In the end it didn't prove to be enough, but down a pair of touchdowns nearing the end of the third quarter Buffalo's defense finally got the stop they were looking for without much more than a foot to spare from their own goal line. Four straight times they stopped Jaguars short-yardage back Toby Gerhart for no gain to force a turnover on downs and keep Buffalo within striking distance of making a comeback.
"We couldn't get them off on third down and then we stood on our head on the goal line," said head coach Rex Ryan. "It was a 10-minute drive and we couldn't get off the field. Then the ball is at our own one-yard line and we hold them on four straight plays."
The Jaguars tried running to the right side three of the four times and once to the left. Each time multiple Bills defenders stoned Jacksonville's offensive linemen and other blockers at the line of scrimmage allowing free defenders to wrap up and make the tackle.
Goal line defenders like Corbin Bryant, Alex Carrington, Stefan Charles, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams were critical in holding the line.
While the turnover on downs gave Buffalo the ball back, down 27-14, the more important result was that it kept Jacksonville from putting any more points on the board. EJ Manuel and the offense were clearly buoyed by the stop as they marched 91 yards before Dan Carpenter hit a chip shot field goal to move Buffalo to within 11.
"It was huge," said Manuel of the goal line stand. "The defense played great, especially in the second half to get us opportunities to get more at bats to go down the field and score touchdowns and get three points."
From there the defense took over. The Bills sent the Jaguars offense three-and-out on four straight possessions as they gained a total of just 11 net yards. The fourth three-and-out went the other way for a touchdown as Corey Graham returned a Blake Bortles pass 44 yards to the end zone to complete the comeback and give Buffalo the lead with six and a half minutes remaining.
"It gave us a lot of momentum," said Nickell Robey. "We were struggling a little bit to stop them and stuff. And then that big goal line stop, I feel like that shifted the game a little bit more in our favor. That's when we started picking up a lot more and we just kept getting more three-and-outs and our offense kept driving the ball."
"We just had to focus on their tendencies and formations, and they were running the same plays," said Preston Brown. "Once we realized they were doing that, we shut them down."
Buffalo's goal line stand sparked 17 unanswered points by the Bills to put them ahead for the first time since the early stages of the game. Unfortunately on Jacksonville's ensuing possession, the Jaguars were awarded a fresh set of downs on a pass interference call on a 3rd-and-15 play near midfield.
"I really feel it came down to that last drive right there and we didn't get anything good out of that," said Robey who was flagged on the play.
"They got a couple of calls, but they made the plays when they needed them," said Brown. "We couldn't get off the field. That's when the team is leaning on us to get off the field. We couldn't do it.
Down three (34-31) with two minutes remaining, Buffalo's offense couldn't rally one last time to get a tying field goal or a game-winning score.
"That's a game where we know that when we go out there we've got to make the play and get off the field. That just didn't happen," Brown said. "We didn't do it and it really hurts."