Buffalo Bills Steamroll Jacksonville Jaguars 34-18
The Buffalo Bills bounced back Sunday to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-14 at home to raise their record to 5-7. It might be a case of too little, too late, as the Indianapolis Colts rallied in the final seconds of regulation to defeat the Detroit Lions. The Bills have to hope that the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Baltimore Ravens later on today.
Buffalo ran all over Jacksonville. The Bills rushed the ball 46 times, gaining 232 yards, averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per rush.
Since the game was played in a steady downpour with high winds, it is great to see the Buffalo running game coming to life in December, as the Bills still have two more games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jacksonville fell to 2-10 with the loss and was outplayed in all facets of the game.
Bills and Jaguars Inactives and Injuries
Buffalo declared the following players inactive Sunday: DE Chris Kelsay, DE Mark Anderson, CB Aaron Williams, WR Donald Jones, QB Tarvaris Jackson, LB Kirk Morrison and OL Thomas Welch.
Jacksonville's inactive players were: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jordan Todman, DE Austen Lane, DT Jeris Pendleton, WR Toney Clemons, CB Derek Cox and OL Steve Vallos.
Due to the injuries to Jones, Williams and Kelsay, the Bills will have to give some snaps to players who don't normally see action at specific positions. Examples of those would include LB Arthur Moats taking some snaps at DE, Ron Brooks and Crezdon Butler seeing time at CB, and T.J. Graham getting a start at WR and Marcus Easley getting a few snaps a wide receiver.
For the Jaguars, having their most dynamic player, RB Jones-Drew, out for another game has to be disheartening. Their season has been miserable, and since Jones-Drew has missed more games than he has played, it has limited what the offense can do.
During the game Sunday, the Bills had a number of players who left the game. Tackle Chris Hairston was taken off by a cart, WR Steve Johnson walked to the locker room under his own power. CB Leodis McKelvin came up lame on his first return. We will find out the extent of those injuries on Monday after the team doctors have checked these guys out.
First Quarter Review
Jacksonville hadn't scored on its opening drive in the prior 22 games coming into Sunday and they held form when the Bills' defense held them to a three-and-out drive to open the game. Buffalo started at its 32 and drove down the field to score on a one-yard sneak by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to take a 7-0 lead.
Buffalo converted its first third-down conversion on a scramble by Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a holding penalty against Chris Hairston, Fitzpatrick found rookie WR T.J. Graham open for a 51-yard completion that brought the ball to the Jaguars 1-yard line.
Both teams punted on their next possession. On third down, Fitzpatrick hit TE Scott Chandler in the chest with a nice pass that Chandler uncharacteristically dropped. The Bills went three and out on their second drive.
Stephon Gilmore stripped the ball from Justin Blackmon after a reception, but the turnover was negated because Gilmore had been called for holding on the play. The defense let Jacksonville convert a third-and-17 situation, when Chad Henne hit Cecil Shorts with a pass against CB Crezdon Butler.
The Jags intended to pick on the Bills' young cornerbacks, and that was evident from the first quarter on. The defense stiffened and forced Jacksonville to punt.
The quarter ended with the Bills up 7-0.
Second Quarter Review
In the opening drive of the second quarter, Fitzpatrick threw a pass intended for Steve Johnson. Ex-Bills MLB Paul Posluszny stepped in front of the pass for an interception. Posluszny's pick gave Jacksonville great field position at the Bills 33.
It didn't take long for the Jaguars to get down to the Bills' 3-yard line, but a personal foul drove them back. They eventually settled for a 36-yard Josh Scobee field goal to cut the Bills' lead to 7-3.
The score by Jacksonville extended its streak of success in the red zone. Coming into the game, the Jaguars were the only NFL team in 2012 to score on every red-zone possession. In 22 possessions, they had scored 12 touchdowns and kicked 10 field goals. That's pretty interesting when you consider this is a 2-10 team we are talking about.
