The Jaguars entered the 2017 postseason losers of two straight games. Both the Jaguars and Bills saw lengthy postseason droughts come to an end. The Jaguars hadn't made an appearance in the playoffs since 2007, while the Bills made it to the tournament for the first time since 1999. 1999 was also the last time the Jaguars hosted a playoff game.
There was a raucous atmosphere inside EverBank Field. Thousands of white rally towels swung throughout the venue as fans of the Jaguars brought the noise. There was an energy unlike anything we have seen at a Jaguars home game in over a decade.
The Jags escaped with a narrow 10-3 victory over the Bills. Here's five things you should remember from this contest.
1. Blake Bortles: A tale of two halves.
In the first half Blake Bortles was atrocious. With high winds early on the weather conditions weren't ideal, but that's no excuse for an NFL QB to miss some of the throws that Bortles couldn't connect on early in the game. The script flipped for Bortles late in the second quarter, when he scampered for 20 yards and then 12 more yards to set the Jaguars up with their first points of the game. Bortles was able to lead his team, with his legs, to a first half tie. The team's entered the break tied 3-3. In the second half Bortles took over with his legs and, at times, his right arm. In the third quarter Bortles led a fantastic 15 play, 86 yard drive that took 8:52 off the game clock, getting it done with his arms and his legs. He capped off the impressive drive with a one yard TD pass to Ben Koyack on 4th and goal. After that point the Jaguars offense wasn't asked do much. Their number one task was to kill the clock and seal the victory, which they did. Bortles should certainly be heavily criticized for his poor performance passing the ball, but without his 88 yards on the ground the Jaguars likely wouldn't have beaten the Bills in this one.
2. The Jaguars coaching staff did a fantastic job.
The Jaguars called a very conservative game on offense, but they were able to make adjustments throughout the game in order to score enough points to ensure the win. Relying heavily on Bortles legs was an emphasis coming out in the second half and it worked like a charm. Just one week after rushing the ball only once Bortles led the Jaguars in rushing and was third leading rusher in the entire NFL Wild Card Round. Another big adjustment came from the Jaguars offensive staff to start the second half: utilizing the tight ends over the middle. On the Jaguars game winning drive the Jaguars threw the ball twice down the middle of the field, once to Mercedes Lewis for a 16 yard gain, and once to Ben Koyack for the offense's lone touchdown of the day.
3. When the Jaguars defense is on there is no better unit in football.
The Jaguars defense was tested time and time again by the Bills on Sunday and nearly every time they passed with flying colors. Calais Campbell may have been the single most impactful player. Several times he was able to stone LeSean McCoy just before he was able to find the open field. On one of the game's key plays Campbell was able to trip up Tyrod Taylor at the line of scrimmage just before he would have gotten a first down and potentially a touchdown. The rest of the defense should not be excluded. Dante Fowler made a crucial play on the Bills last drive of the game, stuffing Tyrod Taylor and sending him to the sideline. The linebackers flew around, consistently making plays in the backfield and in coverage. And the Jackson 5 was on point. Jalen Ramsey made the game ending interception. AJ Bouye allowed little and made several impressive plays on the ball. Aaron Colvin recorded the first interception of his NFL career. The two safeties were excellent in coverage and made plays in run dense. Nickel CB Tyler Patmon, who was asked to play quite a bit on Sunday, played exceptional. This defense is the best in football.
4. Special Teams were special.
The punt return unit started out with a couple of sketchy plays, but after that the Jaguars special teams were very strong. Josh Lambo was perfect on the day, nailing his only FG try from 44 yards out and making his only PAT try. Brad Nortman was one of the more valuable players on the Jaguars roster. He punted 9 times and landed three inside the Bills 20 yard line. He flipped the field for the Jaguars all day.
5. The Jaguars run blocking needs to improve
Teams have been loading the box up against the Jaguars offense all season. It's a sound way to try and slow down Leonard Fournette. In the second half of the season that strategy has had a fair amount of success against the Jaguars. For whatever reason the Jaguars offensive line has not been able to open up holes as consistently as they did in the first half of the season. If the Jaguars hope to beat Pittsburgh, they'll need to find their mojo on the ground. Blake Bortles is not going to beat the Steelers by passing the ball all day.
Stay tuned for more!
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