“First off, obviously we’ll take the win,” Rex Ryan began his post game presser. “That was a heck of a game. Shoot, you got to give Jacksonville a ton of credit.”
Through the first half you would have thought the Bills were the two win team. Their offense was appallingly anemic, accumulating all of five yards in the first quarter, failing to pick up a first down until the second quarter, and going scoreless until the final 20 seconds of the half.
There was no where to go but up. Thankfully for the Bills, their defense prevented Jacksonville from adding to an early 7-0 lead and paved way for LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor to take over in the second half
McCoy had all of five yards rushing and a touchdown at the break. He’d finish with 103 yards and two scores.
Taylor, who had 48 yards passing and 14 yards rushing at halftime, wound up with 166 and one score through the air, plus another 38 on the ground and a rushing touchdown as well. Taylor also did his best to erase the narrative that he isn’t clutch, leading a fourth quarter comeback for just the second time in 24 starts as the Bills signal caller. Sure it came early on in the fourth, but it counts nonetheless.
There was also the return of Sammy Watkins, who playing in his first game since Week 2, had a small hand in the win with hauling three receptions, one a 62-yarder that set the Bills up for their third touchdown of the afternoon. The Bills desperately needed his contributions.
“We’ve been saying it for a long time … and I know it’s in a limited role, but he’s such a difference maker,” Ryan said of his star receiver. ”
Fresh off the injured reserve, Watkins was thrilled to rejoin his team and health wise felt the best he has in a long time. “Felt good to be out their with the guys,” Watkins said. “The foot is no issue. I just really think the timing – being out for eight week and just being away from the game, an now my body feels healthy.”
So the Bills big guns did their part, and despite some defensive lapses that allowed Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles to rack up 83 rushing yards, the defense held tough when it had to.
Similar to the win in Cincinnati it wasn’t pretty, but clinging to a playoff dream, the Bills will take them anyway they can.
On Jacksonville’s opening drive of the game, a methodical 11-play, 75-yard drive looked thwarted short of six, with an emphatic Marcell Dareus swat. Instead, a defensive holding before the ball was thrown gave the Jaguars a new set of downs, and they’d use just one of them, for Ivory to punch it in.
The Bills response, a pathetic three-and-out, where they gained all of five yards – the exact amount of yards they’d finish the first quarter with.
The second quarter wasn’t much better and just as it looked like the Bills would head to the half shutout a 43-yard punt return by Brandon Tate set the Bills up at the Jacksonville 22 with just 1:24 remaining. LeSean McCoy would get them on the board courtesy of a seven-yard touchdown run, however in typical Bills fashion Dan Carpenter would shank the extra point and they’d go to the half down one, 7-6. They had accounted for 68 yards of total offense. McCoy had 5 yards rushing. Taylor, 48 passing. The Jaguars had game planned to stop the run and that formula nearly netted them a first-half shutout.
“They had the safety on the line of scrimmage as f he were a defensive end, so that’s always tough,” McCoy said, describing the Jaguars defensive looks. “They did a lot of stunts, which the haven’t done a lot on tape, so totally different type of adjustment that we haven’t seen. This is Week 12 so they obviously came in to stop the run. They made plays.”
It was McCoy who provided the second half spark that the Bills needed, on the first play from scrimmage.
On their own 25, Shady took a handoff, jump cut to his right as if he were about to bounce it outside, then planted his foot in the ground and cut back behind a block from tight end Charles Clay leaving the defense in a cloud of dust for a 75 yard house call. It was the longest run of the elusive back’s career.
To picture what scoring a 75-yard touchdown looks like, McCoy compared it to a 2004 commercial called “the Michael Vick Experience,” where a fictional amusement park ride put riders on a football field and moved them around like Vick on way to the end zone.
“I want to say in 2003, they used to have this thing called the ‘Michael Vick Experience,’ McCoy explained. “They put it on TV and they have a whole virtual, [it was] like a rollercoaster. You can just hear the crowd, you can feel the guy and then you look on the screen and you’re like ‘I got him deep.’ That’s probably the closest thing.
For those who don’t remember the ad, watch for yourself.
Darien Lake could make a lot of money on a similar ride named the “Shady Experience.”
Anyway, his score seemed to open the flood gates for both teams, as Jacksonville quickly answered with an 11-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead 14-13.
The scoring barrage continued after the teams exchanged punts on back-to-back drives. First, Buffalo would strike on a quick four-play possession, using a 62-yard bomb to Watkins on first down to set them up at the Jacksonville 13. Three plays later Taylor would call his own number to put that Bills in front 20-14.
“In the first half, they did a good job with putting their hands on me,” Watkins remarked. “I was moving too fast for myself. In the second half I kind of slowed myself down. We knew we had that matchup and Tyrod did a great job throwing the ball out there, giving me a chance and I made the play.”
It was a short lived lead as Blake Bortles would hit Allen Hurns for a 12-yard touchdown on their next series, just as the fourth quarter began. Down 21-20, Carpenter’s missed PAT loomed large.
The fourth quarter comeback began at the Buffalo 24 and ended seven plays and 65 yards later, but it almost didn’t happen. On the drive it looked like Taylor threw an interception on a deep throw down the left sideline for Watkins. But the quick thinking receiver helped his quarterback out by embellishing a pass interference penalty from CB Prince Amukamara, on a ball that looked uncatchable. There was some shade of last year’s London loss to the Jaguars, only this time a pass interference aided the Bills, keeping the drive alive down at the Jacksonville 25.
And then, three plays later Taylor would throw one of the most strategic passes of his career; a back shoulder beauty, up-and-away from two defensive backs, in a perfect spot for Justin Hunter – running an out route – to ride the ladder and pull it down for six.
It was Hunter’s fourth TD of the season.
Jacksonville would earn two more possessions but could do nothing with them, as the Bills defense held it’s ground on fourth-and-nine on the second one, to ice the game.
Their work is far from over. Next week’s game in Oakland has the same “must-win” pressure as these two that came before it.
“Well we put ourselves in that situation, but we understand it,” Ryan pointed out. “I mean all the way until they say we can’t play anymore, we’re going to keep competing and keep grinding and that’s what we’ll do.”
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