Trent Edwards' overall stat line was impressive enough in Buffalo's win over Jacksonville on the road Sunday (20-16). Going 20-25 for 239 yards with a touchdown is a solid day in the NFL, especially when it comes with a passer rating of almost 120. But where Edwards really excelled was on third down.
The Bills were 6-11 (55%) on third down against the Jaguars and Edwards was responsible for five of those conversions. But more than the numbers was the way in which he executed those plays to keep drives going.
On the team's first possession Edwards calmly converted a 3rd-and-3 when he hit Lee Evans for a 10-yard gain near midfield. Seven plays later on that same drive Buffalo's signal caller found Fred Jackson in the right flat for a nine-yard gain on a 3rd-and-7. That conversion led to a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run on the ensuing play.
In the second quarter Jacksonville's defense tried to turn up the heat on the second-year quarterback. On a 3rd-and-1 the Jaguars brought six defenders on a blitz call, but Edwards found Fred Jackson on a swing pass and the elusive back did the rest gaining 33 yards to put Buffalo into Jacksonville territory.
"Jacksonville was bringing a lot of pressure, just getting pressure with their front four and bringing some linebackers," said Edwards. "Fred Jackson, he's a playmaker. You just have get the ball to him and allow him to make guys miss. He did a great job for me. I think I threw the ball five yards beyond the line of scrimmage and he puts another 30 yards on the end of the play. That's a quarterback's dream right there."
Four plays later however, Buffalo was faced with another big third down at the Jaguars 33. Facing a 3rd-and-5 the Jaguars brought six pass rushers again, but with good protection and a quick survey of the field Edwards found Josh Reed on a crossing route for a 16-yard gain and another first down.
Though the result was only a 21-yard field goal from Rian Lindell, the chip shot would not have been possible had Buffalo not been effective on third down, and those three points were critical in what proved to be a four-point win.
But Edwards saved his best third down conversion for the end of the game. Down by six with eight minutes to play Buffalo's offense embarked on a drive that would likely determine the outcome.
After Fred Jackson converted a 3rd-and-1 at the Bills 29 with a seven-yard gain, Buffalo was again faced with a 3rd-and-long. Needing seven yards for the first down Bills offensive coordinator called a max protection to allow Lee Evans and Edwards enough time to connect on a post corner route.
The protection held up, Edwards hung tough and Evans ran a fantastic route with Buffalo's quarterback hitting him in stride along the sideline two steps after he had gained separation on Jaguars safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
"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," said Edwards of the play. "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."
"(Trent's play) was a huge part of the game," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Not only did he take us down when we had to, but he also took us down in the midst of the heat and you know those guys were all dog tired out there and they were all sucking it up and they're all working hard to get through the game, but he's keeping them focused and moving and he's pretty good. We don't know how good he can be, but he gives us a chance. The throw to Lee was really a terrific throw when we needed to have it."
One play later Edwards put the ball where it needed to be again, tossing a touchdown pass to James Hardy in the back right corner of the end zone. It wasn't a third down play, but it was a nice capper to his performance Sunday.
"He's developing," said Jackson of Edwards. "You can see it. He's growing up in front of us. He's a great quarterback. We have all the confidence in him. He was making some great decisions. He stood in the pocket. He showed a lot of poise. It's something we're excited about. We have faith in him and it's something we're looking forward to the rest of the season."