Jacksonville Advances to Divisional Round Behind Dominant Defensive Performance

-Zack Marseglia

Sacksonville is a real place. It is a place where offenses go to die, and a quarterbacks nightmare becomes reality. Led by Calais Campbell, the Jags became one of the stingiest defenses in all of football. The defense however, is hardly a one-man show. Four players recorded at least eight sacks on their way to a team total of fifty-five sacks. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye form one of, if not the best cornerback duos in the NFL. In their wild-card matchup against the Bills, the star-studded defense was almost perfect. Jacksonville harassed Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo wide receivers constantly throughout the afternoon. When Taylor found open receivers, he was inaccurate. Just as it appeared Buffalo would rip the momentum away, the Jaguars defense smashed Buffalo in the mouth and turned them away. Buffalo finished the day 7/18 on third down, but could not move the ball into Jacksonville territory.

As figured, this game did not feature any offense whatsoever. Both teams struggled to move the ball, and Bortles reminded everyone why he is a wildcard for the Jaguars. Bortles finished with a mere 87 yards passing, and completed just 12 passes on the afternoon. However, his legs kept the Jags alive. He ran for a career-high 88 yards and converted some crucial third downs with his legs down the stretch to earn the win at home.

The first half ended deadlocked at 3-3. Aside from Buffalo blowing an offside penalty on a field goal attempt that left them in a first and goal situation, the first half yielded little excitement. Each defense was locked in, coming up with clutch third down stops, and limited big plays. Out of a combined twelve drives, there were nine punts, a pick, and two field goals.

The story continued in the second half, with the first two drive resulting in punts. Finally, the Jags broke through. Led by Blake Bortles legs, the Jags drove 86 yards on 15 plays, chewing up 8:52 of clock. The drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to tight end Ben Koyack. The lead was 10-3, and that was all the Jags would need. The defense strangled the Bills offense, who only managed 71 yards on 25 plays after the Jags score. With the Bills season on life support, Tyrod Taylor began marching down the field with under two minutes remaining. However, a shot to the head would take him out of the game, and rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman entered the game with a chance to have his name carved out in Buffalo history. On his first play, a 4th and 3 from the Bills 44, Nathan Peterman scrambled left for four yards and picked up the first down. On the next play, Peterman completed a fourteen-yard pass to Deonte Thompson. Just as Bills fans were beginning to feel hope, Jalen Ramsey ended all doubts. The 6’2” second-year corner broke hard on a curl route, deflected the pass, tracked it, and then made a diving interception to end the game. The first playoff win since 2007, the Jags return to Pittsburgh, the site of the 2007 playoff win, for the divisional round next weekend. The Steelers look to advance to the Conference Championship for just the second time since 2010.