– Matt Haring
A strange game in London ended with an all too familiar result for Bills fans on Sunday morning. A whirlwind of highs and lows ultimately ended up swinging the way of Jacksonville Jaguars by way of an excruciating 34-31 loss. The storyline in this game is very straightforward, as we all know. EJ Manuel giftwrapped 20 points and personally delivered it to the door of Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. Point blank, end of story, this is why the Bills lost the game. Despite everything else that happened during the course of the game (and man, there was a lot), nothing was as detrimental as EJ’s debacle of a second quarter. 1) The Second Quarter
In a span of 6 minutes the Bills went from being up 3-0, to down 27-3. This six minutes of football is likely responsible a few hundred emails to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo requesting to lift the ”no alcohol before 12 on Sunday’s in bars” rule. I supported this movement prior to today, but after this morning I may be picketing in Albany on my weekends. After an Allen Robinson touchdown, EJ Manuel had the ball knocked from his hand and returned for a touchdown to make it 14-3. Well, okay. Fumbles are fairly statistically random, I justified to myself, regroup and things will be okay. On the next offensive snap, EJ Manuel stares down his receiver, and Telvin Smith jumps the route for pick-6. At this point I am begging and pleading the bartender to make me a screwdriver. When things couldn’t get any worse, they of course did, A few moments later another Manuel interception would set up another Jaguars touchdown, this time by TJ Yeldon. Mercifully, a missed extra point would prove to be beneficial later in the game. To summarize, a missed Jaguars extra point was the best thing to happen during this quarter. A brief 10-0 run to end the half did, to Manuel’s credit, help make the halftime deficit more attainable.
2) The Rise
The Bills defense began the half halting a Jaguars drive on a beautiful goal line stand, and gained all the momentum going forward. A Dan Carpenter field goal, Marcus Easley touchdown and Corey Graham pick-6 put the Bills up four points with 5 minutes left in the game. The second half of the third quarter and majority of the fourth quarter was a Bills domination. The defense made Bortles look incompetent, and the offense was moving the ball at will. So much so, that they came 6 feet away from a LeSean McCoy touchdown, before he fumbled it away. The flow of the game was trending heavily on the side of the Bills after the Corey Graham touchdown to take the lead. The defense hadn’t given up a first down in a quarter, and had held Bortles without a completion in his last 7 attempts. The Bills had come back from 24 points down, but then…
3) The Fall
All the momentum that had been generated during the second half quickly evaporated during the Jaguars last drive. The defense that had pitched a shutout in the second half looked confused in the secondary, and the pass rush was just a half second too slow. On a 3rd and 15 on their own 40 yard line, Bortles pass was incomplete and the Bills needed one more stop to put the game on ice. Until the referee threw a flag for a phantom pass interference call, that is. In every essence of the word, this call was a disgrace. Robey did everything you can ask a corner to do, and made a play on the ball. Nonetheless, the Jaguars drive was ultimately extended, and it proved to be fatal. An Allen Hurns touchdown with 2:15 on the clock gave Jacksonville a three point lead. When EJ Manuel and the Bills got the ball back, any chances they had of a clutch drive were put to rest after 3 puzzling calls on one-yard-to-go situations. With under two minutes remaining in a game, it shouldn’t particularly matter what the down and distance is, especially on 2nd and 1. You have to continue playing for chunks of positive yards, because there isn’t time to worry specifically about picking up the first down. However, I am not calling plays, and Greg Roman decided a McCoy run, Manuel QB sneak, and an across the grain, cross body throw on a rollout. Puzzling to say the least. Needless to say, all three plays fell woefully short and they lost the game.
Looking Ahead: Bye week. Get healthy!