JACKSONVILLE — There's no need for crying after this one. The Bills went as far as they could this season. They broke a 17-year playoff drought, brought unanticipated joy to a long-suffering fan base, and scared the daylights out of a heavily favored Jacksonville team on Sunday afternoon at EverBank Stadium.
They left it all out there. McCoy played on a sore ankle. Richie Incognito, Tre'Davious White, Charles Clay and Micah Hyde all suffered injuries. They all came back. Hyde left again after suffering a head injury.
Tyrod Taylor had a rough day and left after being slammed to the turf by Dante Fowler on a third-down play with about a minute to play — leaving it to Nathan Peterman to finish an ultimately futile final drive.
But in the end, their multiple shortcomings on offense caught up to them. Taylor and the offense couldn't generate any big plays against the NFL's second-rated defense and fell to the Jaguars, 10-3, in an unsightly and physically punishing AFC wild-card loss.
They had their chances. The question was which Blake Bortles would show up, the good one or the bad one. The Bortles who took the field for his first playoff game was worse than imagined, a nervous wreck who struggled to complete simple screen passes for the Jags and failed to complete a pass over 11 yards in the first half.
But Bortles played well enough after halftime. With the passing game ineffective, he made some key plays with his legs. Who would have thought that a running QB would be the difference in a playoff game, and that it wouldn't be Tyrod?
Bortles ran nine times for 89 yards, which was two more yards that he generated with his throwing arm and easily the most of any Jags runner. His biggest carry was an 18-yard scramble that got the Jags into the red zone on a drive in the third quarter.
The Jags eventually got a first-and-goal and failed to get into the end zone on three running plays. But they went on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and Nathaniel Hackett dialed up a gutsy pass play on fourth. Bortles delivered a perfect throw to tight end Ben Koyack for the TD, making it 10-3.
The Bills didn't have enough answers. Taylor, who rarely brings the Bills from behind on the road, went 17-for-37 passing for 134 yards, with one interception. That's a miserable 3.6 per attempt.
With a chance to prove himself as a franchise quarterback on the national stage, he played one of his typically uninspiring games, making safe throws to tight ends and backs and making few throws to his wide receivers.
Taylor had won just one road game in his Buffalo career when he had to throw 30 passes. So when the Bills fell behind by seven, it didn't look very promising. He overthrew an open Zay Jones on one play. And when he scrambled to find Charles Clay for a key first down, replay showed that Clay had stepped out of bounds before the catch.
On the next play, Taylor held the ball and got sacked. Colton Schmidt was called on for his seventh punt, giving the Jags the ball back at their own 20 with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter. At that point, you figured the Bills would need to take the ball away to get back in it.
That's how they won games early in the year, after all, by getting huge turnovers, sometimes for TDs, when they were giving up big yardage. But the Jaguars never turned it over. The Bills were fortunate to get in the playoffs, but they didn't get much luck on Sunday.
Bortles dropped the snap on second-and-long with 4:40 left, but picked it up and scrambled left for a first down. That gave him a career-high 89 rushing yards. His previous high had been 81 against the Bills in Buffalo last season.
Taylor had two more chances. The Bills stopped the Jags and got the ball back at their 34 after a punt. Taylor missed McCoy on first down. Given lots of time, he missed Deonte Thompson deep down the right side. On third-and-10, he made a solid throw to Zay Jones, but the rookie couldn't hold it.
The Jags were content to run three times in a row after a punt, so Taylor and the offense had one final chance to save the season. After a second straight short punt by Brad Nortman, the Bills took over at their 37-yard line with 1:51 left and no timeouts left.
Taylor's first pass was knocked down by Malik Jackson. He dumped off left to Clay for 5. On third-and-5, he couldn't find anyone open and was slammed to the ground by Dante Fowler, hurting his head in the process. He was on the turf for several minutes before getting up and giving way to Nathan Peterman.
Peterman scrambled for a first down, and replays showed fumbled. But they played on. He was called for intentional grounding while in the grasp on the next play. On second-and-20 after a loss of down, Peterman threw for Thompson and it was picked off by Jalen Ramsey.
So in a surreal ending to an amazing eight days, the Bills' season ended with Peterman throwing an interception. Reality caught up with them, a week late.