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Jay Skurski's Bills-Jaguars Report Card: Passing failures doom Buffalo in playoff loss

Jay Skurski

Grading the Bills


LeSean McCoy gutted through an ankle injury to rush 19 times for 75 yards. He’s tough on top of being talented. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor gained 27 yards on seven carries, the last of which left him with a concussion when his head slammed to the turf after a 2-yard scramble on the Bills’ final drive. Backup running back Mike Tolbert rumbled for 11 yards on one of his four carries. Receiver Deonte Thompson gained 9 yards on a reverse – something we saw very little of this season.


If this was Taylor’s final start with the Bills, he went out on a low note. He completed just 17 of 37 passes for 134 yards and was intercepted once, finishing with a passer rating of 44.2. The Bills need an upgrade at quarterback, as well as wide receiver. Kelvin Benjamin, acquired to be the team’s top option at the position, had one catch for 9 yards and a killer offensive pass interference penalty. Deonte Thompson also took a bad holding penalty that erased a 35-yard completion to McCoy, who was the Bills’ leading receiver with six catches for 44 yards.


Giving up 88 yards to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on 10 carries is ridiculous. That erased the good work the Bills did against Leonard Fournette, holding him to 57 yards on 21 carries. Jerry Hughes made a big tackle in the third quarter, limiting to Corey Grant to a 3-yard gain. Had Hughes missed, Grant may have scored. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander had a team-leading 10 tackles, including two for losses.


Holding a team to 75 net passing yards should be good enough to win. The only thing the Bills’ secondary couldn’t do that it needed was get a takeaway. Rookie Tre’Davious White got both hands on a pass from Bortles, but couldn’t hold on for an interception. Linebacker Ramon Humber got beat in coverage on Jacksonville’s only touchdown. Losing safety Micah Hyde to a concussion in the second half hurt. Backup Colt Anderson missed a chance at an interception that maybe Hyde makes if he’s still in the game.


Colton Schmidt was busy, punting eight times for 347 yards, an average of 43.3 gross yards and 40.6 net yards. He placed five of his eight punts inside the Jaguars’ 30-yard line. Cornerback Breon Borders took two penalties in the second quarter, one of which erased good field position after a decent punt return by Brandon Tate. The return game didn’t give the Bills much, with Tate gaining just 21 yards on five punt returns and 10 yards on one kick return.


Sean McDermott was playing with house money. Nobody expected the Bills to get this far. So it was a bit disappointing to see him stick with his conservative nature by punting on short fourth downs near midfield and electing to try a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars’ 3-yard line. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison completely botched the end of the second quarter. Plain and simple, the Bills should have run on first and goal from the Jacksonville 1-yard line. Dennison also should have called plays that forced Jacksonville to use their timeouts right before halftime. McDermott has a big decision looming with his offensive coordinator. Is Dennison the one he wants in charge of developing the Bills’ next quarterback?

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Grading the Jaguars


The league’s top-ranked rushing attack put up 155 yards on 34 carries. No surprise there. That Bortles gained 88 of those yards, however, did qualify as a major surprise. Whether they were on designed runs or scrambles, his ability to move the ball on the ground made the difference in the game. The best example of that came in the fourth quarter, when he fumbled a shotgun snap, only to pick it up and run for a first down to convert a second and 15. “He made some big plays in critical situations when he needed to and that was the difference in the game for us,” Alexander said of Bortles’ running.


At least he didn’t throw an interception. That’s the best you can say about Bortles as a passer Sunday. If the Bills have the worst set of wideouts in the NFL, the Jaguars might be next. Rookie Dede Westbrook had five catches for 48 yards. He was the only one to show any signs of life. Backup tight end Ben Koyack made a nice catch for the only touchdown of the game.


Ah, memories. Marcell Dareus was announced as “Mr. Big Stuff” after stopping McCoy for a 2-yard loss. Dareus started for just the second time since coming to Jacksonville and finished with four tackles. Linebacker Telvin Smith had 11 tackles and a forced fumble. “We bend but don’t break,” linebacker Myles Jack said. “We might give up a field goal every once in a while, but we’re not giving up seven.”


Jalen Ramsey made a strong case for being considered the best cornerback in the NFL. He drew the offensive pass interference, then sealed the win with an interception of Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. “I took a read step and as soon as he threw it I broke on it,” Ramsey said of the pick. Defensive end Calais Campbell was a force. He didn’t get a sack, but finished with four quarterback hits. Jack did have a bad missed tackle in coverage against Mike Tolbert.


Punter Brad Nortman flipped the field with a 62-yard punt in the first half. He punted nine times, averaging 42.0 net yards. Nortman’s coverage unit bailed him out a couple times late in the game by getting downfield quickly. Josh Lambo hit a 44-yard field goal to tie the game by halftime. He is 20 of 21 on field goals with the Jaguars. Smith committed the offside that gave the Bills a first down at the Jaguars’ 1-yard line, but got bailed out by the defense.


Doug Marrone stayed true to form, punting twice from Buffalo territory. It’s good to know some things never change. The play call on the Koyack touchdown took some guts. Marrone won a challenge when he noticed that Bills tight end Charles Clay had stepped out of bounds before making a first-down catch.

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