JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars ended a decade-long playoff drought Sunday with a 10-3 victory over the Bills. The game was anything but a work of art, but the Jaguars did enough to advance to a rematch in Pittsburgh with the Steelers on Sunday. Here's how they answered the four biggest questions I had entering the game:
Can they handle the big stage?
With only 13 players on the Jaguars active roster with previous playoff experience, the inexperience showed early. Dropped passes, mental mistakes and nerves were evident in the first quarter. The Jaguars defense settled down and allowed only one first-half field goal drive. The offense took a little longer, though they never really looked completely in sync. The offensive line and receivers must play better if they hope to advance next against the Steelers. The quarterback, too, but more on that in a moment.
Can the Jaguars contain Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor?
Like the Jaguars, for much of the game, the Bills best offensive weapons were the quarterback's legs. Taylor ran seven times for 27yards and kept several plays alive, but was never much of a threat with his arm. Both teams needed more out of their quarterbacks than they got.
Can the Jaguars get a lead?
The NFL's ultimate front-runners trailed until late in the first half when they connected on a field goal to go to the locker room tied at 3. A 15-play touchdown drive in the third quarter gave the Jaguars a 10-3 lead. The issue for the Jaguars was that Bortles never got into a rhythm throwing the football. He finished the game with 89 yards rushing, but only had a handful of throws that would be considered playoff-caliber passes. One of them was the touchdown pass to tight end Ben Koyack on fourth-and-goal from the one.
Will the running game continue to rebound?
As a team, Jacksonville ran for over 100 yards in nine of the first 10 games of the season; the outlier was a 99-yard performance in a loss to the Titans in Week 2. Although the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing this season, in the last six games of the regular season, the Jaguars topped the century mark only twice; in back-to-back home games against the Seahawks and Titans. Against the Bills, the Jaguars topped the century mark, but much of that came from Bortles scrambling. They'll have to run it more effectively if they want to beat the Steelers on Sunday.