June 17, 2024

On Sunday, Deonte Harty made one of the biggest plays of the Buffalo Bills’ season, returning a punt 96 yards for a game-tying score against the Miami Dolphins.

After a mistake-filled first half, the big play helped flip momentum in the Bills’ favor, propelling them to a division-clinching 21-14 victory.

However, after the game, an ecstatic Harty was unable to tell reporters exactly what happened on the play.

“I blacked out,” Harty claimed on X, according to WKBW’s Matt Bove.

Deonte Harty’s Game-Changing Play

Harty’s touchdown came as the Bills were struggling to generate points, trailing 14-7 despite squandering red-zone opportunities and turning the ball over three times in Miami territory. The Dolphins had grabbed the ball the previous drive after a strip-sack on Josh Allen, but the Bills’ defense held firm and forced the Dolphins to punt shortly after the start of the fourth quarter.
Harty took the punt and found an opening down the middle, sprinting 96 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 14-14 with 13:42 remaining. It was the longest punt return in team history and the team’s first punt return touchdown since the season finale against the Dolphins in 2020, a 56-26 victory.

 

Harty admitted after the game that the return was a blur.

“I can’t tell you what happened,” Harty replied, as reported by The Associated Press. “I’d just noticed a crease. I got it. And before you knew it, I was free.”

Harty’s punt return provided a critical jolt for the Bills. On the following series, the team held the Dolphins at bay until taking the lead on an Allen touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox. Tua Tagovailoa’s late interception sealed the game as the defense held the Dolphins scoreless in the second half.

Harty, a free agent signed last summer to serve as a quick receiver and return specialist, did not make many contributions this season. The former All-Pro returner recorded 14 catches for 138 yards and one touchdown while returning 25 punts for 227 yards and a 9.1 yard average.

Aside from his punt return score, Harty contributed to the offense with a 12-yard reception on his sole target on Sunday.

 

How Deonte Harty's unique mindset is setting him up with his new team in Buffalo

 

The Bills return home to host a playoff game.

The win earned the Bills their fourth straight division crown, an accomplishment that appeared improbable just a few weeks ago when the Bills were 6-6 and the Dolphins led the division by three games.

The Bills were on the verge of missing the playoffs if they lost, but a loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day assured them a spot, and the win over the Dolphins earned them the No. 2 seed.

On Sunday, the team will return to Buffalo to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After the division-clinching victory, Allen praised the players and their perseverance in the face of adversity.

“So proud of our guys,” Allen remarked, according to The Associated Press. “They fought their tails off. On the attacking side of the ball, I felt we established a groove in the last couple of drives. The ball was leaving my hands the best it has all year.”

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