Ok, so maybe Jordan Poyer went a little overboard Sunday when describing Stephen Hauschka.
“He kicks a 100-yard field goal, I probably think he can make it,” the Buffalo Bills’ safety said of his team’s kicker. “He’s the best kicker in the league, hands down. So much confidence from us when he’s out there kicking, no matter where he’s kicking from.”
The Bills didn’t need Hauschka to attempt a 100-yarder Sunday. His 46-yarder on the game’s final play was plenty. It gave the Bills a 13-12 victory against the Tennessee Titans at New Era Field.
“It was huge – 2-3 sounds a lot better than 1-4,” Poyer said. “We’re very excited. We knew coming in this was a huge game for us.”
Hauschka’s field goal was the fifth of his career that provided the winning points with 2 minutes or less to play, but the first that’s come with no time left on the clock.
“I was trying to just treat it like another kick,” he said. “It's hard to really, truly do that, because you know it's an important kick, but the whole routine was the same.”
The Bills had quarterback Josh Allen move the ball to the left hash before Hauschka’s kick, the more favorable side because of a right-to-left wind. From there, it was up to Hauschka.
“It was a good kick. It wasn't the best one of the year, but it was good and it got the job done,” he said. “It's a situation where you know it's an important kick. Obviously you're going to be excited about it. I want that opportunity. So when I'm out there, I just try and put a good swing on it. That's all you can do. I don't think there's anybody that's not going to feel any excitement about a kick like that, right?”
2. Bills fans everywhere were asking themselves “what the heck was that?” in the second quarter when holder Corey Bojorquez took the snap from Reid Ferguson, but then failed to place the ball so Hauschka could attempt a 30-yard field goal.
So, Corey, what the heck was that?
“Just miscommunication on my part,” he said. “I misunderstood what the coaches told me.”
The play was supposed to be a field goal, but instead Bojorquez thought it was “something else.”
The only other possibility would be a fake, but the Bills weren’t anxious to confirm that.
“We’ve just got to execute overall right there,” coach Sean McDermott said.
Bojorquez scrambled around before throwing the ball away in desperation, and was lucky it wasn’t intercepted. Making matters worse, he suffered a shoulder injury on the play. The Bills announced him as questionable to return, which he did.
“I'm doing good. A little sore, but it happens,” he said in the locker room after the game. “You know, definitely feel it, but you kind of just ignore it. ... It didn't really affect anything too much.”
Bojorquez was called upon plenty in the second half. His first punt in the third quarter was downed at the Titans’ 5-yard line, and his next netted 41 yards. On the Bills’ next possession, Bojorquez cleanly held for Hauschka’s 40-yard attempt, which was good.
Then came the fourth quarter, when Bojorquez had to deal with the pressure of making sure he had a clean hold on Hauschka’s attempted game-winner.
“It's the same as any other kick,” Bojorquez said. “Whether we had 5 minutes left or it was at the end of the game like it was, it's still going to be the same kick either way. That's the kind of mindset me, Reid and Stephen all keep, is it's the same thing as any other. Whether it's a rush field goal, we have to run on the field, or we've got plenty of time, every kick's the same.”
"I trusted him there,” Hauschka said. “That's all you can do is trust him. His shoulder didn't seem to bother him with holding at all, so that was reassuring.”
Bojorquez’s net average was just 29.0 on four attempts, as he had one bad touchback and the coverage unit allowed a 38-yard return, but he came through when it mattered most.
“He was in pain when he was punting there and really toughed it out and helped this team out a lot by making it through the second half,” Hauschka said. “We had a little punt-off there at halftime and I hit a couple good ones. I was getting excited. I was like, 'I'm going to get my shot to punt.’ But he did a great job to finish.”
Hauschka was a college punter, for what it’s worth, but does not have an attempt in 11 NFL seasons. He practices punting at times in the offseason, but admitted he hasn’t punted “in a while.”
“I saw him hit a couple at halftime,” Bojorquez said. “He's pretty impressive, I've got to say. They would have been in good hands still if I couldn't go back in.”
3. Dean Marlowe went straight from the practice squad to the starting lineup. With safeties Micah Hyde (groin) and Rafael Bush (shoulder) out because of injuries, the Bills did more than just promote Marlowe to the 53-man roster, they gave him his first career start.
“There's some pressure,” Marlowe said. “If you're human, you're going to feel pressure. But other than that, I've been playing this game my whole life. I'm not going to look at it any differently. ... I'm just going to go in there, step in, do my job, play 1/11th of my responsibility and go after it.”
Marlowe finished with four tackles and one pass defensed.
“He was the star of the day out there today,” Poyer said. “Coming in, it being his first NFL start, the way he played, you can’t ask for more.”
Marlowe got promoted to the active roster Saturday, but he had been working with the first team throughout the practice week. Rookie Siran Neal was the third safety.
4. A pair of Western New Yorkers were on the field for the Titans. Punter Brett Kern is from Grand Island and running back David Fluellen is from Lockport. Fluellen played on special teams, while Kern punted two times for 106 yards, an average of 49 net yards. One of his punts was downed inside the 20-yard line.
“It’s always good to come home,” Kern said. “I have memories from here playing in high school and stuff like that. At the end of the day, we’d love to get the win. But it was a tough one. Buffalo played really well and we just didn’t execute everything that we talked about all week. So hats off to them.”
Kern has played in Buffalo three times as a member of the Titans.
“The place is loud,” he said of New Era Field. “They love their football here and sell out every time. It’s a fun environment to play in.”
Kern’s parents weren’t able to attend the game because they had an out-of-town wedding, but he was able to visit his grandparents on Saturday night.
“It was good just to see them and hang out with them for a little bit,” he said.
5. The list of healthy inactive players for the Bills contained one surprise – running back Marcus Murphy. He missed the Week 4 game against Green Bay “mostly” because of a rib injury, according to McDermott, but wasn’t listed on the injury report leading up to Sunday, making it a coaching decision. Murphy had 17 carries for 70 yards in the first three weeks of the season, and was getting more playing time than No. 2 running back Chris Ivory.
Other healthy inactives for the Bills on Sunday were newly signed cornerback Dontae Johnson and offensive linemen Ike Boettger and Wyatt Teller.
The last healthy inactive for the Bills was offensive tackle Conor McDermott. That meant recent addition Jeremiah Sirles was active as the swing tackle. Sirles joined the 53-man roster less than two weeks ago, but it didn’t take him long to rise up the depth chart. That’s bad news for McDermott, who was beaten badly for a sack in Week 4.