Well, mercifully, the first half of the Buffalo Bills’ game against the Jacksonville Jaguars has come to an end. Thankfully, the Bills avoided their first zero crumpet outlook in 53 games by moving the ball down the field before the half for their first points of the game — a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. A.J. Epenesa has been the Bills’ defensive MVP through 30 minutes. He’s tipped a pass, and then to end the half, he forced a fumbled that the defense recovered — ushering in a kneel down.
There isn’t much positive to discuss, though the last couple minutes of play are encouraging signs by and large. However, it’s impossible to ignore the blemishes and terrible injury news.
The Bills were already down plenty of starters (or key relief players) ahead of kickoff, and then things quickly grew troubling a few minutes in. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones went down with a reported pectoral injury, then on a goal-to-go play, All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano suffered what appears to be a very concerning knee injury. Losing Jones or Milano would require a massive amount of re-configuring within the system, but to lose both?
Fortunately, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan, playing today in place of the injured Shaq Lawson, was able to overcome his early injury to return to the field.
Rookie linebacker Dorian Williams has looked good in relief of Milano, with an aggressive punch out on third down in the first quarter, even if down by contact prevailed. Williams later had another pass break up, this one successful to stop a drive.
Things haven’t come easy for either team, with the Jaguars struggling to move the ball almost as much as the Bills. Chalk that up to great defensive play by both teams. The Bills began the day with no less than three 3 & Outs before I admittedly lost count. The offense didn’t show any signs of life until their touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter.
The Bills are struggling to stop running back Etienne, especially in the passing game. In relief at cornerback, Kaiir Elam and Dane Jackson have come to play, but struggles in key moments have played a huge part in allowing quarterback Trevor Lawrence to put together a very QB17-like Week 4 first half.
Jacksonville’s defense put on a clinic in holding down Buffalo’s offense until almost halftime. They forced Allen to stick with underneath options while swarming to the football, and limiting yards after the catch to little or no gain — while keeping enough pressure on Allen to prevent him from finding deep reads too often.
While no one wants to admit such excuses as legitimate, it sure felt like the Buffalo Bills weren’t ready to play at the start. Very low energy, a time of possession in the first quarter of 4:34, etc. — plenty of conversation began to build about jet lag and what they were up against following a huge, emotional win in Week 4.
But it’s time to put the first half to bed, and well past time to even consider Week 4 at this point. There’s no wish capable of bringing Milano back for at least today, and they can’t fix their internal clocks nor their decisions to travel to London when they did. Even NFL Network announcer Rich Eisen commented how the Jaguars looked acclimated while the Bills looked jetlagged. No excuses. There are 30 minutes left on their NFL game clock. It’s go time!
Here’s your second-half open thread for the remainder of today’s Bills-Jaguars game. Go Bills!