It was a formula the Bills had hoped to take advantage of a lot this season. In Week 13 Buffalo finally put it into action. The defense was stifling against Jacksonville's offense logging four sacks and a pair of takeaways, while the offense rolled up yards on the ground with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combining for 186 yards and a touchdown in a 34-18 victory.
"I felt like coming out here seeing what type of game it was we were going to have to run the ball," said Jackson, who posted his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season. "I felt like we would be out there and get that opportunity to make plays. I told C.J. to expect the ball a lot. We got the running game going early."
"For us as a team to be successful at home in December, this is what we expected," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We expected to be able to feed Fred the rock, to give it to C.J., have those guys coming in and they're a tough one-two punch. Everybody knows, but as we saw today especially, and the defense really stepped up and played great."
The Bills defense was impressive throughout as they made the league's worst offense look that way for much of the afternoon. Jacksonville converted just one of their 10 third down opportunities, and had three turnovers on downs. For the third straight game the defense also held their opponent to fewer than 90 rushing yards. It's the first time a Bills defense has done that since the 2003 season (11/30/03-12/14/03).
"We have got some guys running downhill and everybody has been in the right spot," said head coach Chan Gailey. "We have got guys playing the cutback. We have got guys filling the front side hole. Everybody is being a lot more consistent about filling the correct gap. If I had to say there is one thing that is the one thing. We are playing a lot more physical now than we were a month and a half ago."
Buffalo scored on their first possession of the game to take an early 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. Facing a 2nd-and-20 at their own 48 following a holding call, Ryan Fitzpatrick found T.J. Graham on a deep post for a 51-yard pass play to the Jacksonville one-yard line.
Fitzpatrick would then take a one-yard sneak over the goal line on 2nd-and-goal for just the second red zone touchdown in three games. It was also the quarterback's first rushing touchdown since 2009 (11/29/09).
Both teams would struggle for the remainder of the opening quarter to move the football. The Bills would hand the Jaguars a prime scoring opportunity on a turnover early in the second quarter. On a 1st-and-10 at their own 22, Fitzpatrick missed intended target Stevie Johnson and the pass was picked off by Paul Posluszny at the Bills 36.
Buffalo's defense was able to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone, but Jacksonville did get a 36-yard field goal from Josh Scobee (7-3).
The Bills could not answer on their ensuing possession. Facing a 4th-and-5 at the Jaguars 37, Fitzpatrick's pass intended for Scott Chandler was broken up by LB Russell Allen forcing a turnover on downs.
Jacksonville's offensive unit quickly drove the length of the field, helped in part by a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Ron Brooks. With a 1st-and-10 at the Bills 39, Chad Henne hit Cecil Shorts for a 24-yard pass play to the Buffalo 15. Three plays later, Henne took a naked bootleg into the end zone for a one-yard scoring run to give Jacksonville the lead (10-7) with 3:47 left in the half.
Buoyed by a 55-yard kick return by Marcus Easley along with a Jaguars personal foul penalty to boot, the offense was set up 1st-and-10 at the Jacksonville 26. After an 11-yard Wildcat run by Brad Smith, set up 1st-and-10 at the 15, Fitzpatrick would hit Scott Chandler on a well-placed pass in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-6. The scoring play gave the Bills a four-point edge with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
"Scott did a great job getting over Poz. There was a safety on top of him that he kind of ran away from and I just put a little bit of air on it to throw it over Poz and let him go over and get it," said Fitzpatrick. "He did a good job with that, just a big target, a guy that they can put two guys on down there and you can still get him the ball."
After the kickoff, Mario Williams made his presence felt on 1st-and-10 from the Jaguars 20. He beat Jacksonville right tackle Cameron Bradfield off the snap, swooped in and swatted the ball from Henne's hand, then pounced on the loose ball at the Jaguars' 14-yard line.
"When you get back there, especially with the elements and how they were with the rain, it is pretty tough holding onto the ball," said Williams. "So we just wanted to rake at the ball every time we had the chance. It was there, I saw it and I just reached out and swiped it away."
The offense however, couldn't find the end zone on that particular drive as they settled for a 29-yard Rian Lindell field goal to go up a touchdown at halftime (17-10).
Another long kickoff return to start the second half again provided Buffalo's attack with a short field. Brad Smith ripped off a 38-yard return to the Bills 39. Buffalo began picking up yards in chunks on the ground. After moving the ball out to midfield, Fred Jackson burst up the middle for a 15-yard run, followed by a 17-yard run by Smith out of the Wildcat.
A roughing the passer penalty on 2nd-and-10 from the Jaguars 17, set up 1st-and-goal at the nine. One play after a delay of game infraction backed Buffalo up to the 13, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson in the front left corner of the end zone to push the Bills lead to 14 (24-10).
"Stevie's was just a one-on-one matchup. I knew I had single coverage over there," said Fitzpatrick, who attempted just 17 passes. "We went to an empty set and he did a great job putting a move on the guy and breaking out and scoring."
After the Bills defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 39, Fitzpatrick and the offense were on the march with Jackson carrying most of the rushing load. Jackson rolled up 30 yards on six carries before the drive stalled at the Jaguars 32, where Lindell put a 50-yard attempt through for a 27-10 advantage.
Come the fourth quarter the Bills were sensing victory. Buffalo's defense forced a three-and-out and the offense scored in just four plays thanks to a 44-yard touchdown run by C.J. Spiller on a 2nd-and-3 play. Spiller bounced the run outside and burst into the secondary where he slipped in between the corner and the safety to score (34-10) with 13:29 to play.
Jacksonville caught a break however, when on their punt deep into Buffalo territory, Justin Rogers, in for an injured Leodis McKelvin muffed the punt. The Jaguars recovered at the Bills five and their offense promptly scored on a five-yard pass to Cecil Shorts for a touchdown. Jacksonville also converted a two-point attempt to make it a 16-point game (34-18) with just under 11 minutes in the game.
But those would prove to be the final points of the game. Jairus Byrd posted an interception with under a minute remaining to close out the victory.
With the win Buffalo improves to 5-7 on the season. They host St. Louis next Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium for a 1 pm kickoff.
"We knew to give ourselves an opportunity at any shot of going anywhere after this we had to win this game," said Jackson. "We came out and we responded and made plays in all phases of the football game. Offense, defense and special teams, so if we continue to do that we give ourselves a good opportunity."