Lynch, offense make plays late for W (Associated Press)
Playing in their biggest regular season game of recent memory, the Buffalo Bills used a quick start and fast finish to escape Jacksonville with a 20-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rookie wide receiver James Hardy used every bit of his 6'5" frame to nab a touchdown throw from Trent Edwards late in the fourth quarter to give the Bills a 17-16 lead. Buffalo's defense - which played well, but was not as dominant as they were in a win over Seattle - then forced a three and out, and a 28-yard punt return by Roscoe Parrish allowed the Bills to tack on a field goal.
A last-gasp drive by the Jaguars resulted in an illegal forward pass penalty, a clock run-off of 10 seconds, and that was the game.
Offense makes enough plays to win
Unlike their Week 1 victory - in which Buffalo's defense and special teams were largely responsible for the victory - Buffalo's offense made the necessary plays to clinch the victory. The team got out to an early 10-3 lead (which they carried into halftime) behind some solid play-calling and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch. This game would prove to be Lynch's first as a professional in which he ended the game with under 60 rushing yards; he carried 19 times for 59 yards with the score.
A third-quarter surge, however, allowed the Jaguars - behind a short touchdown plunge by Maurice Jones-Drew - to extend their lead to 13-10. Then an Edwards fumble - the second-year quarterback's only mistake on the day - was recovered by the Jags, and another field goal extended the lead to 16-10.
That's when Buffalo's young offense responded. Edwards hit Lee Evans on a long third-down conversion that set up the Hardy touchdown, and he did it right from the teeth of a strong Jaguars pass rush (Edwards was sacked three times). Buffalo's young quarterback played very well, completing 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and the game-winning score. His QB rating was an outstanding 119.8.
The meaning of an early road victory
This is a gigantic win for the Bills on several levels. This win comes on a day in which Buffalo's stalwart special teams was fooled on a brilliant onside kick call by Jack Del Rio that swung momentum to Jacksonville in a big way in the third quarter. It came on a day in which Buffalo's defense, while playing well, missed several key tackles and didn't take advantage of a banged up Jaguars offensive line as they should have.
But the plays came at the right time for Buffalo's defense and special teams. With a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, a Kyle Williams sack of Jaguars QB David Garrard eliminated the option of going for it on fourth down, forcing Jacksonville to punt. That's when Parrish, on a poor punt by Adam Podlesh, returned the ball for 28 yards to set up the late field goal to pad the Bills' lead.
In the first two weeks of the 2008 NFL season, the Bills have beaten two playoff teams from last year, including a big conference win on the road. People will now inevitably start to notice that this team is, at least thus far, a legitimate playoff threat. Can Buffalo keep their heads on straight, their noses to the grindstone, and start winning games they're supposed to win in the face of much higher expectations? Time will tell, but for the first time in about a decade, it's just nice to be in this situation.
Rumblings Game Balls
Three game balls for three very key players today:
RB Fred Jackson: In short, Jackson was the lifeblood of the offense today. He was, in essence, Buffalo's version of Kevin Faulk - that annoying running back that isn't overly talented but annoyingly moves the chains. Jackson's 7 catches for 83 yards paced the club, and without that production, the Bills don't win this game.
WR James Hardy: Not bad for his second career NFL reception, right? Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert finally got his rookie wideout in for a goal line package, and Hardy showed why he was worth Buffalo's second-round pick. His catch was great, and his field presence in that situation was even more impressive. He'll see more and more time as the season wears on.
CB Ashton Youboty: On a day in which Buffalo's defense struggled mightily to tackle, Youboty got the defense off the field in key situations in the third quarter. Two key stops on third-and-manageable by Youboty forced field goals, and again - without those stops, the Bills aren't down just 6 late in the game. He has easily been Buffalo's most consistent defender through two weeks, and he also registered a sack today.
Game Thread Roll Call
Many thanks to the fine folks who stopped by to chat during today's hopping game thread. Kudos go out to NJBillsfan, who paced us all with 59 comments. Glad to see so many people out to enjoy the big win!
StuckInNJ, Cinga, Zumone, RabidBuffalo, Ron From NM, Brian Galliford, the Skycap, Buffalonian, BuffCrunch, TheK-GunNeedsReloaded, MonStarr_716, Memphisbillsfan, karovda, keuka121, D.O., twoeightnine, krytime, jj24, Krenn, NJBillsfan, JoeGoal, BeastMode, TheSharp, Joe P., thefourwinds, spavery, fletcherjd, WABillsfan, tlowe52, norcaliangelsfan, Hopefulcynic, River City Rage, jdol1568
Enjoy this one, Bills fans. Much more on this game, as well as next week's game, in the coming days.