Reid Ferguson and Colton Schmidt had zero margin for error Sunday.
Lucky for the Buffalo Bills, their long snapper-punter duo played darn near a perfect game against the Indianapolis Colts. Ferguson was on the money with each of his snaps, while Schmidt’s six punts in conditions best described as nightmarish were generally excellent as the Bills got a must-have win, 13-7, in overtime at New Era Field.
“It was wild. Obviously you can't really prepare for that,” said Schmidt, who used several Aussie-style punts. “That was by far the craziest weather I've played in here. It's one of those things that, especially coming here, you know that those types of games can happen. You almost dream of them and embrace them because they're so wild and crazy and out of the ordinary. It was awesome.”
Schmidt punted six times for 230 yards, a gross average of 38.3 yards. His net average was 38.0 yards, as the Bills’ punt-return unit allowed just 2 yards. He placed two of his six punts inside the Colts’ 20-yard line.
“It helps that, minus the snow, you’ve got the same strong winds,” he said. “I kind of played it the same as I've gotten used to around here, so I guess there's a little bit of an advantage to that. The hard part was actually, as the game went on, all the snow kept piling up. So trying to kick the snow and get your footing and everything, it was really easy to slip because on the field it was compact. Trying to scrape it off and try to get some footing in there was hard.
“Basically, it was there's 'X' amount of time left on the clock. Gotta go and see what happens.”
Schmidt’s best punt came from his own end zone late in the second quarter. With the Bills pinned at their own 5-yard line, he bombed a 40-yard punt that was not returned. The Buffalo defense forced an Indianapolis punt and the Bills drove to their first touchdown of the game before halftime.
“There are always some I thought I could hit a little better,” Schmidt said. “I’m happy with it, but I have that competitive edge where ‘this is what I could do better next time.’ ”
Schmidt credited Ferguson with being on the money with his snaps all day. A Louisiana State product, Ferguson had never played in the snow until Sunday.
“We knew going into the game all week that it was going to be pretty messy today, and I think it was a little worse than we expected it,” he said. “We knew we were going to get some snow, heavy winds, that kind of stuff. We've been preparing all week, but honestly I didn't know how to handle it going into the game. I was just trying to stay confident. I know I can do it.”
When Schmidt had the benefit of punting with the wind, Ferguson was snapping into it.
“Snaps are crucial. We had to change where I'm standing because the more important thing was just to catch the ball, the second-most important thing was to kick the ball,” he said. “We had to simplify that, but Reid did a great job snapping good balls. Real solid spiral. Our operation time was still the same, which was good.”
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The last time Kelvin Benjamin caught a pass from Nathan Peterman, the conditions were a little different. That was in Los Angeles in Week 11, when the temperature approached 80 and the sun shined gloriously.
That was also the last time Benjamin played before Sunday. A knee injury kept him out the last two weeks, but he returned against the Colts and led the Bills with three catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.
“I was like a kid, man, I was having fun with it,” he said. “Just embracing it, you know what I'm saying? I mean, it was very windy, but at the same time we had to go out there and get the win, and we did.”
Benjamin took advantage of single coverage on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, the first of which went for 21 yards and the second which resulted in an 8-yard touchdown.
“We just had to take the shots and we did it,” he said.
The bad news for both Peterman and Benjamin is they left in the second half because of injury. Peterman suffered a concussion in the third quarter, while Benjamin aggravated the torn meniscus in his right knee. Coach Sean McDermott did not have an update on either player after the game.
“Kind of just bent it back, kind of aggravated it a little,” Benjamin said. “We're going to go check with the docs, see what's going on with it. I mean, I'm still walking, so that's a good sign.”
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Peterman got his second career start after Tyrod Taylor was declared inactive because of a knee injury suffered in Week 14 against the Patriots.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn and cornerback Leonard Johnson were also inactive for the Bills. Both Glenn and Johnson practiced on a limited basis all week. Glenn missed his seventh game of the season with foot and ankle injuries, while Johnson was out because of a knee injury suffered against New England. They were joined on the inactive list by offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (back), guard John Miller (ankle), tight end Khari Lee and wide receiver Brandon Reilly.
The Colts were without three starters in wide receiver Donte Moncrief (ankle), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hand) and center Ryan Kelly (concussion). They were joined by tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring), defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (shoulder) , left tackle Tyreek Burwell and running back Matt Jones.