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Mark Gaughan's Matchup Winners: Jags' run 'D' fell one play short of awesome


Jaguars run defense vs. LeSean McCoy

The Jaguars’ defense did not look like a 2-9 outfit. Jacksonville has talent across the board on defense. It kept the Bills from dominating with the running game. LeSean McCoy finished with 19 carries for 103 yards. Take away his 75-yard TD run and the Jags held him to 28 yards on 18 carries. Jacksonville’s Telvin Smith (No. 50), an undersized weak-side linebacker from Florida State, played like his hair was on fire. He had nine tackles.

“He’s good,” said Bills tight end Charles Clay. “No. 50, 91, 51, 37, 39, you can go on and on. There’s no question that’s a really good defense. We knew going in that it would be a fight to the end. Rex told us they’re the best two-win team he’s ever seen. We started slow. We knew we had to pick it up because of the caliber of players they have on that team.”

Nate Hackett vs. Bills defense

The Jacksonville offense is not good. It entered the game ranked 27th in scoring and 21st in yards. Former Bills coordinator Nate Hackett took over as Jaguars’ play-caller a month ago after Greg Olson was fired. Hackett has done a good job on third downs, and he had a good plan against the Bills.

Jacksonville was converting a pathetic 30 percent of third downs when Olson was fired. In four games under Hackett, the Jaguars are converting 45.7 percent of third downs. They made 8 of 15 against the Bills. Bortles converted two third down plays by scrambling, which he said Hackett has encouraged.

“He’s very adamant with if it’s not there, take off with the ball,” Bortles said. “Continuing to do that will help to eliminate the turnovers and trying to force stuff and do different things. . . . I enjoy running. I enjoy doing different things on the move.”

Tyrod Taylor vs. Blake Bortles

Two young quarterbacks with limited passing games went at it, and the results were underwhelming. The Bills’ Taylor passed for 166 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He ran for 38 yards and one TD and converted two third downs with his legs. Bortles passed for 126 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He rushed for 81 yards and converted two third downs with his legs.

Taylor has two big advantages over Bortles. No. 1: He doesn’t make turnovers. Taylor has 10 interceptions the past two years. Bortles has 31 the past two years and 48 the past three years. No. 2: Taylor is a better deep thrower then Bortles. Taylor’s 62-yard completion to Sammy Watkins was perfect, dropped directly over the receiver’s outside shoulder. Bortles has a big height edge over Taylor. But he also has a bigger windup, dropping the ball down before he delivers the ball.

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