Bills Jaguars Football

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, left, is sacked by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, center, and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Stephen B. Morton

The season is over for the Buffalo Bills. 

Blake Bortles threw a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter and Jalen Ramsey intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the 10-3 win Sunday over the Bills in the AFC Wild Card round. 

With the Bills down 10-3, quarterback Tyrod Taylor was injured on the final drive of the game when his head hit the ground after being sacked. He was replaced by Nathan Peterman, who scrambled for a first down on the ensuing play.

But any hope of a comeback ended when Peterman threw an interception. Ramsey read the play and tipped the pass into the air. He dove and hauled in the pass. While replays showed the ball may have hit the ground, officials upheld the ruling on the field and the interception stood. 

A bright spot for the Bills was running back LeSean McCoy, who sprained his ankle in the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins and whose status was up in the air until late in the week. McCoy had 19 carries for 75 yards and six catches for 44 yards in the loss. 

While the Bills' season is over, the Jaguars advance to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional round. The winner of that game will secure a spot in the AFC championship game. 

Here is the Buffalo Bills wild card report card: 

GRADING THE UNITS

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks - F

For all the fans engaged in the Tyrod Taylor vs. Nathan Peterman debate, hopefully this game shows them why neither is the answer at quarterback if the Bills want to do more than be a one-and-done team in the playoffs. Taylor completed less than 50 percent of his passes and was mostly ineffective against the Jaguars' stingy defense. Outside of LeSean McCoy, no other Bills player had more than 23 receiving yards. The passing game was a liability for most of the season, and Sunday was no exception. 

Peterman had his opportunity late in the game when Taylor was injured. He made a good play to scramble for a first down, but the interception was reminiscent of a few of the bad throws he made against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was an easy read for Jalen Ramsey, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Ramsey made Peterman — and the Bills — pay. 

Running backs - B

It should surprise no one that even with a sprained ankle LeSean McCoy was the best offensive player for the Bills. Take away his production and this offense doesn't do anything against the Jaguars. He showed why he was the Bills' MVP this season. 

McCoy finished the game with 19 carries for 75 yards and six catches for 44 yards. He accounted for 45 percent of the Bills' total yards (the team had 263 total yards against the Jaguars) in the loss. 

What the Bills lacked in this game and all season was a capable backup. Mike Tolbert had four carries for 15 yards, but most of that total came on an 11-yard run. One area the Bills should address in the offseason is finding a good No. 2 running back to help carry the load with McCoy. 

Receivers - F

This is a product of the quarterback play. If your quarterbacks can't connect with the receivers, the receivers aren't going to have good performances. Kelvin Benjamin, who is nursing a knee injury, wasn't much of a factor. He was targeted on two plays deep in Jaguars' territory, but Taylor couldn't connect. Tight end Charles Clay had three catches for 15 yards, but his lack of awareness on what would have been a first down play cost the Bills. 

The Bills certainly need to bolster receiving corps. Benjamin and Deonte Thompson are good pieces. Zay Jones also showed flashes of brilliance. But they need to add a legitimate speed threat. Adding another good receiving running back could help take some pressure off the wideouts and tight ends, too. 

Offensive line - C+

It was an OK game for this unit, especially when you consider they were going up against one of the best defenses in the league. Taylor was sacked twice, but it's tough to pin 100 percent of the blame on the offensive line. They handled the blitz packages and pressure well and they did a decent job of run blocking against the front seven. McCoy got off to a slow start, but started finding some holes as the game progressed. 

DEFENSE

Defensive line - B

The defensive did a good job of pressuring Blake Bortles throughout the game. That started to hurt them as Bortles began to scramble for long gains, but the front four did what it was supposed to do. The stat sheet will show that the Jaguars had 155 rushing yards against the Bills, but Bortles accounted for 88 yards. The Bills did a good job of containing Leonard Fournette and forced Bortles to make plays on his own. It was a good defensive game plan. 

Kyle Williams had one tackle in what could be his final game as a member of the Buffalo Bills. 

Linebackers - A-

The Bills' linebackers had arguably one of their best games of the 2017 season. Entering Sunday's game, it was believed that the Jaguars would run the ball early and often against this porous run defense. But the Bills did a great job of containing Fournette, a contender for the rookie of the year award. Fournette was held to 21 carries for 57 yards. One of the plays of the game came when Preston Brown stuffed Fournette on a third-and-goal play. Fournette attempted to dive over the pile into the end zone, but Brown was there to wrap him up and push him back. 

Lorenzo Alexander was the Bills' best defensive player. He led the team with 10 tackles (seven solo), a sack and two tackles for a loss. After a relatively quiet season for Alexander, he produced in the Bills' wild card game. Brown deserves plenty of praise, too, for his effort. He had six tackles (four solo) and two tackles for a loss in the game. 

Defensive backs - A

The Bills' secondary, as they did all season, had an exceptional performance. Bortles had more rushing yards (88) than passing yards (87). Tre'Davious White nearly had an interception on a ball that seemed to be thrown right at him. Colt Anderson almost had an interception of his own on another poorly thrown pass by Bortles. The Bills couldn't get that much-needed turnover against the Jaguars. Bortles wasn't accurate, but he didn't make any serious errors. 