The Bills drove the ball to the Jags' 37, where they were faced with a fourth-and-five situation. It was no man's land. The Bills decided to go for it, but the pass to Scott Chandler was knocked away.
From there, the Jaguars drove down the field thanks to some pass interference calls on CB Ron Brooks. Down on the 1-yard line, Chad Henne scored on a naked bootleg to give Jacksonville the lead at 10-7.
Marcus Easley was active Sunday, and he promptly returned the kickoff to the Jaguars' 45. He was hit late out of bounds, so the Bills started the drive at the Jags' 26. Talk about field position.
Brad Smith ran the Wild Cat for 10 yards. Where has he been all year? Then on third-and-six from the Jags' 11, Fitzpatrick hit Scott Chandler in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Bills a 14-10 lead.
We have been calling for the Bills to look for Chandler in the red zone. He is just too big for secondaries to handle down there.
On the first play for Jacksonville following the score, Mario Williams stripped the ball from Henne and recovered the fumble at the Jaguars' 14. But this time the Bills had to settle for a 29-yard Rian Lindell field goal to go up 17-10 at the half.
Halftime Stats and Second Half Adjustments
At halftime, Buffalo had outgained Jacksonville 162 yards to 116. Buffalo was four-of-seven on third-down conversions, while Jacksonville was only one-of-five. The Bills did a good job of getting off the field and not letting Jacksonville drive the ball into scoring position.
The Bills ran the ball for 74 yards on 21 carries in the first half, while limiting the Jaguars to just 36 yards on the ground. The weather didn't make it ideal for passing. Fitzpatrick was six-of-12 for 88 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Henne was five-of-15 for 80 yards and no touchdowns. Henne's rushing touchdown was only the fourth by Jacksonville this year. Their franchise-low is nine rushing touchdowns, so it looks like the Jaguars are on pace to set a new record.
According to the stat flashed up on the screen by CBS Sports, the Bills came into the game as the No. 2 team in the NFL with 53 percent of their rushes going for at least four yards per rush. No. 1 is San Francisco, which is just slightly better at 54.1 percent.
Given the weather conditions and the wind, the Bills seemed to believe that if they could continue to run the ball on the Jaguars, they would wear out their defense. The Bills followed through on that plan starting with the third quarter.
Third Quarter Review
The Bills opened the second half with a Brad Smith kickoff return to the Buffalo 39. Buffalo drove down the field, helped by a roughing the passer call on newly acquired DE Jason Babin, when he hit Fitzpatrick late. Fitzpatrick eventually hit Steve Johnson with a 13-yard touchdown pass to extend the Bills lead to 24-10.
Jacksonville drove to the Bills 39, but on fourth down, their conversion attempt failed, so Buffalo got the ball back on downs. The Bills handed the ball off to Fred Jackson and he kept churning up big yards on the drive. Eventually the drive stalled, and Rian Lindell easily kicked a 50-yard field goal to put the Bills up 27-10. Lindell kicked it right down the middle, despite the weather conditions and the wind.
What was interesting about this decision by Chan Gailey is that this was just one-yard shorter than the field-goal try he opted to pass up inside the dome in Indianapolis last week. We heavily second-guessed Gailey last week for that move, and after watching Lindell knock the 50-yarder right down the middle, we have our proof that Gailey blew it last week.
Jacksonville wound up with a three-and-out drive thanks to a great tackle by S Da'Norris Searcy. The quarter came to an end with the Bills up 27-10. Heading into the fourth quarter, Buffalo had scored on four straight drives.
Fourth Quarter Review
The Jaguars had just punted to Buffalo, and the Bills started the fourth quarter with the ball at their own 38. A pass to Brad Smith brought the ball to midfield. C.J. Spiller then capped off the drive with an electrifying 44-yard touchdown run down the left sideline to extend the Bills lead to 34-10. That made it five straight possessions that the Bills scored, something Bills fans don't see every day.
