The Jacksonville Jaguars drove to the Buffalo Bills’ 1-yard line, then had star running back Leonard Fournette ejected for fighting, then had the go-ahead touchdown nullified by a penalty, then missed a field goal attempt on the way to a seventh consecutive loss.
And Jalen Ramsey had the nerve to call the Bills’ quarterback “trash”?
Bills rookie Josh Allen, dragged by the Jaguars’ All-Pro cornerback in a GQ Magazine article published in August, returned from a monthlong injury absence to lead Buffalo to a 24-21 victory against Jacksonville on Sunday at New Era Field.
The most important takeaway from a sloppy game between NFL also-rans that entered the day with matching 3-7 records: Allen’s throwing arm appeared perfectly healthy after he missed the previous four games with a strained right elbow. Allen completed 8 of 19 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown and an 89.8 passer rating. He added a game-high and quarterback franchise-record 99 rushing yards and another score on 13 carries.
But the most satisfying aspect of this victory, the Bills’ second in a row?
It might have been Ramsey chasing his Thanksgiving dinner with a heaping helping of crow.
The Jags' talented cornerback, who didn't back away from his "trash" comment this week, had an interception wiped out by his own penalty for illegal contact late in the second quarter and then had the gall to point at the Bills' sideline and call other players "trash."
To his credit, Ramsey patted Allen on the helmet and shook his hand after the game in a show of good sportsmanship.
But he followed that up by blowing kisses to the crowd as he left the field while being booed, and stopped short of saying his assessment of Allen had changed.
“The good thing about the world we live in is everybody can have an opinion. And, um, you know, I stick by my opinions, usually,” Ramsey said in the postgame locker room, not quite retracting his insult. “He hurt us with his feet. He did enough for their team to get a win. That’s really what matters at the end of the day, so it doesn’t matter what I said or anything like that. I’m sure that’s what he was thinking on his side. It doesn’t matter. People have opinions every day. They can have opinions, but it’s about what you go out there and do, what he went out there and did for their team is get a win, so, you can’t really say anything about it.”
So, yes, still trash?
“That’s not what I said,” Ramsey said, dodging a direct answer by resorting to “next question, next question.”
But this was bigger than one loudmouth player whose team failed to back up his bravado.
Remember, this is the same Jaguars franchise that dispatched the Bills in the first round of the playoffs last season.
The one that traded haymakers with Pittsburgh and went toe-to-toe with New England and nearly advanced to the Super Bowl.
The one helmed by former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who chose to walk out rather than work for new owners Kim and Terry Pegula within the structure they created.
The one that traded for former Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, the third overall pick in 2011, now little more than a role player on running downs and inactive because of a back injury in his return to Western New York.
“I just want to win football games,” said Allen, who won for the third time in six starts. “There was a lot of trash talking before and after, but ultimately my job is to go out there and help this team win football games. And I did a good enough job of that tonight with the help of my team, and I can’t speak enough about those guys.”
Allen connected on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster, the longest by a Bills rookie quarterback in franchise history, to stake the Bills to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Allen also rushed for the go-ahead score in the fourth, a 14-yard gallop for a 21-14 lead after a brawl resulted in ejections for Fournette and Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson. It was Allen’s fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
A “trash” quarterback? A “stupid” draft pick, as Ramsey asserted?
“Josh is a baller,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “They can say whatever they want to say about Josh. Jalen can say whatever he wants to say about Josh. But Josh came in there and handled that defense today.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott praised Allen for his performance, offering an appropriately measured assessment.
“I love the fire,” McDermott said. “He personifies Buffalo, right? He’s a hard worker, blue-collar kid and loves to compete. He’s still young, so again, let’s manage expectations. It was a good start for him.”
And that’s true. Eight completions are less than inspiring.
But it’s also true that Allen is the clearest example that these are franchises heading in opposite directions.
Allen has all the tools to develop into the franchise quarterback the Bills hope he can be, whereas Blake Bortles, in his fifth season, continues to prove himself a middling option at best. The Jags’ QB finished 12 of 23 for 127 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 46.8 passer rating.
The most encouraging or concerning numbers on this day, depending on your viewpoint, are on spreadsheets in the general managers’ offices.
The Bills are poised to build a team around their promising young quarterback, projected to enter the offseason with more than $91 million in salary cap space, the third-most in the NFL, according to overthecap.com.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, are looking at a tear down. Jacksonville GM David Caldwell, a Buffalo native, has to contend with a roster that’s projected to be nearly $10 million over the cap, as currently constructed.
McDermott called the Jaguars “probably the most talented team we’ll face all season, maybe in the NFL” and did so again after Sunday's victory.
And on paper, he may have an argument. But in practice, they’ve been balled up and tossed aside.
There’s a word for that, Jalen.