Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed led the Buffalo Bills out of the tunnel for their home opener Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills newest receiving star then proceeded to torment the Dolphins during the Bills’ 29-10 victory.
Rookie receiver Sammy Watkins had a breakout game, leading the Bills with eight receptions, 117 yards and his first career touchdown.
Watkins, whom the Bills traded up to draft fourth overall out of Clemson, was the only Bills player with more than two receptions and the only wide receiver with more than one catch.
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He also became the first Buffalo rookie to post more than 100 receiving yards in a game since Lee Evans in 2004.
“He was a playmaker and he made plays,” Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. “It’s something that you’re going to have to handle, deal with and eliminate. We didn’t do that as well as we wanted to do today.
“It’s something we’re going to have to do moving forward because he’s going to be in our league for a while.”
Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan said much of Watkins production came as a result of coverage breakdowns.
“You don’t want to take anything away from what he does, but they were,” he said. “You credit them for finding the weaknesses in the defense and turning him loose.
“We turned him loose in the zone, or man-to-man got picked or something like that. It was nothing that they did, and everything that we did.”
On his 12-yard touchdown reception that put the Bills ahead 23-10 with 13 seconds left in the third quarter, Watkins lined up on the left side and ran across the formation before catching the ball on the right side at the 11-yard line.
“It was a great call,” Watkins said. “We knew it was man and I used [tight end Scott] Chandler as a pick and got across the field and I kept running and saw green grass and [quarterback] EJ Manuel made a great pass.”
Watkins dove as he approached the goal line and tucked the ball inside the right pylon for the touchdown. Watkins lost control of the ball at the end of the play, but replay officials determined he scored before fumbling.
“That last touchdown, he got in there for us on third down,” Manuel said. “We call that a ‘double whammy’ when you get a first down and a touchdown in the red zone. That was huge for us, and that’s what I expect from him.”
Watkins wasn’t as much of a factor in the Bills’ opening win at Chicago when he had just three catches for 31 yards.
“It happened that a lot of calls and progressions had him getting the ball and coming open,” Manuel said. “He did a great job running the route and getting open. I’m very proud of him.
Watkins didn’t just do damage on crossing routes, however. He got behind safeties Jimmy Wilson and Michael Thomas to haul in a 28-yard pass along the left sideline on the Bills opening drive, and beat Finnegan for a 30-yard gain in the second quarter that set the Bills up for a field goal.
“He’s a good receiver,” Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler said, “but we could have done some things to slow him down.”
Said Finnegan: “He’s going to be a great talent in the NFL. That’s really it. He had a good day. Kudos to him.”