Shawne Merriman and Alex Carrington combined to sack Henne. Jacksonville couldn't convert on a third-and-15 situation and were forced to punt. The punt sailed down to the Bills' 7-yard line, but the ball bounced off of Justin Roger's facemask, and the Jaguars pounced on the loose ball.
The Jaguars wound up starting at the Bills' 5-yard line, and Henne hit Cecil Shorts with a touchdown pass. The Jaguars converted on a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 34-18.
From that point on, the Bills tried to continue running the ball with Jackson and Spiller to take time off of the clock. The Jaguars would continue to try to throw the ball to get back into the game, but the Bills' pass defense kept turning them away. The Jaguars turned the ball over on downs until the final drive when Jairus Byrd came up with an interception to help seal the victory.
Key Contributors for Buffalo
This was a team win for the Bills, as the team got a number of key contributions from a host of players.
Mario Williams made a key strip of Chad Henne at the end of the first half that led to an easy scoring drive. That gave the Bills even more momentum coming into halftime.
Alex Carrington stepped up with a big game. He had 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, one pass deflection and two quarterback hits.
Shawne Merriman had half of a sack and two quarterback hits in limited snaps.
CB Ron Brooks led the Bills with 10 tackles and three pass deflections. He had a number of penalties called on him, but he is really just breaking into the lineup. I thought he played aggressively and will continue to improve.
Fred Jackson had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. Jackson hadn't topped the 100-yard mark since a November game in 2011, so it was good to see him back in 2011 form.
Brad Smith had his best game. He ran the ball twice for first downs in the Wildcat offense, had a nice kick return, caught a nice pass and made two tackles on special teams. That was a great all-around effort by Smith. You have to wonder why he hasn't been asked to run in the Wildcat more often.
Da'Norris Searcy came up with two tackles for a loss and seems to be improving with the more reps he is getting.
With Donald Jones inactive, it was great to see T.J. Graham have the big catch and Marcus Easley make the nice kickoff return.
Bills Defense Is Playing Better
The Bills' defense is continuing to make positive strides in the second half of the season, which coincides with Mario Williams getting healthier after his wrist operation. Coincidence? Not likely.
The Jaguars were only able to convert just one-of-10 third downs and went 0-for-3 on fourth downs. Just last week Chad Henne had led Jacksonville to a win over Tennessee, which had defeated the Bills earlier this year.
The defense is doing a better job of forcing third-and-long situations. If it continues to do that, it is going to make life much easier on itself.
Buffalo's young cornerbacks were tested as Henne went after Ron Brooks and Crezdon Butler all game long. The Bills were called for nine penalties for 100 yards, but most of those calls were the result of aggressive play by the corners.
If you were asked for a specific style of play, passive or aggressive coverage, you would opt for aggressive all day long. That looks like the style Buffalo wants to play down the stretch, and that is a welcome development.
The Bills hope to extend their winning streak next week, and hope that the Ravens can help them out a little bit with a win Sunday over Pittsburgh.
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Bills Will Face the Improving St. Louis Rams in Week 14
The Bills will be hosting the St. Louis Rams next Sunday in Week 14 action. Before you start considering the Rams to be some kind of a pushover opponent, look again.
The Rams took the San Francisco 49ers into overtime both times they faced them this year. The Rams won in overtime today, and the Bills were beaten soundly by the 49ers, so that should tell you right away that this will be far from a pushover.
The Bills hope to get some good news on the injury front, because they did get banged up today. As long as Spiller and Jackson remain healthy and the Bills can trot out five healthy offensive linemen every week, you know that the key will be to run the ball early and often from here on out.
The weather dictates it, and with the inconsistency of the passing attack, it is the best way for Buffalo to move the ball, while controlling tempo of the game.
It would help out the secondary if Aaron Williams can somehow get healthy enough to suit up. He has been able to watch the other youngsters perform from the sidelines, so hopefully he is seeing something in their play that will give his second chance a boost. The Bills need him to step up in any games that he starts down the stretch run.