Settling into a routine for the London game seems to be the key for the Jaguars. The game has an “event” feel, much different than any other Sunday during the regular season.
So when the Jaguars played terribly in the first quarter against Buffalo it wasn’t much of a surprise. The Bills were playing without several of their starters including quarterback Tyrod Taylor and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Buffalo took their second possession of the game after a three and out and an average punt by Bryan Anger to kick a field goal and take a 3-0 lead.
At some point at the end of the quarter, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense started finding their rhythm. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns found some seams, Marcedes Lewis was sighted and a TD by TJ Yeldon gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead.
We’ve seen quarterbacks struggle wearing Jaguars uniforms so to see it happen to the opposition and the Jaguars take advantage of it was something new. EJ Manuel certainly looks the part of an NFL quarterback but has never seemed to grasp the complexity and nuance of the game. When he held the ball just a tick too long against a Jaguars blitz, Aaron Colvin got to him and forced a fumble. After it bounced around a bit, Chris Clemons finally picked it up and scored to give the Jaguars a 14-3 lead. It was the first defensive TD for the Jaguars since week 17 of last year.
This week Gus Bradley reiterated his belief that turnovers come in bunches and he looked prophetic on the next play. Manuel looked like he never saw Telvin Smith underneath and threw it right to him. From one Seminole to another, Smith scored on the INT to make it 21-3.
During the next drive, Manuel continued to struggle. Short throws and bad decisions lead to another interception, this one on a great athletic play by Paul Posluzsny. Back on offense, the Jaguars used TJ Yeldon’s speed and shiftiness to score again to make it 27-3. Jason Myers missed his third extra point of the year.
It’s not hard to make a case for the Jaguars becoming a good team and staying there for a while if they can ever get over the hump of figuring out how to win football games. They have quality guys in the locker room, unlike in the past decade and have a culture that would breed success if they can ever find it in the first place. But we’ve seen hundreds of teams get to this point and not be able to figure out how to be a winner.
In person, the Jaguars were the better team on the field against the depleted Bills and were finally taking advantage of a back up quarterback. Manuel did throw a TD in the 2nd quarter and the Bills kicked a field goal right before halftime to make it 27-13.
Taking the second half kickoff the Jaguars needed to respond to the 10 unanswered points by Buffalo. They did everything text book perfect, taking time off the clock and driving down the field. The even got Julius Thomas involved in the red zone as the defender was called for interference giving the ball to the Jaguars first down at the one.
For gives to Toby Gerhart with Tyson Alualu in front of him yielded no points, the only result you’re not looking for there. Hard to say what the problem was but it was obvious the front five didn’t win at the point of attack on any of those plays.
Buffalo got the ball and drove it out from the end zone with a mix of run and pass but stalled at the Jaguars 10. The Bills kicked a field goal to make it 27-16, still a two-possession game. But where was that defense that was around in the second quarter?
Several three and outs by the Jaguars were helped along by an Allen Hurns drop (though he was over that) and kept the Bills in the game.
Without much resistance, Buffalo moved the ball at will inside Jaguars territory. Just when it appeared the Jaguars had them stopped, Andre Branch was called for rushing the passer. Kind of a bogus call, looked like a good football play but another first down for the Bills. Maybe a little luck but LeSean McCoy fumbled the ball at the one and the Jaguars caught a break.
It’s pretty obvious the Jaguars front five on offense just aren’t very good at run blocking at this point. Again on a short second and third and a yard, the Jaguars called time out, only to give it to Alualu and have him come up short. Too cute.
That’s when the meltdown started to happen. On the second play of the B/ills drive, Dwayne Gratz and Johathan Cyprien stopped on their coverage giving up a 58-yard TD to bring the Bills within three. Gratz was called for interference on the two point try, giving Buffalo a chance from the one. Buffalo stuffed it in there to pull within three.
On the Jaguars next possession, Blake Bortles threw it up for grabs with some miscommunication on the route and in was intercepted and run back for a score. It’s the 7th interception for a TD Bortles has thrown in his career, the most in the league in the last two years.
While they do a lot of stupid things, the Jaguars do hang in there. They drove the ball down the field right before the 2 minute warning scoring a TD on a scramble throw and a great catch by Hurns in the end zone to take a 34-31 lead with two minutes to play.
That’s when you were waiting for somebody on defense to make a play and hold the lead. After a questionable call on 3rd down by the officials, the Bills went for it on 4th down and Aaron Colvin broke up the pass to give the ball to the Jaguars and the victory.
It’s a small step but beating teams you’re supposed to beat is a start for the Jaguars. Bye next week and then two road games at New York and Baltimore before home against the Titans on Thursday November 19th.
Full coverage from London on News4Jax at 6 and the Sunday Sports Zone at 10:30.