Blake Bortles vs. EJ Manuel
They won’t be making a quarterbacking instructional video off this game. Both young QBs had some terrible moments. Give Jacksonville’s Bortles this: He throws well on the run. Manuel is not good on the run. The decisive play of the game came when Bortles escaped the pocket and threw a 31-yard TD pass on a dead sprint to his left. Bortles, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, is a work in progress. The Jags have had to rebuild his mechanics from the ground up and even sent him to mechanics guru Tom House, a former major league pitcher. Manuel? The knock on him coming out of Florida State was his shaky pocket presence. Three years into his career, he’s still poor from the pocket. Manuel’s throws toward the middle of the field were an adventure, and that’s putting it kindly.
Bob Babich vs. third downs
Jacksonville’s defense entered the game failing at epic proportions on third downs. The Jaguars were allowing opponents to convert on 50 percent of third-down plays. That’s not just worst in the NFL this year. The worst third-down defense in the last 25 years was Cleveland’s in 1995. The Browns gave up 49.5 percent conversions. Could the Bills exploit this colossal weakness? No. Buffalo was just 3 of 12 on third downs. Babich, the Jags’ defensive coordinator, showed little respect for EJ Manuel on third down. They blitzed him six times on third down, and the Bills netted 2 yards on those plays. The Jags blitzed the least amount in the NFL last season, just 15 percent. Yet they blitzed eight times on 26 first-half Buffalo passes, including the sack-fumble-touchdown play in the second quarter. While trying to protect a lead in the second half, the Jags backed off the blitz.
T.J. Yeldon vs. Bills ‘D’
Let’s be clear: The Bills’ defense played well enough to win a normal game. Buffalo’s offense surrendered two defensive TDs and gave up a short field for a third TD. And the Bills’ defense produced a TD of its own on Corey Graham’s interception return. But Yeldon rushed 20 times for 115 yards and a TD. That’s 5.75 yards a carry. The Bills needed to contain him more. He had been averaging only 48 yards a game and 3.6 a carry. But Yeldon is a big talent. He was the 36th overall pick in May’s draft. He’s a former Mr. Football in Alabama. He helped the Crimson Tide to the national title as a freshman and rushed for 3,322 yards in three college seasons. Bama trivia: He once got benched for mocking Johnny Manziel’s hot-dogging “money” celebration during a game.