JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The signature win Urban Meyer has been waiting on arrived Sunday.
Field goals, defense and no shortage of huge stops lifted the Jaguars to an unbelievable 9-6 win over the Bills at TIAA Bank Field.
Jacksonville (2-6) was a two-touchdown underdog and given no shot at upending the league’s top-scoring offense.
But the Jaguars stood in the trenches and dragged the Bills (5-3) into a defensive battle that few would have pegged Jacksonville capable of winning. It harassed MVP candidate Josh Allen throughout the game, sacking him three times and picking him off twice and recovering a fumble.
A defense that entered the game with just two takeaways all season forced three against the Bills.
It came back from a scary situation just before halftime, an ankle injury to Trevor Lawrence that sent him to the locker room, and got the go-ahead points on a 21-yard Matthew Wright field goal with 12:10 to play. It still needed defense to button things up, which it did.
Allen’s fourth-and-16 pass attempt to Stefon Diggs with 1:11 to go dropped incomplete and the Jaguars were able to all but bleed the rest of the clock to ice it.
“You hope to get more accustomed to winning, which I believe we will, but that’s a very — I think [owner] Shad [Khan] said it one time, there’s a perception of Jacksonville, there’s a perception of this team, oh, the locker room this, the locker room that,” Meyer said.
“That’s a great locker room; I’ve been saying that all year long. We’ve had some close games, they’ve stuck together, and we just beat one of the best teams in the NFL. I’ll fight for that locker room. I believe in that locker room. If someone has something negative to say about that locker room, they’re incorrect.”
On a day where offense was difficult for Jacksonville to come by, it leaned on its defense for an unbelievable performance against a Buffalo team that came in as one of the top offenses in the league.
Linebacker Josh Allen was sensational against his quarterback namesake, sacking him, intercepting him and recovering a fumble with 5:41 to go.
“Oh, my gosh, this defense, man, I’ll tell you, when we fly around, when we don’t hurt ourselves, we can be one of the best defenses out there,” Allen said. “To hold that team to zero touchdowns, it’s tough to do. Hopefully they score a lot of touchdowns the rest of the season so we’ll be the only team to do that.”
The fortunes of the two teams couldn’t be more different since they last met at TIAA Bank Field in the 2017 playoffs.
The Jaguars beat the Bills 10-3 in the AFC wildcard playoff game that season. Since that game, Jacksonville is just 15-42. Buffalo has reached the playoffs three of the last four seasons and is poised to make it again this season.
But maybe … just maybe … the Jaguars can use this showing as a springboard to the second half of the season. It came against a far more respectable team than their other win against the fading Dolphins, and proved that it could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
“I love where we’re at as a team right now though. But they’ve been out here every week, filling the stadium, loud, making it a great environment,” Lawrence said. “And it was nice to ... we won one in London, but it was nice to win one in front of the home crowd. They deserved that, it’s been a while. So, that was a lot of fun, and just proud of the guys, proud of the city. It’s a good feeling.”
Defense was the story of the day.
The Jaguars turned in their most thorough four quarters of football this season on that side of the ball, perhaps a continuation of last week’s second half against the Seahawks that coach Meyer called superb.
Jacksonville played well from open to close against the Bills. Disappointing former first-round draft pick Taven Bryan had his best game of the season. Bryan had a pressure on Buffalo’s first drive that forced Allen out of the pocket and into an incompletion that led to a field goal. He added his first sack of the year in the second quarter and his second in the third quarter.
The Jaguars also turned in a bit of NFL history.
Allen sacked Buffalo quarterback Allen with less than a minute to play before half. It was the first time in NFL history that an NFL player has sacked a quarterback with the same name. Allen intercepted Allen late in the third quarter, a play that set up Wright’s 21-yard field goal for a 9-6 lead with 12:10 to play.
Josh Allen finished 31 of 47 for 264 yards and two interceptions. The Bills rushed for just 72 yards. They entered averaging 402.1 yards per game.
The Jaguars got a scare early with Lawrence sinking to the ground at the end of a play after an ankle injury. Lawrence attempted to stand up but went right back to the turf. He needed assistance to get to the locker room but returned minutes later. CJ Beathard saw his first action in Lawrence’s brief absence, completing two passes for 33 yards. Jamal Agnew dropped one of Beathard’s passes in the end zone.
“Low ankle sprain. They took him in for an x-ray,” Meyer said. “... but he was ready to fight me when I wouldn’t let him in right away. I had to remind him I’m still the coach.”
Lawrence finished 15 of 26 for 118 yards. Carlos Hyde, starting in place of injured running back James Robinson, finished with 67 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Wright had an up-and-down day. He connected on field goals of 55 and 39 yards but had one of the oddest sequences you’ll ever see.
Wright attempted a 42-yard field goal with 5:40 left in the third quarter that hit the left upright and missed. Jacksonville was called for a false start, so Wright got another shot from 47. He missed that one wide left, but Buffalo was flagged for running into the kicker. That set Wright up for a 42-yard attempt and he missed that one wide left.
Meyer said that he believes the Jaguars are headed in the right direction, despite the uneven play on the front side of the schedule.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. I get so upset about last week because I really felt the momentum coming, and you could see the way they played early in the year compared to the way they’re playing now,” he said. “It’s not even close. Just last week — we’ve got to move on. We’ve just got to get ready for Indy now.”