading the NFL with a 29-yard average.
Miller returned his first kickoff 42 yards and added a 33-yarder before the Bills resorted to shorter kickoffs. He had two other returns for 20 and 21 yards, respectively, but didn't make a play that could have changed momentum.
"We didn't do anything major in terms of adjustments except reaching within ourselves and giving a better effort," linebacker Mario Haggan said. "We know Miller is a good returner and I think a lot of us were trying to do too much, trying to get our hands on him. After those first two returns we decided to just play football."
Defensive end Aaron Schobel's three sacks gave him a career season high of 12 1/2 . He and Bruce Smith are the only Bills with three seasons of 10-plus sacks. . . . Inactives were McGee, Donte Whitner (hamstring), John DiGiorgio, Tutan Reyes, Matt Murphy, Eric Powell and Roy Manning.