The Bills came out and showed up in a big way on all three phases and had as convincing a victory as they've had for the entirety of the season.
It was slow going at the start, but the Bills took control of the game and never looked back. It may only be delaying the inevitable of missing the postseason for the 13th straight season, but the Bills got back on track, much to the delight of their coaching staff and front office.
How did they do it? Let's review the victory, shall we?
- The Buffalo Bills defense may have finally figured it out. Against Jacksonville, they had just an absolutely dominating performance against a team full of players in which they should have dominated. They held the Jaguars to only hitting on 1-of-10 third-down chances (the lone one was a 3rd-and-17 in the first quarter), and making them go 0-for-3 on fourth downs. They held them to just 50 yards on the ground and sacked Chad Henne four times. It is fair to point out that the Jaguars were down to their second-string quarterback, fourth-string running back and have been operating with a patchwork offensive line. However, the Bills had every opportunity to shut the light of any possible hope and they did just that. It's amazing how things change once the defensive line gets going. They really are the key to Dave Wannstedt's defense. This is the fourth time in five games that the Bills have really looked the part on defense. Maybe, just maybe, they have turned the corner.
- Coming in to the game, red zone efficiency was an issue that the Bills were hoping to correct. In the Houston, Miami and Indianapolis games, they had only one offensive touchdown and just went in to a shell once they got near or in to the red zone. That was addressed on the Bills' very first possession, with Ryan Fitzpatrick plunging in to the end zone from just a yard out. They went on to add two more touchdowns from the red area and got another score on a rather lengthy C.J. Spiller touchdown scamper. Just like it was pointed out with the Bills defense, it's fair to say that the Jaguars rank in the bottom five of the NFL in points allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, total yards allowed and sacks. All the same, just like the Bills defense, the offense had an opportunity to dominate and they did exactly that.
- Well Fred Jackson, at least for one week, was back to his old ways. Nothing like a 25-carry afternoon going for 109 yards to get him right back in the mix. Jackson was using his physicality and tackle-breaking prowess to shove Jaguars' defenders left and right and ended up with his best performance of the season. With Spiller not finding as much success on a per carry basis, Jackson stepped in to the void admirably. Spiller was no slouch, though. His 44-yard scamper for six was truly highlight worthy. The rest of his day, however, was rather pedestrian.
- I think it's time to shed the 'rookie' label off of Stephon Gilmore. In a battle of top 10 picks from the 2012 NFL Draft, Gilmore said he told the coaching staff he wanted to follow Justin Blackmon wherever he went. The result? Six targets and only one reception for nine yards. After having two straight weeks of solid performances, Blackmon was rendered useless. The book on Gilmore is quickly being written as he's progressed through his initial NFL season. If you beat him with something once, odds are it's not going to happen in a game again. The way he's played over the past five weeks, it certainly looks as though the Bills have themselves the making of a very, very good corner in this league.
- In the first start of his young career, rookie cornerback Ron Brooks got tested early and often. The Jaguars went after him on the very first play of the game, to which he knocked the ball down, signaling to Brooks that he was in for quite an active afternoon. The results were mixed for the fourth-round pick, knocking a few passes away, getting away with a few penalty calls, getting called for a little too much contact a pair of times and lined up on both the inside and outside. It's the type of performance Brooks can both build on and learn from, as the Bills will surely need him with the season progressing.
- One of the few negative points to the game for the Bills was due to a player that has been full of them for a few weeks straight. It wasn't anything he did on defense this time around, but Justin Rogers' decision to go back and attempt to catch the punt at his own five-yard line, and subsequently fumbling it, was the most boneheaded decision of the game. The Jaguars had no life, and Rogers' misstep put the otherwise downtrodden opponents within two scores with 10 minutes to play.
- Speaking with Alex Carrington after the game, he called Sunday his best game in three years with the Bills. It's hard to disagree with that statement. Carrington had two tackles for loss, a sack-and-a-half and was a force up the middle against a weaker interior offensive line. He has flashed and shown more consistency this year than he had in his first two seasons, but that isn't saying much considering how those first pair of years went. However, for this week at least, he looked like a "hit" of a third-round draft pick. He just needs to play at a continually rising level as his career goes from here to really earn that label. It's certainly not a given.
- Hey! How about that? Rian Lindell hit a 50-yard field goal! And outdoors! To think, in the face of all those percentages…
- The Bills walked away from the game with a victory, but added a few important names to the injury list as they'll start to prepare for St. Louis on Monday. Chris Hairston was carted off the field with an ankle injury, Eric Wood suffered a sprained knee, Stevie Johnson now has a hamstring issue and Leodis McKelvin couldn't get his back loose enough. Wood was spotted in the locker room with a brace that constricts bending of the knee. If either he or Hairston has to miss time, that puts the Bills at a significant disadvantage. Sam Young would most certainly get the call in to the lineup and if both can't play, then it's undrafted rookie David Snow that will be among the front five.
- It was an up-and-down sort of game for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He hit on the long completion to T.J. Graham, as well as the touchdown throws to Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler. However, he also had a few throws that fell short of the target and didn't spot a waiting Paul Posluszny which resulted in an interception. Mistakes will happen with quarterbacks, but the important part of today was that he did enough for the Bills to win the game. That's all the Bills can ask for with Fitzpatrick at this point.
- He let a third-down target slip through his hands, but Scott Chandler had a solid afternoon. Not just for his touchdown catch, but his blocking on Spiller's 44-yard touchdown helped clear the way to the end zone. He's had his down moments as a blocker this season, but that play clearly wasn't one of them. Once again, Chandler has six touchdowns on the year which ties the franchise record for touchdowns by a tight end in one season. One more, and that record is his and his alone. Four games to go.
- The last time we saw Marcus Easley, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Bills' final preseason game in Detroit. Easley once again flashed in the kick return game, and set up the Bills for a huge, momentum building score that helped get them to a victory. If Leodis McKelvin can't get healthy, it's a positive sign to see some life in the kick return game.
- Another week and another sack for Mario Williams. This time, it was a strip, sack and fumble recovery for the Bills' key offseason addition. He now has five sacks in his last three games and has 9.5 sacks on the season. Number-94 has arrived and isn't going anywhere, it seems.
Bills' MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore - Every team in the NFL is in search for a "shutdown corner." For one week at least, the Bills got just that from their first round pick.
Bills' LVP: CB Justin Rogers - If he hasn't already, Rogers is quickly running out of chances.
Up Next: Sunday, December 9 vs. St Louis at Ralph Wilson Stadium
- They came, they saw, they conquered. It wasn't exactly the 2007 New England Patriots or the 1972 Miami Dolphins (well, the Jaguars are well short of that), but the Bills had a thorough and convincing victory over an opponent they were supposed to dominate. They still likely need to win out to have any hope of ending the postseason skid, but on Sunday it looked like they're getting a tad closer to the potential they had on paper in the off-season.