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Bucky Gleason: Meet Deonte Thompson, who made a difference in Bills' win over Bucs

Bucky Gleason

Deonte Thompson was here a few years ago, you know, but even the most ardent Buffalo fan would have a difficult time remembering him. In 2014, he had zero catches for the Bills in their 17-9 victory over the Patriots in a meaningless season finale in Gillette Stadium.

Kyle Orton took the first flight out of Buffalo after playing his last game, and coach Doug Marrone wasn't far behind after exercising a clause in his contract that called for him to be paid $4 million if the franchise changed owners. Thompson's only game didn't exactly make headlines amid the turmoil.

Thompson had a productive training camp after Doug Whaley re-signed him, and he played well in the preseason. He caught four passes for 96 yards and a 51-yard touchdown before Rex Ryan waived him late in training camp in one of many transactions that were quickly dismissed.

What, it still doesn't ring a bell?

Thompson signed with the Bills last week in a move that looked like dozens of others throughout any given regular season. Fringe players climb aboard every week in the NFL, rarely make an impact and get lost in obscurity. It wasn't as if Thompson had the Buccaneers rearranging their defensive game plan Sunday.

One person who remembered Thompson more than anyone Sunday was the one who mattered most: Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The two met at an all-star game in high school and played together for three seasons in Baltimore, back when they were nobodies whose relevance was limited to their work on the scout team.

"Those were fun days," Taylor said.

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Their relationship explains Taylor's confidence in Thompson in the second quarter Sunday when he looked to the wide receiver to catch a tight throw for a 14-yard gain. In the fourth quarter with the Bills trailing by a touchdown with about three minutes remaining, Taylor knew his new wideout would make a big play to get the Bills moving.

And now, after the Bills' wild 30-27 win over the Bucs in New Era Field, you know a few things about Deonte Thompson.

"There's a whole bunch of guys in here that other teams didn't want," Thompson, whose stall was adjacent that of Taiwan Jones (who?) in the Bills' locker room, said after the game. "We all feel like that, but this is a great team. This team is going to do some special things this year. We believe in one another."

Taylor certainly believed in Thompson, which is one reason the Bills improved to 4-2 with a thin fleet of wide receivers. Thompson had four catches for 107 yards, including the 44-yard pass play down the sideline that helped the Bills march down the field for a touchdown 46 seconds after the Bucs took a 27-20 lead.

Bills fans who kept their Robert Woods jerseys need only duct tape and a black Sharpie to make a minor adjustment for this season. Thompson wore No. 10 on Sunday, and it appears he'll be sticking around for a while in Rick Dennison's offense. Five days after signing him, he had his second career 100-yard game.

"It's great to see him come in and have the game that he did," Taylor said. "I've known DT for a while now. I'm proud of the way he played. I'm proud of the way everyone played. … He was able to take advantage of some matchups, and he was able to make some plays downfield."

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Who knew? Brandon Beane did.

The Bills' general manager must have suspected that Thompson could make an impact, which is why he invited him to Orchard Park last week. What, you didn't notice him strolling through the airport? He might not be a familiar face or a household name in Buffalo, but he gave the Bills what they needed Sunday.

Surprise, surprise.

"Love his attitude, man," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "Obviously, he loves that attitude that we have, and that's toughness and mental toughness and physical toughness – the underdog. He embraces that, and that's what you saw. He made a huge play late in the game and a couple of big plays during the game."

Thompson wasn't a total no-name. He was a good player with good speed at the University of Florida before signing with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent. He played the previous two seasons with the Bears and was productive last season as their third and fourth option while playing all 16 games last year.

His 11 catches with the Bears this season were more than any wideout had with the Bills this season. He had 125 yards receiving and a touchdown before Chicago released him after Week Five. He was still trying to figure out Sunday what went wrong with the Bears while explaining what went right with the Bills.

"It came out of nowhere," he said. "I was one of the leading receivers over there. I was playing great. To this day, I still don't know why or what I did. It's very coldhearted, man. I've been cut before, but that one cut deep. I felt like I was a leader on the team. I still don't understand."

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The Bills have been desperate for wide receivers after trading away Sammy Watkins just before the season. Thompson has been in the league for six seasons, including one in which he was on the Ravens' practice squad. He understood how the NFL worked,  identified soft spots in the defenses Sunday and showed he had reliable hands.

It all happened so fast.

Thompson spent a few days last week wondering whether his career was over before the Patriots invited him for a peek last Monday. The Bills signed him a day later and told him to get his face in their playbook right away. He showed up ready to play Sunday and started making a name for himself in Buffalo.

"I didn't think I would have 100 yards, but I knew I was going to make some plays today," Thompson said. "That's just me. If you dress me up, I'm going to make plays. To have 100 yards, it was icing on the top."

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