BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The Buffalo Bills (5-9) are not going to get any overwhelming praise for winning against the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) Sunday. Their win came against a team that still ranks among the league’s worst, and even so it didn’t come easily, requiring two late holds by the Buffalo defense to preserve a 27-20 advantage.
Nonetheless, any win is a good win at this point in the season for the Buffalo Bills.
It may not mean much in the grand scheme of things — if anything, it only hurts their draft position as they have been officially eliminated from the playoffs as of today — but it does build momentum for a young team who had lost all of it with back-to-back losses against the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For a team with a first-year coaching staff, a rookie quarterback and many other young, developing players on both sides of the ball, the key word to the end of the season is progress.
Most importantly, that progress needed to be shown on the offensive side of the ball, and the Bills did that Sunday.
Manuel gets the offense back on track
It has been an up-and-down season for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, but he had one of his most promising games of the year Sunday. Though he only threw for 193 yards, he completed 17 of 24 passing attempts, added 37 rushing yards on 10 attempts and had three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was the resiliency he showed in the second quarter to bounce back from a horrendous first-quarter performance. He completed just two of seven passing attempts in the first quarter, and that does not even include a horribly thrown screen pass out of bounds that was ruled a fumble, and a deep incompletion on which a hold was called against right tackle Erik Pears.
With his resilience to bounce back come rhythm, as he completed 15 of his last 17 passes and looked comfortable throwing the ball downfield. He did have one significant error when he lost a fumble on a sack by Jaguars strong safety Winston Guy, and that fumble was recovered by Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. Otherwise, he did a good job of standing tall in the pocket, recognizing when he could leave the pocket to take advantage of running lanes and spreading the ball around with smart decisions and on-target passes.
It wasn’t all about Manuel, however, as Buffalo got many players involved offensively in this game.
Woods, Summers step up
Running back Fred Jackson ran hard throughout the game and finished the day with 80 rushing yards on 17 attempts. C.J. Spiller was more inconsistent, continuing to get shut down often in the backfield, but did break some double-digit gains to finish the day with 67 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
One of the biggest standouts Sunday was wide receiver Robert Woods, who put his abilities to get open and make consistent hands catches on display. He made two very impressive leaping grabs extending away from his body, and got open for a seven-yard touchdown, on a day in which he totaled five receptions for a season-high 82 yards.
The most pleasant surprise of the day offensively might have been fullback Frank Summers, who has started to take on the role that had been filled by Tashard Choice prior to his release earlier this month. Summers gained some tough yardage as a runner and made plays as a receiver out of the backfield, including scoring what ended up being a game-winning, one-yard touchdown reception.
All in all, the Bills offense should be happy with its play Sunday. An offense that has struggled to sustain drives all year tied its season-high with 25 first downs, put up its third-highest scoring total with 27 points and its fourth-most total yards with 366.
One area where the Bills offense still has yet to show progress, however, is in killing the clock late in the game.