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Jaguars to meet Steelers after edging Bills

Blake Bortles led the way as the Jacksonville Jaguars topped the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's wildcard clash.

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08 Jan 2018, 03:18 IST
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Blake Bortles

The Jacksonville Jaguars prevailed in a low-scoring wildcard clash, defeating the Buffalo Bills 10-3 in the NFL playoffs.

Jacksonville's passing game was not working, so Blake Bortles decided to use his legs on Sunday, running for 88 yards to lead the Jaguars at EverBank Field.

The Jaguars will now face the Pittsburgh Steelers in next week's AFC divisional round, while the Tennessee Titans travel to reigning Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots.

"When we got beat by Tennessee last week, I didn't run at all," Bortles, who threw for only 87 yards, told CBS Sports. "We weren't sharp, but found a way to win and that's all that matters."

The Jaguars offense could not get anything going until Bortles scrambled for a 20-yard run to the Bills 33-yard line with 32 seconds remaining in the first half.

That helped set up a game-tying field goal as the teams entered half-time locked at 3-3. 

Jacksonville's touchdown drive was a 15-play, 86-yard match that took nearly nine minutes and had 12 running plays. It ended with a one-yard play-action pass to reserve tight end Ben Koyack on fourth-and-goal. 

 

INJURIES HAMPERED THE BILLS

Buffalo lost defensive backs Micah Hyde (concussion) and Tre'Davious White (cramps) in the second half. The Jaguars were able to take advantage of the short-handed Bills. After picking up just 84 yards of total offense in the first half, with only 33 passing yards by Bortles, the Jaguars gained 146 yards in the second half. 

While running back LeSean McCoy rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries, he was not at 100 per cent because of an ankle injury suffered in the regular-season finale in Miami. Without their best player at his best and lacking a true number one receiver, the Bills simply did not have enough to beat the AFC's best defense. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was just 17 of 38 for 134 yards and an interception as Buffalo's leading receiver was McCoy with six receptions for 44 yards. 

As the Bills were attempting their comeback, Taylor's head hit the turf as he was tackled while scrambling on third down with 1:17 remaining. Nathan Peterman replaced Taylor on fourth-and-three and completed a 14-yard pass to Deonte Thompson. An intentional grounding penalty on the next play was followed by a Jalen Ramsey interception. 

 

MCDERMOTT IS BUILDING A CONTENDER

The Bills went through a complete overhaul this season and it should pay dividends in the future. First-year head coach Sean McDermott helped the Bills far surpass expectations as they ended the NFL's longest playoff drought, having made their first postseason appearance since 1999.

The Bills have one of the NFL's best running backs in McCoy, who was one of Buffalo's three Pro Bowl selections. Taylor is among the NFL's best in terms of ball security. Taylor does not lose games and the Bills have already begun putting young weapons around Taylor. The Bills will have to find a top-flight receiver this offseason, but they have a solid defense that can be the foundation for an AFC contender. What the Bills need to do is build a roster designed to unseat the Patriots in the AFC East. That has to be the top priority. 

 

JAGUARS' PLAYOFF RUN ENDS IN DIVISIONAL ROUND

While the Jaguars played great defense on Sunday, their offense was too inconsistent to win another playoff game. The Steelers have too many weapons for the Jaguars to keep up. While the Jaguars have the NFL's second-best defense, the Steelers have the league's fifth-ranked unit. 

The Jaguars should not count on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger making the same mistakes he did in October. It will be a motivated Steelers team ready to prove that 30-9 loss was a fluke. 

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