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Originally published Monday, September 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Buffalo Bills show off their skills on special teams

The Bills' special teams had a few choices after scoring two touchdowns and recovering a fumble that led to another score in a 34-10 pasting of the Seahawks.

Special to The Seattle Times

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Just how special was opening day for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday?

A little postgame pop quiz proved to be slightly more challenging for players to master than the Seahawks: What was the play of the game?

The Bills' special teams had a few choices after scoring two touchdowns and recovering a fumble that led to another score in a 34-10 pasting of the Seahawks.

But the biggest play was Roscoe Parrish's electrifying 63-yard, did-you-see-that punt-return touchdown with 6:20 left in the second quarter. It gave Buffalo a 14-0 lead and left most of the sellout crowd of 71,194 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a state of awe.

After faking a move left, Parrish dashed to his right before going left to sidestep punter Ryan Plackemeier. Parrish then broke a tackle attempt by John Carlson before giving the slip to C.J. Wallace, the last Seahawk between Parrish and the end zone.

The punt-return score was Parrish's first since last year's season opener and third of his career, which ties the franchise record previously set by Keith Moody (1976-79).

"That was a beautiful run," said Bills tackle Marcus Stroud, who led a defensive unit that forced 11 punts — giving Parrish, last season's league leader in punt-return average, plenty of chances. "If I was doing the play-by-play, I couldn't even call some of those moves he was doing. It was excellent."

"It's just instinct and doing whatever it is you've got to do to get in the end zone," said Parrish, who broke his Bills record for punt-return yardage in a game (120 on six returns) and also set the team mark for career punt return yards (1,110). "The guys did a good job of holding their blocks and that's the key thing."

The Bills' success on special teams isn't surprising, considering they ranked first in punt-return average (15.4) last year, fifth in 2006 and led the NFL in overall special teams in 2004 and 2005.

But Buffalo lost three special-teams standouts — Josh Stamer, Mario Haggen and Coy Wire — in the offseason, prompting questions as to whether coordinator Bobby April's units still could be game-breakers.

Those special forces quelled any causes for concern Sunday by making plays that led to 24 points — including a 14-point blitz in a 20-second span late in the third quarter that turned a 10-point game into a rout.

"I can't say enough about the guys that we lost," said Brian Moorman, who became the first Bills punter to throw a touchdown pass — a 19-yard strike to defensive end Ryan Denney, who was wide open out of a field-goal formation, with 2:21 left in the third quarter. "I was with them for five years and they covered like crazy and did a great job for us, but I can't say enough about the guys we have now."


Kicker Rian Lindell — a graduate of Mountain View High in Vancouver, Wash., and Washington State, and a former Seahawk — also chipped in. After Denney's TD, Lindell recovered Josh Wilson's fumbled kickoff return, which led to Robert Royal's 30-yard TD catch with 2:01 left in the third.

The Seahawks might have still been wondering how a defensive end lining up at split end could go completely unnoticed.

"Field goal is such a madhouse kind of play," Lindell said. "The whole group comes in and a whole group goes out, for the most part. It's just such a change in personnel that it's easy to have that happen and then he kind of comes out to the side."

"[Coach April] knows special teams can determine the outcome of a game and today was a great example of that," Denney said. "We were playing well on offense and defense, but special teams really changed the momentum."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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