On a day when Buffalo lost one of their top two running backs and two more offensive linemen to injury, the Bills looked like they would persevere taking a 15-10 lead down to the final minutes. But a late drive by Jacksonville chewed up better than five of the final six minutes before the Jaguars scored on a three-yard touchdown pass from David Garrard to Mike Sims-Walker to take a 16-15 lead en route to an 18-15 victory over Buffalo ruining Perry Fewell's debut as interim head coach.
"We were fighting like crazy to get it, win for him, win for ourselves and all of the teammates," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "And it was a tough one. It came down to the end and offensively we had a chance there at the end to make a couple of plays and get us in field goal range to at least extend the game and it just didn't happen."
After the touchdown Garrard scored on a two-point conversion attempt to make it a three-point game. The Buffalo offense had one last ditch effort to move into field goal range to tie the game late, but Fitzpatrick's 4th-and-10 pass from the Jacksonville 46 was intercepted by Anthony Smith to end the threat and the game. Fitzpatrick finished the game 18-31 for 297 yards a touchdown and two interceptions.
"It's been an emotional week for all of us and this was an emotional loss for us also," said Fewell. "I thought our guys fought their hind end off. They battled down to the wire. We just didn't get it done."
The Bills defense again appeared to wilt late in the game. They accomplished their top priority in holding Maurice Jones-Drew to 70 total yards from scrimmage, but they were on the field for better than 36 minutes and couldn't get stops on Jacksonville's final drive, which went 12 plays and 68 yards.
"I think we played solid at times especially against him," said Paul Posluszny, who led the team with 12 tackles and a forced fumble. "That was our main focus going into the game, being able to stop him. He's such a huge part of their offense, but other times we came up a little bit short. Overall we played solid, obviously in the end we didn't make the plays that we needed to close to the goal line to win."
Buffalo's defense had held firm up until that point, forcing Jacksonville to punt on their first three second half possessions. And when the Jaguars did threaten midway through the fourth quarter set up in a 1st-and-10 situation at the Bills 19, Buffalo got a big play when they needed it. On a 2nd-and-12 from the Bills 21, David Garrard scrambled after being flushed from the pocket and was stripped of the ball by Posluszny.
The loose ball was recovered by Spencer Johnson at the Buffalo 20 eliminating the threat. It was Posluszny's second forced fumble of the season.
Buffalo's halftime deficit of one point (10-9) lasted all of 12 seconds as the Bills, despite being backed up on their own two-yard line made the biggest play in team history. Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back on 1st-and-10 and heaved a bomb down the near sideline. Terrell Owens had a step on his defender and ran under the pass pulling it in near midfield, escaped a shoestring tackle attempt going 98 yards for a go ahead touchdown.
"We had a quick pass called and I just saw the corner sitting out there one-on-one with Terrell and it's a matchup we wanted to exploit," said Fitzpatrick. "It looked pretty good to me, it looked enticing and I just put the ball up there and put a lot of air on it and Terrell did his thing and just ran under it."
"It's all for nothing when you don't get the win," said Owens. "To make plays is something I always want to do and offensively I think we made some strides, but we came up a few plays short. And we have to do better moving the chains to help the defense out."
The play eclipsed the franchise's previous long of 95 yards set back on Dec. 1, 1996 when Todd Collins his Quinn Early for a 95-yard touchdown against the Colts. Buffalo's subsequent two-point conversion failed, but the Bills had a five-point lead early in the third quarter (15-10).
The debut of interim head coach Perry Fewell got off to an inauspicious start as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception on his own half of the field on just the third play from scrimmage, leading to a field goal for Jacksonville. But Buffalo overcame it with six straight points on a pair of field goal drives.
The second field goal drive came when Bryan Scott tipped a David Garrard pass into the waiting arms of George Wilson, who returned it to the Jaguars nine-yard line. On first-and-goal Fred Jackson followed a pulling Eric Wood into the end zone, but it was called back on a block below the waist penalty.
The 15-yard penalty proved to be a crusher forcing Buffalo to settle for a 28-yard Rian Lindell field goal to make it a 6-3 Bills lead at the close of the first quarter.
Jacksonville however, put together a long time consuming drive on their next possession. The Jaguars got most of their yardage through the air on the 72-yard drive with David Garrard hooking up with Mike Sims-Walker for a 28-yard pass play to set up 1st-and-goal at the one. Maurice Jones-Drew would score three plays later on a three-yard touchdown run giving the Jaguars a 10-6 advantage.
Buffalo ran an effective two-minute drill to close the half. Ryan Fitzpatrick went 6-7 passing for 70 of the 76 yards on the drive with Lindell putting a 22-yard attempt through as the half expired to make it a 10-9 game at the break.
"We had talked about taking a shot (at the end zone), but we wanted to make sure we got the points," said Fewell. "So we just elected to go with the run in that situation. I alerted the official that I was going to call timeout. Looking back I wanted to get the points."
The Bills fall to 3-7 with the loss and have now lost three straight for the second time this season. They host Miami next Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium for a 1pm kickoff.
InjuriesThe Bills had four players suffer injuries in the game, the most serious by right guard Eric Wood, whose leg got caught under a defensive linemen in the second half. He was carted from the field.
"Eric Wood suffered a leg fracture and he'll stay here and have that repaired," said Fewell. "Marshawn Lynch had a shoulder, Seth McKinney had a knee injury and John McCargo had a calf and those three are day to day at this point in time."
It's likely that Buffalo will need to make some roster moves early this week as they have just five healthy offensive linemen remaining and possibly one running back in Fred Jackson. Defensive tackle may also need to be addressed as the Bills finished the game with just two healthy interior linemen.