JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – My observations from the Bills’ 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that eliminated the team from the AFC playoffs.
1. Tyrod Taylor got outplayed by Blake Bortles. That’s a tough thing for Bills fans to read, but it’s true. With the Bills needing their quarterback to make a play, it never came. The penultimate chance for the offense started with 3:24 remaining and the ball on the Buffalo 34-yard line. Taylor threw incomplete on three consecutive plays, the first intended for LeSean McCoy, the second for Deonte Thompson and the third for Zay Jones. There appeared to be contact early on the throw to Jones, but the bigger issue was on second down, when Taylor failed to spot Jones open over the middle and instead threw it too far for Thompson.
Buffalo's final chance started with 1:51 remaining. Taylor's pass on first down was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete. After throwing for 5 yards on second down to tight end Charles Clay, Taylor attempted to scramble on third down. His head slammed off the turf and he stayed down on the field for several minutes as trainers attended to him. Rookie backup Nathan Peterman came in the game for a fourth-and-3 play, picking up a first down on a scramble.
Peterman appeared to fumble on the play, but the NFL never stopped the game to look at it. After a completion to Deonte Thompson, Peterman took an intentional grounding penalty, and then on second-and-20, he was intercepted by Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey on a pass intended for Thompson.
2. Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made some puzzling decisions at the end of the first half. With a first-and-goal at the Jaguars’ 1-yard line, Taylor threw a fade route intended for receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The pass was incomplete, and Benjamin was penalized for offensive pass interference. If the call was a run, then Taylor shouldn’t have switched out of it. If the call was the fade, Dennison should take the blame for what was a terrible decision. Just. Run. The. Ball. It’s not that complicated, but coaches always seem to find a way.
3. The bigger issue with Dennison came on the Bills’ next possession. With 1:02 remaining in the second quarter, the Bills started at their 10-yard line holding a 3-0 lead. After running on first down, the Bills threw on back-to-back plays, but failed to get a first down when Deonte Thompson dropped a pass on second down and Zay Jones was stopped short on third down. That meant the Bills punted the ball back to Jacksonville, which had two timeouts remaining and 40 seconds left on the clock. That was enough time for Blake Bortles to scramble twice, getting the Jaguars in position for a tying field goal. Dennison’s primary goal should have been running out the clock, but instead the Bills gifted the Jaguars a field goal.
4. We all have fun with jokes about Doug Marrone punting, but Sean McDermott is just as bad in that regard. The Bills’ coach punted on fourth-and-1 from the Bills’ 43-yard line in the first quarter, then did it again on fourth-and-2 from the Buffalo 49-yard line on the last play of the first quarter. Additionally, McDermott called for a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Jacksonville 3-yard line in the second quarter. He’s not any different, or more aggressive, than any other coach.
5. Thompson’s holding penalty in the fourth quarter was a killer. It erased a 39-yard completion to LeSean McCoy that set the Bills up at the Jacksonville 35-yard line, pushing the ball back to the Buffalo 39. Thompson was in good position to block, but the replay showed that he grabbed the jersey of the Jacksonville defender.
6. It was a gutty effort by McCoy. The running back, who practiced just once during the week on a limited basis because of a sprained ankle suffered against Miami, got a heavy workload, with 15 touches in the first half and 25 overall. Yards were tough to come by for McCoy for most of the afternoon against a stout Jacksonville defense, but credit him for being a gamer. So, too, were …
7. Richie Incognito. Charles Clay. Micah Hyde. Tre’Davious White. All of them were hurt during Sunday’s game, but were able to return — for a time. Incognito suffered a shoulder injury, Clay went out with a hamstring injury, Hyde went out twice in the third quarter, and White had issues with cramping. Unfortunately for Hyde, he wasn’t able to return after going out the second time after he appeared to take a knee to the head as he tackled Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis. He went to the Bills’ locker room and was evaluated for a possible concussion. On the way to the locker room, CBS cameras caught him throwing water at a fan in the stands.
8. There was a fear during the week that rookie linebacker Matt Milano missing the game because of a hamstring injury could hurt the Bills. That ended up being the case in the third quarter, when the Jaguars scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles to Ben Koyack on fourth and goal. Veteran Ramon Humber, who replaced Milano in the lineup, attempted to jam Koyack at the line of scrimmage, then was a step late in coverage, giving up the catch.
9. Bills fans have likely not heard the name Breon Borders before Sunday, and they’d prefer not to hear it again after the cornerback took a pair of penalties on special teams in the second quarter. For the record, Borders was signed off the Raiders’ practice squad late in the season.
10. In case you're wondering, the Bills' 15 pending unrestricted free agents are: Kyle Williams, Jordan Matthews, Shareece Wright, Brandon Tate, Mike Tolbert, Joe Webb, Leonard Johnson, Cedric Thornton, Taiwan Jones, Shamarko Thomas, Travaris Cadet, Preston Brown, E.J. Gaines, Thompson and Humber. Enjoy the offseason.