With the 2017 NFL season in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story, and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Wild Card Round match-up:
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bills had taken care of business down in Miami to close the regular season. With bated breath, the team gathered in the locker room to see the outcome between the Bengals and the Ravens. A stunning last minute miracle from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd dashed Baltimore’s playoff chances and led to cacophonous cheering throughout the entire Bills family. With the last piece of the puzzle in place, the Bills would head to Jacksonville on January 7th, 2018 to take on the Jaguars. It had been 17 years and 364 days since the Buffalo Bills had been in a playoff game. The drought officially fell one day before reaching adulthood.
The revamped Jaguars under Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin were proving doubters wrong all season. The often underwhelming Buffalo offense would need to outperform expectations to have a chance at an upset. It didn’t happen. A knock down, drag out defensive battle unfolded with the Bills falling by a single score. The Bills would win the time of possession battle, nearly double the passing yardage of Jacksonville and limit the Jaguars to two third down conversions all game. Buffalo had the entire fourth quarter to come back from a seven-point deficit.
Tyrod Taylor incomplete to Nick O’Leary (Q2, 5:41)
The Bills put together an 18-play drive that took almost exactly eight minutes off the clock. They would end up with two plays within the Jacksonville ten-yard line and three goal to go plays. All of this led to Buffalo’s only points of the day, a 31-yard chip shot field goal from Stephen Hauschka. Tyrod Taylor misses Nick O’Leary who is open for the touchdown. While the four-point swing wouldn’t have won the game by itself, it would have changed the complexion of the game.
Lorenzo Alexander sack (Q2, 0:19)
With only 19 seconds in the half, the Jaguars were in striking range of the end zone. Blake Bortles drops back, looking to take it all. A throwaway or incomplete pass would have allowed one more shot at a touchdown. Lorenzo Alexander comes off the edge. Using his hands to break free of the tackle, Alexander “nopes” the hell out of this play. With no timeouts left, Bortles is forced to spike the ball and settle for a field goal.
Blake Bortles scramble (Q3, 5:29)
The Bills defense did admirably well shutting down Jacksonville. This drive would eventually yield a Jaguars touchdown, in no small part to the scrambling ability of Blake Bortles. Of their 155 rushing yards, Bortles accounted for 88. Keeping the score to ten points and limiting Bortles to 87 yards in the air gave the Bills an excellent chance to come away with a victory.
Leonard Johnson sack (Q4, 9:11)
After Jacksonville scored at the end of the third quarter, the Bills couldn’t respond on offense. As Bortles drops back hoping to get the first down in an effort to extend their lead, Leonard Johnson and Jerry Hughes converge on the Jaguar’s QB and rip the ball from his hand. The Jaguars fall on the loose ball as it goes from Leonard (Johnson) to Leonard (Fournette).
big gain (Q4, 8:29)
The Bills dialed up exactly what they needed as LeSean McCoy breaks a short pass into a gain of 39 yards. Offensive holding, courtesy of Deonte Thompson, negates 33 yards of this play. The Bills couldn’t recover and a seven-yard sack from Myles Jack finished the drive at midfield.
Taylor incomplete to Deonte Thompson (Q4, 3:21)
It’s unlikely that Thompson breaks this free for the score. However, a connection on this play would have flipped the field and given the Bills the ball with plenty of time to use in four-down territory. Instead, the Bills went three and out and punted from their own 34 yard line. The Bills would get one more chance, which would end in disaster. Taylor left the game with a concussion. In his stead, Nathan Peterman’s third throw was read by Jalen Ramsey, who would come away with the game-clinching interception. In the play above you can see the ball change angle ever so slightly after brushing Deonte Thompson’s fingertips. A winnable game had just swept by close enough to feel the breeze...