JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You never know how the big stage will affect teams and athletes when they’ve never been there before. Against the Bills, the Jaguars looked like they weren’t sure they belonged in the NFL playoffs in the first half.
On offense they were horrible. Between play calling and execution, they couldn’t get out of their own way. They had 84 yards on 26 plays. Blake Bortles had more yards rushing, 35, than passing. He was 6-of-15 passing for 33 yards but a couple of scrambles at the end of the half enabled Josh Lambo to kick a field goal to tie the game at three. Leonard Fournette had only 16 yards on six carries.
Luckily, the defense was stout as usual, even getting a turnover on Aaron Colvin’s first career interception. But the Jaguars couldn’t do anything with it.
Getting the ball to start the second half, the offense moved the ball a bit. They actually allowed Bortles to throw it on first down and changed the field position. An exchange of punts gave the Jaguars the ball on the 14-yard line.
And that’s when the offense started to produce. After a 15-play, 86-yard drive that took 8:52 off the clock, the Jaguars took a 10-3 lead. On fourth down from the one, after not getting anything done, Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett called for Blake to fake it and hit the tight end over the middle. After all that, they trusted him on fourth down and he delivered. Bortles hit Ben Koyak in the end zone for a seven-point lead.
It wasn’t pretty after that on either side. A few more punts and the Jaguars controlled the game with the ball at their 20 and six minutes to play. But they couldn’t muster enough offense to seal the game and had to punt. Twice. After a pretty good performance through three quarters, Brad Nortman hit two very average punts giving Buffalo the ball just short of their 40 twice.
Both times the defense got the job done, the second time viciously taking Tyrod Taylor to the ground and knocking him out cold. It was a scary scene when they rushed on the field to check him out. Finally, they sat him up and Taylor wobbled off the field. That brought in Nathan Peterman who had a couple of completions and a run for a first down. But the pass rush got to him and forced an intentional grounding and on the following play Jalen Ramsey tipped the ball in the air in coverage and grabbed it for an interception before it hit the ground to finally end the game.
In his first playoff game, Bortles had more yards rushing than passing, the first time that’s happened since Steve McNair did it the last time Buffalo was in the playoffs.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the postseason mantra is win and advance and that’s what the Jaguars did at home. Don’t tell them it wasn’t pretty, they don’t care.
The Steelers are next, 1 p.m. next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
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