It will be interesting to see how the Bills build around its secondary next year. Adding depth at cornerback and safety will help, but this unit will remain together for the 2018 season. Given how well they played in 2017, that's a scary thought. If the Bills can strengthen its front seven, this defense will be a top tier unit next season. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicking and punting - B

Punter Colton Schmidt was busy against the Jaguars. He had eight punts and averaged 43.4 yards per kick. He pinned the Jaguars inside the 20 a whopping five times. A 55-yarder was his longest punt of the day. He ended up being a part of the game for the Bills. He had one bad punt, which hurt his overall average. But most of his punts were solid and helped the Bills flip the field. 

Steven Hauschka's lone field goal was a 31-yarder late in the second quarter. It wound up being the Bills' only points of the game. 

Returns and coverage - B+

With so many punts, there were plenty of opportunities for the coverage and return units in this game. 

Bills return specialist Brandon Tate had one kick return for 10 yards and five punt returns for 21 yards. He had a long punt return wiped out by a block in the back penalty. Tate had opportunities, but couldn't break off many long returns. 

The Bills did a great job of containing the Jaguars' returners. Jacksonville had zero kick returns and only returned two of Colton Schmidt's eight punts. The Jaguars only had two punt return yards against the Bills. Special teams is key, especially in playoff games. The Bills' unit had a great game against the Jaguars. 

COACHING

Grade: B-

Sean McDermott's staff did its job. The Bills were well-prepared for the Jaguars. Kudos to McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for the defensive game plan. The only knock on the defensive performance: The success Bortles had scrambling for big gains. The Bills didn't have an answer for it, which is a problem. The fluke play when Bortles fumbled the snap and still rushed for a first down was frustrating. It was hard to tell on the broadcast if the Bills spied Bortles or made any adjustments. The Bills gave up 155 rushing yards, but it's misleading. The front seven did a great job of containing Fournette and other Jaguars rushers. It was Bortles and his scrambling that proved to be the difference. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Rick Dennison was his old self. One of the worst play calls of the game came when he opted for a Mike Tolbert run on second-and-10. That's not a smart call, especially out of the shotgun. His play calling when the Bills had a chance to score late in the second quarter was also questionable. Instead of giving the ball to McCoy or even Tolbert, he opted for low percentage pass plays. 

The Bills should seriously explore replacing Dennison in the offseason, especially if they decide to bring in a new quarterback. He isn't the guy you want developing a young quarterback. Even if they stick with Tyrod Taylor, Dennison isn't the best coordinator for him. He can't utilize Taylor's strengths. 

OVERALL TEAM PERFORMANCE

Grade: B+

As ugly as it looked at times, the Bills had a shot to win this game. The defense was excellent. That unit kept the Bills in this game. But offensively, the Bills couldn't get anything going. It was good experience for this team, which had a rookie head coach and some players who haven't played in a playoff game. This is something they can build off of heading into the 2018 season. Now that they have gotten a taste of playoff football they will (or should) want more. 

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

OFFENSE: LeSean McCoy. Even with a sprained ankle, McCoy was up to his usual tricks. He had 119 total yards (75 rushing, 44 receiving) and was the Bills' best offensive player against the Jaguars. His best play was a long reception that was wiped out by a holding call on Deonte Thompson. He made the catch, then cut across the field for a big gain. But the penalty erased most of his catch-and-run. He made his share of plays against the stingy Jaguars defense. The Bills had chances to win this game because of McCoy, who was without question their offensive MVP this season. 

DEFENSE: Lorenzo Alexander. A great performance by Alexander, who led the Bills with 10 tackles (seven solo), a sack and two tackles for a loss. He was a force on the outside and against the run for the Bills. You want your players at the best in the playoffs. Alexander was at his best against the Jaguars. 

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

The offense. The Bills have plenty of pieces to build around, but they need to determine whether the current offensive coordinator and quarterback situation is what they want going forward. Rick Dennison didn't have a good season leading this offense. McDermott is a defensive-minded coach, so he defers to Dennison's judgment on offense. The Bills should consider an upgrade at that position. The same can be said for the quarterback position. Tyrod Taylor has his moments, but the game against the Jaguars showed that the Bills need a more effective passer in order to have a balanced attack. 

STAT OF THE GAME I

67. The number of rushing yards allowed by the Bills to Jaguars not named Blake Bortles. The Bills' run defense hasn't been strong, especially in the second half of the season. That wasn't the case Sunday. The Bills held Fournette to 57 rushing yards. 

STAT OF THE GAME II

88. Speaking of Blake Bortles, he had 88 rushing yards against the Bills. That was a game-high rushing yardage total. He had more rushing yards (88) than passing yards (87). Bortles didn't have a good game throwing the ball, but his running made a difference. And the Bills failed to stop his scrambling. 

HOT TAKE

The Bills have an interesting offseason ahead of them. They have plenty to build off of after this surprising 2017 season, but there are also many question marks. Will Tyrod Taylor return? Will the Bills draft a quarterback in the first round or will they acquire a quarterback from another team? The Bills went 9-7 this season and ended the franchise's 17-year playoff drought. They don't need a full rebuild or "tank." They should improve on this performance. 

NEXT GAME

The Bills' 2017 season is over. The next game will be in August when the Bills open the 2018 preseason. 

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