By Jerry Sullivan
Last year around this time, inspired by Brandon Bolden's 137-yard rushing day against the Bills, I put together a list of 12 running backs who had enjoyed a breakthrough game against the Buffalo defense.
I've been asked by a couple of readers to update it after two more obscure backs went for career highs against the Bills this season -- New England's Shane Vereen more than doubled his career high with 101 yards rushing in the opener and the Jets' Bilal Powell set a new high with 149 in Sunday's game. Powell's previous rushing high was 78.
At any rate, here's the list of a dozen runners that I put together early last October after Bolden went off against the Bills in Orchard Park. If you're wondering, Bolden's game against the Bills remains his career rushing high -- by 83 yards.
I'll leave it to you to tell me where you would slot Vereen and Powell on the list. A look back at my "Coming of Age against Buffalo" Dirty Dozen backs from the last nine years:
1. Willie Parker. Team captain. The Bills went into the final week of the 2004 season needing to beat the Steelers here to keep their playoff hopes alive. Pittsburgh had clinched a bye and had nothing to play for. Parker, an undrafted rookie with 84 career rushing yards to that point, rushed for 102 yards to lead a bunch of backups to a 29-24 win.
After the loss, Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said, "Who is this Willie Parker?" Parker went on to a nice six-year career. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards three years in a row and had a 75- yard TD run in Super Bowl XL.
2. Jerome Harrison. In the Bills' last Monday night home game, Harrison broke a 72-yard TD run at the start of the fourth quarter to spark Cleveland's 29-27 win. It was Harrison's 28th NFL game and his first TD. He finished with 80 yards, a career high at the time.
Harrison, a fifth-round draft choice, later broke Jim Brown's single-game Browns record with 286 yards. He bounced around and retired in 2011 after being treated for a brain tumor.
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis. An undrafted free agent, "The Law Firm" ran for 105 yards, a career high at the time, and a TD in the Bills' 20-10 loss at New England in '08. Green-Ellis had four solid seasons for the Pats and scored two touchdowns in the 2012 Super Bowl. He moved on to the Bengals as a free agent. As history shows, Bill Belichick is good at finding replacements.
4. Brandon Bolden. As I was saying Bolden, an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi, had 15 career rushing yards before gaining 137 against the Bills. Have you noticed how many of these guys weren't drafted And you wonder why teams don't draft runners high.
5/6. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw. I made then an entry. In the penultimate game of 2007, the Giants came to Buffalo, needing to win to stay alive for the playoffs. They rushed for 291 yards in a 38- 21 win. Bradshaw, a seventh-round rookie, had 39 career yards coming into the game. He rushed for 151, including an 88-yard TD that is the longest TD run ever against the Bills.
Jacobs rushed for 143 yards and two TDs that day. He and Bradshaw have both had solid careers. That game remains the career single- game rushing high for BOTH. Oh, and the Giants won the Super Bowl.
7. Pierre Thomas. An obscure third-year back when the Saints came here in the third week of the '09 season, Thomas ran for 126 yards, including TDs of 34 and 29 yards, in a 27-7 win. Both TDs came in the fourth quarter. Thomas scored a TD in the Saints' Super Bowl win that year. He's still with the team. Undrafted, by the way.
8. Ryan Moats. Take a gold star if you remember this guy. Moats, a third-round pick of the Eagles in '05, had an undistinguished four- year career. But in '09, he ran for a career-high 126 yards and three TDs for Houston in a 31-10 win in Buffalo. All three TDs came in the fourth quarter, when the Texans outscored the Bills, 22-0. They have a way of getting run over late in games, don't they?
9. Sammy Morris. I had to include a former Bill who came back to torment them. Morris spent his first four years in Buffalo and never rushed for more than 60 yards in a game. In his first game back with the Dolphins in '04, he rushed for 91 in a loss.
10. Danny Woodhead. One Patriot who didn't rush for 100 Sunday. Woodhead, who spent a year with the Jets as an undrafted free agent, broke out for the Pats in a 38-30 win over the Bills early in 2010. He rushed for 42 yards and his first career TD, a 22-yarder. In the second meeting that year, he rushed for 93 yards, his career high. The Pats ran for 200 yards in both games against the Bills that year. It's not a sudden phenomenon.
11. Joe McKnight. He's been a non-factor since the Jets took him in the fourth round in 2010, except for a 158-yard game against the Bills in the Jets' 38-7 win in the finale that year. McKnight has 337 career rushing yards in 28 games, 221 against the Bills.
12. Reggie Bush. The vacated '06 Heisman winner's single-game high in the NFL was 126 yards until he went for 203 in Miami's 30- 23 win here in 2011. It propelled Bush to his first 1,000-yard season.