It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing football, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are moving on.
Playing in their first postseason game in a decade, the fifth-seeded Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills, 10-3, in the AFC wild-card round, and will travel to Pittsburgh to face the No. 2 seeded Steelers next Sunday afternoon.
The final moments didn’t unfold well for the Bills: quarterback Tyrod Taylor was knocked out of the game with 1:43 to play after being tackled from behind on a scramble after picking up two yards on third-and-5; after several minutes on the ground, Taylor sat up with the help of team trainers and was immediately taken to the locker room.
Taylor’s exit meant rookie Nathan Peterman, who infamously threw five interceptions in his first career start in November, came onto the field with no timeouts, 1:23 to play (10 seconds were run off the clock because of Taylor’s injury), and 58 yards to go to the end zone.
Peterman scrambled for the first down on his first snap, then got Buffalo into Jacksonville territory with a 14-yard pass to Deonte Thompson. So far, so good.
Then Peterman’s inexperience became the Bills’ undoing. Pressured by Calais Campbell on first down from the Jaguars’ 38, he threw the ball into the grass as he was being taken down. Flagged for intentional grounding, he not only cost his team 15 yards, there were another 10 seconds taken off the clock.
On the next snap, Peterman looked for Thompson again, and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey stepped in front of the ball, making the diving interception after tapping the pass into the air.
It’s not a surprise that the Jaguars’ defense got the job done: it’s been the strength of the team all season, and on Sunday held Buffalo to just 263 yards of offense, Taylor to a completion mark of just 45.9 percent and got two sacks and six quarterback hits.
But as they played against the Bills, the Steelers can’t be too worried about the Jaguars’ offense – Blake Bortles, playing in his first playoff game, had a terrible passing day, making barely half of his pass attempts (12 for 23) for just 87 yards, and Jacksonville converted just 2-of-12 third-down attempts.
In an amazing bit of coincidence, the last quarterback to attempt 20 or more passes and total less than 100 passing yards in a playoff game was Tennessee’s Steve McNair in the 1999 wild-card round.
The Titans’ opponent that day? The Bills. It was the last playoff game Buffalo had played before Sunday.
One of Bortles’ completions was the game’s only touchdown (the game had 17 total punts). A one-yard play-action pass to tight end Ben Koyack in the back-middle of the end zone in the third quarter, which capped a 15-play drive that ate nearly nine minutes off the clock.
But Bortles was able to help his team with his legs: he had a team-high 88 rushing yards on 10 carries. Rookie Leonard Fournette had 21 carries but totaled 57 yards.
It doesn’t much matter in terms of the Bills’ season since it’s now over, but Taylor was placed in concussion protocol and did not speak to reporters after the game.
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