The Bills have been so wildly inconsistent over the years that nobody seems to know what to expect in any given season, or any given Sunday, or for that matter any given series. Their offense comes and goes. Their defense shows up and disappears. Their record rises and falls.
Buffalo followed form in a 28-21 victory over Jacksonville, which meant taking another wild ride Sunday in New Era Field. It came with all the twists and turns fans have experienced over the years. In a way, it has become predictable. The Bills weaved incredible plays into incredulous decisions without proving much one way or another.
It was yet another befuddling performance from the Bills, but their struggles were quickly dismissed in victory. No matter how they won, they won for the second straight week and improved to 6-5 this season. They’re headed to Oakland for another big game next week. That much we know.
What to expect?
Take a guess.
Tyrod Taylor rediscovered the deep ball when he hit Sammy Watkins in a 62-yard reception while also looking out of sorts. LeSean McCoy was going nowhere before popping a 75-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter. The Bills’ defense shut down Blake Bortles before opening the door.
For two teams that showed few signs of offense in the first half, they showed weak defense in the second. It turned a low-scoring game into a shootout over the final two quarters with both teams trading touchdowns. Of course, there were enough bad plays mixed into the fourth quarter to shake your head.
The Bills pulled away three times, starting with McCoy’s 75-yard score to open the third quarter, and the Jaguars kept coming back. Buffalo scored three touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half. The Jaguars twice answered with touchdowns before the Bills’ defense finished the job.
Buffalo’s offense was an absolute mess in the first half. They had 63 total yards, were fortunate to score their one touchdown and showed no signs of a team that was .500, let alone one trying to remain in contention for the playoffs. Everything changed on the first play of the third quarter.
McCoy had 5 yards rushing on eight carries in the first two carries and was headed for a long afternoon. Instead, he ran untouched off right tackle and raced for a 75-yard touchdown, popping the longest run of his career. The play injected enthusiasm into an otherwise dreary game between two historically poor teams.
The long touchdown run woke up the Jaguars, too. Jacksonville came with back with a 65-yard drive that ended when Blake Bortles found Marqise Lee for a 20-yard TD pass over the middle for a 14-13 lead. Dan Carpenter’s missed extra point in the second quarter loomed over the Bills.
Taylor has been one of the better long-ball passers in the NFL the past two years, but his arm strength isn’t much good when he A) fails to read defenses or B) refuses to unleash deep passes. He missed Watkins deep several times before finding him down the sideline on a play had been available.
It set up for what Taylor does best: He scrambled out of trouble for a 7-yard touchdown to give the Bills a 20-14 lead. Jacksonville answered again when Blake Bortles, a marginal quarterback at best, found Allen Hurns in the flat for a 12-yard touchdown to regain a one-point lead.
While it would be accurate to say defense was the strength of both teams going into the game, the first half was a measure of two lousy offenses. The Bills couldn’t get anything going in two quarters filled with incomplete passes for both teams and carries for lost yardage by McCoy.
Jacksonville’s game plan was evident early and hardly original: Shut down the running game and forced Tyrod Taylor to beat them with his arm. McCoy, coming off a surgically repaired dislocated thumb, had minus-2 yards rushing on his first seven carries. Taylor was ineffective in the passing game but effective enough to win.