ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Brice Butler originally came to Dallas in September for this very reason: providing a downfield option for an offense missing Dez Bryant.
In Sunday's 16-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Butler had his most productive game in his first start as a Cowboy: a team-best and career-high four catches for 74 yards.
It was Butler's second appearance following a hamstring injury that sidelined him for several weeks and ironically occurred on his longest reception of the season – a 67-yarder in Week 4 at New Orleans.
"I thank the coaching staff for staying patient with me," Butler said, "and letting me know that, 'When you get back out there, we're going to give you a shot."
The offense needed Butler's playmaking ability without Bryant, who was inactive after being unable to practice during the week as he continued to deal with foot and ankle injuries that have bothered him for several weeks.
Butler's four catches matched his season total in three previous appearances. Both the Cowboys' scoring drives – a pair of Dan Bailey's field goals – were set up by a long completion from quarterback Kellen Moore to Butler (27 and 34 yards).
Both had worked together on the scout team earlier in the season, and they clearly had a rapport. One missed opportunity, though, was Moore's low throw that deflected off Butler's hands for an interception.
The Cowboys acquired Butler via trade from the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 15, two days after Bryant broke his foot in the season opener and ultimately missed five games recovering from surgery.
Butler's own hamstring injury prevented him from making a consistent impact during that time. With Bryant sitting out again Sunday, it was his task to step in.
"We told Brice that it was his time with where we were with Dez not being out there and him finally being healthy to be a guy we can look to," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "And I thought he did some really good things."