Getting into the end zone was the chief goal for Buffalo's starting offense as field goals had been all they could muster through the first two preseason games. After opening the game with a field goal drive Buffalo's hometown fans wondered if it would be more of the same. Back-to-back touchdown drives however, changed the conversation quickly as the Bills passing game found life and the reserves orchestrated a comeback to overcome a 32-17 deficit and win in overtime 35-32 over Jacksonville.
"We did some good things on both sides of the ball. It was good for us," said head coach Chan Gailey. "It was great to win in overtime. We fought hard to get back to that point and for them to be able to go out and win the game. That's good."
After the Bills' defense sent Jacksonville's offense off the field after six plays to start the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense began a long and sustained drive covering 69 yards on 13 plays. A 30-yard reception by Fred Jackson on a 3rd-and-8 play got Buffalo down to the Jaguars' 19.
"It was a one-on-one with the linebacker," said Jackson. "We feel like we can win every time. Fitzpatrick has all the confidence in the world. He saw it and I saw it and we were able to complete it."
Five plays later however, the Bills were unable to punch it over the goal line as Jackson was stopped on 3rd-and-goal at the one. Rian Lindell came on to kick a 21-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
The Bills defense then promptly followed with a three-and-out for Jacksonville's offense with good pass pressure forcing an incomplete pass on a 3rd-and-6 by David Garrard.
Buffalo then put together its most impressive drive of the night. Starting at their own 20, Fitzpatrick turned to Jackson and Marcus Easley to make plays. Fitzpatrick hit Easley for a 13-yard gain on first down. Jackson followed with a 13-yard run. After a three-yard carry by Jackson, Easley had back-to-back receptions for a total of 18 yards as Buffalo moved into Jacksonville territory.
Jackson then had a pair of carries that went for five yards apiece to set up 1st-and-10 at the Jaguars' 11. Fitzpatrick dropped back and spotted Easley coming from left to right across the goal line and threw high over the defense where Easley went up and got it for an 11-yard touchdown reception.
"We said all along we wanted to carry over what we've been doing in practice onto the game field, and I think we did a good job of that," said Fitzpatrick, who was 11-12 passing for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. "Hopefully we can just build on it and keep it going for September 11th."
The offense built on that 10-0 lead on their ensuing possession after Buffalo's defense turned up the pressure on Garrard, including a third down sack by Kyle Williams. On the opening play of the series from the Buffalo 48, Fitzpatrick went deep down the right sideline to Stevie Johnson, who gained separation, pulled in the pass and outraced his defender the last 15 yards to the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown reception.
"They ended up playing a 'quarters' coverage and playing heavy inside," said Johnson. "All I did was attack his leverage and Fitz put a beautiful ball to the right right outside shoulder, which is the way we practice it. That's basically all it was, a good pass."
"It's good," said Jackson of the offense's first half production. "We made some plays and were able to put some points on the board early."
Buffalo's 17-0 advantage was reduced by Jacksonville after an improbable four-yard scramble by Garrard got him over the goal line for a touchdown to make it 17-7 with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. The Jaguars added a field goal drive just before the end of the half with Josh Scobee hitting from 45 yards out to make it 17-10 at the break.
The Jaguars tied the game early in the third quarter (17-17) with reserve fullback Brock Bolen rumbling in for a two-yard touchdown to finish off a 10-play 76-yard drive against Buffalo's second team defense.
Jacksonville's defense then gave the Jaguars the lead (24-17) as Tyler Thigpen's pass on a 2nd-and-16 from his own six-yard line was intercepted by Jacob Cutrera at the Bills 16 and taken back for a score. The Jaguars padded the lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to fellow rookie DuJuan Harris. The two also connected for the two-point conversion to make it 32-17 just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Bills' second string offense made it a one score game when Bruce Hall took it right up the middle on a five-yard touchdown run with eight minutes remaining (32-24). That was followed by a last ditch effort in the final minute.
On a 4th-and-goal at the Jaguars four-yard line Tyler Thigpen hit Paul Hubbard in the left corner of the end zone to pull within two (32-30). Thigpen then went right back to Hubbard for a successful two-point conversion over the middle to tie the game at 32 with 38 seconds remaining ultimately forcing overtime.
After winning the coin toss, the Jaguars received and Gabbert led Jacksonville down into Buffalo territory, but Josh Scobee pushed a 53-yard field goal attempt wide left. Levi Brown and the offense took over. Anthony Elzy was big on the ground in helping move Buffalo into field goal range along with a late reception by Ruvell Martin.
Rian Lindell came on to kick the game-winning 40-yard field goal to cap a 35-32 victory for Buffalo to improve to 1-2 in the preseason.
"It was good to win an overtime game and to have that feeling and know what that feels like," Gailey said. "For the guys to fight back… I don't care if it was a preseason game I like to see that fight. If we'll keep fighting good things will happen to us down the road."