Bills keep playoff hopes alive, beat Jags 34-18
With his job security in question and the Bills playoff hopes dim at best, the quarterback helped Buffalo deliver one of its most complete performances of the season. Despite finishing the game minus his two top receivers, Fitzpatrick directed the offense to score points on five consecutive drives in 34-18 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Bills (5-7) won for only the third time in eight games to stay mathematically in contention.
"We have a lot of belief in our locker room, and we are not in the most ideal situation. But we lose today's game, and we know we're out of it," Fitzpatrick said. "We felt like this was one we should win, and needed to win."
They did it in resilient fashion after losing five regulars to injuries, and in sloppy conditions — with a persistent drizzle falling for much of the afternoon.
Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard run. Fred Jackson had 109 yards rushing, and C.J. Spiller scored on a 44-yard touchdown run to provide a spark to an injury-depleted offense that was already missing No. 2 receiver Donald Jones (calf).
The injuries then mounted as leading receiver Stevie Johnson (left hamstring), starting center Eric Wood (left knee) and starting right tackle Chris Hairston (right ankle) all couldn't finish the game.
The Bills also got a boost from a Mario Williams-led defense that forced two turnovers, had four sacks, stopped the Jaguars on all three fourth-down attempts and allowed just 236 yards.
"I'm not worried about a month ago," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said, when reminded of how many games the Bills had squandered. "Obviously, yes, we wish we could've played this well earlier. But the only thing I can control is what's in front of me."
The Jaguars (2-10) played the role of pushover in failing to carry over much momentum a week after they ended a seven-game skid with a 24-19 win over Tennessee.
"We did take a step back," quarterback Chad Henne said. "It was poor execution on our part."
After going 33 of 59 for 615 yards and six TDs in his past two games, Henne struggled against Buffalo. He finished 18 of 41 for 208 yards passing. He lost a fumble, after being stripped by Mario Williams, and also threw a game-ending interception that was picked off by safety Jairus Byrd.
Henne scored on a 1-yard run, and also connected with Cecil Shorts III for a 5-yard touchdown a play after Bills backup punt-returner Justin Rodgers fumbled a punt inside his own 10 early in the fourth quarter.
Otherwise, the Jaguars had difficulty moving the ball. After Henne scored to put them ahead 10-7 with 3:47 left in the second quarter, the Jaguars managed just five first downs on their next four possessions, which ended with a lost fumble, a failed fourth-down conversion and two punts.
The Bills went ahead for good with 1:56 left in the second quarter when Fitzpatrick hit tight end Scott Chandler for an 11-yard touchdown.
Mario Williams' forced fumble, which he recovered at the Jaguars 14 set up Rian Lindell's 29-yard field goal. Fitzpatrick then opened the second half by capping an eight-play, 57-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
Fitzpatrick had entered the game having managed just three touchdown passes in his previous four outings.
"Football is not a game about numbers. It's about wins and trying to go out and play better than the other team," Fitzpatrick said. "Not a lot of people want to come and play that game especially as a quarterback in terms of the wind, the rain, whatever. Those are the games that we've got to win."
The loss spoiled first-year Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey's first trip to Buffalo since he abruptly resigned after two seasons as Bills coach in January 2006.
"I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to make it a game," Mularkey said. "I thought after the last two weeks, we were really making progress."
Instead, the Jaguars remain in jeopardy of their worst season in 18 years — dating to their 4-12 finish in 1995, their first year in the NFL.
It wasn't a sweet homecoming for linebacker Paul Posluszny, even though the former Bills player had an interception.
"We came up very short," Posluszny said. "If we would've fought as hard as we could and played our best ball and lost, that's one thing. But that was not the case."
Injuries also caught up with the Jaguars.
Already playing without running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), the Jaguars lost his backup Rashad Jennings (concussion), who sustained a head injury early in the second quarter.
Shorts scored on a 5-yard catch before leaving the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Fitzpatrick and Johnson have combined for 22 touchdowns, moving into a tie for fourth on the team list in joining Jim Kelly and Pete Metzelaars. ... Chandler's touchdown was his sixth of the season, matching the team's single-season record for tight ends shared by himself (2011), Metzelaars (1992) and Jay Riemersma (1998). ... The Jaguars squandered a chance to score 20 points in three straight games for the first time since a four-game streak in 2010.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.