EJ’s Meltdown Leads to Bills’ 34-31 Loss to Jaguars

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London finally got a close and wacky game from the NFL, but it only took 3 plays for the Buffalo Bills to find trouble.

In a game that had tons of wacky twists and two teams trying to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, the Buffalo Bills wound up on the short end, losing 34-31 at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Buffalo’s backup quarterback, EJ Manuel, had a rough second quarter, to put it nicely. Manuel had a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown on consecutive plays from scrimmage, then added another interception on the next drive, leading to another Jaguars touchdown. In a stretch of just 6 plays, Jacksonville was suddenly up 27-3.

With Manuel unraveling in front of everyone, the Bills could’ve just gave up. Instead, Manuel got his team some momentum heading into halftime. Following a strong defensive stand by the Bills on their 1-yard line, Buffalo seized the momentum to score 28 unanswered points. Bills safety Corey Graham returned an interception for a touchdown to take the 31-27 lead.

But then it was Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’s time to bounce back. Bortles led Jacksonville to a late touchdown with 2:16 left to play. Buffalo had a chance to make magic one last time, but a Manuel pass was tipped incomplete on a 4th-and-2.

Here are some postgame notes regarding Buffalo’s loss in London:

  • Manuel was given a chance to show up former Bills coach Doug Marrone (now the Jaguars’ offensive line coach) and beat Marrone’s new team. But in a span of four minutes (including commercials), Manuel came undone, with 3 ghastly turnovers that led to 20 points for Jacksonville and a 27-3 deficit for Buffalo. Manuel did bounce back from this horrible stretch, but the foundation for a loss was set. However, when Manuel did bounce back, he was still his inconsistent self. Some passes were immaculate, followed by some turf-touching or high-sailing passes. Manuel did do enough to aid the Bills in coming back in this game, but this loss will be credited to him. If those bad decisions that got picked off aren’t thrown, Buffalo would’ve had this game won.
  • I never use the referees as an excuse. Go ahead, check the other postgame writeups, I’ll wait. For the first time, I will say something about the officials.
    • Good lord, that pass interference call on Bills cornerback Nickell Robey could not have been more wrong. Robey was not even contacting Jaguars wideout Bryan Walters when Walters fell over, Robey was merely trying to catch the football. However, Robey was flagged, and Jacksonville used the new set of downs to win the game. That blown call will get that referee crew docked by the NFL officials’ review. Many analysts were disagreeing with the call, especially Rich Gannon (color commentary for CBS/Yahoo!/OMG we’re streaming a game on Yahoo!).
  • Yes, Manuel deserves a heavy amount of blame for this loss. However, the defense doesn’t get out of this either. Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon silently had 115 yards rushing and a touchdown, constantly turning should-be losses into big gains. And with all of the momentum and finally having the lead, the defense didn’t get that one last stop they needed. Coaches Rex Ryan and Greg Roman need some attention too.
    • Ryan called two heavy blitzes that resulted in touchdowns for Bortles, almost trying too hard to make up for last week’s game plan. Despite the added blitzing, Bortles was sacked just twice and pressured into an interception just once.
    • Roman’s last 2 play calls were… baffling, to say the least. A QB sneak with Manuel didn’t work on 3rd-and-1. Then, Roman decided to roll Manuel out to the left. Small problem, Manuel, as a right-handed passer, isn’t as accurate rolling to this left, like many NFL QBs in that same circumstance. The call leads to a floater that gets tipped and seals the game on 4th down.
  • Give credit to this Bills squad where you can: They were without six starters in quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin, offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and John Miller, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and as well as reserve running back Karlos Williams. With a banged-up team and their world crashing down after Jacksonville took a 27-3 lead, this Bills team could’ve just laid down and took the blowout. However, Buffalo kept fighting, a consistent theme with several of their games this season. Bash this team if you must, but give them credit for not rolling over like several Bills teams of the past 15 years would have.
  • This loss was frustrating, for sure. But props to Joe Buscaglia of WKBW-TV for making Bills Twitter absolutely hilarious all throughout.

WHAT’S NEXT: Bills fans are going to have this bad taste in their mouths for a while. Buffalo (3-4, 1-1 AFC East) drops to last place in the AFC East. However, they will get a bye week to rest up and recover from both injuries and this infuriating loss. When they return to action on November 8th, they host the re-invigorated Miami Dolphins (3-3, 0-2 AFC East) at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where Buffalo will look to improve their 1-3 record at home.

Keep it locked here on Better Live Than Dead Sports for more on your Buffalo Bills!

Written by Derek Kramer

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