After 13 unanswered points by the Jaguars in the second half erased a seven-point Buffalo lead at halftime, the Bills saved some of their best offensive drives for last in a nailbiting 20-16 win over Jacksonville to improve to 2-0 on the season for the first time in five years.
"That was one heck of a football game," said Bills head coach Dick Jauron. "Both sides played their hearts out and it was very hot on that field. I thought our guys did a great job of staying with it through the heat. They prepared well in terms of that, but it can only carry us so far. They worked hard and then we made enough plays to win."
The Jaguars dominated the third quarter holding onto the ball for almost 12 and a half minutes and turning a 10-3 deficit into a 16-10 lead with 14 minutes left in the final stanza. But credit the defense for holding them to just a pair of field goals late in the third and early in the fourth.
"That was good. It meant a lot," said Marcus Stroud. "That was the difference in the game. We were able to go out there and hold them to only six points and they had great field position both times so we were fortunate to make plays when it counted."
Buffalo's offense then responded when points were needed most. Starting at their own 26 they put together a steady drive carried mainly by Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. The two-back tandem had a huge day combining for 167 all-purpose yards.
"We had to stay hungry," said Jackson who finished with 100 all-purpose yards. "We were on the sideline for a little while, but we knew once we got out there we had to go down and get some points and that was the plan and we were able to do so."
Trent Edwards led a solid drive with eight minutes remaining. His biggest play coming on a 3rd-and-6 from the Jaguars 44. While getting great protection from his line, Edwards hit Evans for a big 37-yard reception along the near sideline to set up 1st-and-goal at the seven.
"That play right there was just a post corner route by Lee Evans and he beat the safety," said Edwards. "I was watching the film down here from last year's game and Lee ran a post corner route on the safety that we missed him on and it was a matter of the same situation. It was kind of déjà vu and a matter of watching that same play unfold before my eyes so I had to stay in the pocket and stay comfortable and being accurate with the football. And Lee Evans is a great route runner and it's my job to stay on him and get the ball to where it needs to be."
On the very next play Edwards lofted a pass in the back right corner of the end zone where James Hardy leapt and came down with both feet in bounds for a seven-yard touchdown reception.
"My number got called and I wanted to go up and make the play and Trent put it in the right spot and I came up with the ball," said Hardy of his first career touchdown reception.
Lindell put the extra point through to give Buffalo its first lead since halftime (17-16).
Buoyed by the offense's nine-play scoring drive the Bills defense sent Jacksonville three-and-out as Kyle Williams sacked Garrard with four minutes to play to force a punt.
A Roscoe Parrish 27-yard punt return put Buffalo's offense back in Jaguars territory and a clock killing drive wound up putting another three points on the board thanks to a 45-yard Lindell field goal to give the Bills a four-point edge in what proved to be the final score.
The Jaguars came out in the second half ready to take chances and it paid off for them as they scored 13 unanswered points to erase a seven-point Buffalo lead.
Stuck in a 4th-and-1 situation at their own 45-yard line on their opening possession in the third quarter Maurice Jones-Drew came through with a nine-yard run. Five plays later Jones-Drew plowed into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 10.
Jacksonville then successfully converted an onsides kick attempt as Pierson Prioleau recovered the ball at the Jaguars 39.
"We kind of knew it would be coming and we couldn't stop it," said Jauron. "We talk to them before every kick and we talked to them before that kick. They just do a very good job of it and they're spread out. They're not bunched. That was a surprise. It's just a bounce of the ball."
Buffalo's defense got a big stop by Ashton Youboty who tackled a scrambling David Garrard in the open field on a 3rd-and-7 play, but Josh Scobee nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Jaguars their first lead of the game (13-10).
Buffalo's offense was in the midst of a productive drive as Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch had back-to-back receptions that covered 34 yards. But three plays after Buffalo reached Jacksonville territory Trent Edwards was sacked by Quentin Groves and fumbled. Jaguars defensive end Reggie Hayward recovered and lateraled to Clint Ingram who fumbled it out of bounds at the Bills 36.
The Buffalo defense tried to hold firm forcing the Jaguars to convert a 4th-and-1 before ultimately forcing Jacksonville to settle for another field goal with Scobee again successful on 39-yard attempt to make it a 16-10 edge.
Buffalo's offense got off to a sharp start at the beginning of the game with a methodical 11-play drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch on a trap play. Lynch, Fred Jackson and Lee Evans accounted for all five first downs on the drive. Jacksonville chose not to pressure Edwards much on the opening possession and he made them pay going 6-6 for 36 yards on the scoring drive to give Buffalo the early 7-0 lead.
After the Bills' defense promptly sent Jacksonville three-and-out on their opening possession they were able to chip away at the Bills early lead with a 28-yard field goal from Josh Scobee. The Jaguars were most successful rolling out David Garrard and throwing short dump down passes to Maurice Jones-Drew. But Jabari Greer had a big third down pass breakup on a 3rd-and-4 play from the Bills 10 that forced Jacksonville to settle for the field goal.
The Bills answered the Jaguars field goal drive with one of their own as Buffalo marched 77 yards on 12 plays before Rian Lindell put a 21-yard attempt between the uprights to make it 10-3. Edwards was effective in beating the blitz on the drive as he hit Fred Jackson for a 33-yard reception to convert a 3rd-and-1. Three plays later Edwards converted a 3rd-and-5 in the face of a six man rush hitting Josh Reed for a 16-yard pickup to get Buffalo in the red zone.
Jacksonville tried to cut into Buffalo's lead one last time before the first half came to an end, but with 14 seconds left on the clock Terrence McGee intercepted a pass intended for Mike Walker in the end zone. The pass was tipped at the line by Marcus Stroud.
Buffalo currently sits atop the AFC East with their 2-0 mark. They return home in week three to host Oakland. Jacksonville falls to 0-2.