The Jacksonville Jaguars won their first playoff game in 10 years yesterday, defeating the Buffalo Bills 10-3 at EverBank Field in the wildcard round of the NFL postseason.
It wasn’t a pretty win, with quarterback Blake Bortles finishing the game with more rushing yards than passing yards. But a win is a win, coach Doug Marrone reminded media members, and the Jaguars will play on, with a divisional round matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 14 at 1:05 p.m.
“Really at the end of the day it was just a hard-fought game and that’s what playoff football is, and we were able to get the win at home, which was big,” said Marrone, who elaborated upon that point later in the press conference. “Playoff football is about you going out there to win. No one is trying to win a beauty contest.”
In Jacksonville’s first home playoff game since 1999, the Jaguars’ offense struggled, but produced a scoring drive late in the third quarter that was enough to put the team over the top.
It was a 15-play, 86-yard drive that started at the Jacksonville 14-yard line and concluded with a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass from Bortles to tight end Ben Koyack in the back of the end zone. The drive featured two consecutive plays of over 10 yards by running back Leonard Fournette that pushed the Jaguars into Bills territory, a 16-yard pass from Bortles to tight end Marcedes Lewis and a few surprisingly effective scrambles by the Jacksonville quarterback to keep the Jaguars moving forward.
Bortles ultimately rushed for 88 yards on 10 carries and was 12 of 23 for 87 yards passing, with one touchdown and no turnovers. The quarterback said it was the first time in his career he rushed for more yards than he threw, but sometimes that’s what it takes to win a game.
“Kind of reference it a pitcher,” he said. “You go out and something is not on right, you don’t have a fast ball, you have to find another pitch to be able to land and be successful and get guys out. That’s kind of the same thing playing quarterback. Whatever the situation is you’re not able to use your number one option and have that be successful. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win, help this team score points.”
The only other Jaguars points in the game came off the foot of kicker Josh Lambo, who knocked in a 44-yard field goal at the end of the first half to tie the game at 3-3. Both Marrone and Bortles said the offense struggled with the wind, especially in the first half when the Jaguars were moving away from the “pools,” as Marrone noted.
After Buffalo kicker Steven Hauschka converted a 31-yard field goal late in the first half, the Jaguars’ defense shut out the Bills for the rest of the game. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who exited the game late in the fourth quarter with a head injury, finished 17 of 37 for 134 yards and one interception. Bartram Trail alum Nathan Peterman entered the game in Taylor’s place and picked up one rushing first down on the Bills’ final drive, but then threw an interception to cornerback Jalen Ramsey that ultimately sealed Buffalo’s fate.
“It was big,” said Ramsey. “Regardless of if I would have got the pick or not, I think we would have held them on the defensive side of the ball. That’s just the confidence I have in the defense and the team and what we can do.”
Cornerback Aaron Colvin also had an interception for the Jaguars in the second quarter. Linebacker Telvin Smith led the team in tackles with nine. Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive lineman Malik Jackson each tallied a sack for the team. The defense, as a whole, limited star Bills running back LeSean Mccoy to 75 yards on 19 carries.
“We embrace that role of kind of being the protectors, but if it comes down to the defense, we feel confident with the job,” said Jack. “We bend but don’t break. We might give up a field goal every once in a while, but we’re not giving up seven.”
The Jaguars defense will be tested next week against the Steelers’ offense, which features the explosive weapons of running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, as well as playoff veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Jacksonville defeated Pittsburgh 30-9 in October, a game in which Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. The Jaguars also beat the Steelers 31-29 the last time the teams faced off in the playoffs in January 2008.
“We know it’s going to be a dog fight,” said Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns. “They are going to plan their revenge for what we did to them earlier in the year. But it’s playoff time, those guys will be rested and refreshed and ready to go.
“As far as us, we have to get things clicking especially on offense,” added Hurns. “Our defense did an incredible job today. On offense, we have to get things figured out because 10 points is not going to win a game in the playoffs.”