The Bills hadn't thrown a deep pass all day. They have one of the best deep receivers in the game but the Jaguars were playing their time-honored "Cover Two" defense for the purpose of denying the deep ball, and the strategy had been wildly successful, until 4:27 remained in the game.
All of a sudden, on a third-and-six play in which the Jaguars expected quarterback Trent Edwards to dump another swing pass to one of his running backs, Edwards instead went deep to Evans. The play covered 37 yards to the Jaguars' seven-yard line and led to the game-winner one play later, a beautiful seven-yard touchdown toss by Edwards to rookie receiver James Hardy.
What happened? Why, all of a sudden, were the Bills able to get deep?
It shouldn't have been as easy as it looked. The Jaguars were in "Cover Two." Cornerback Drayton Florence was in press coverage against Evans at the line of scrimmage and safety Gerald Sensabaugh had coverage over the top. It's supposed to work like a pincer movement. Evans is supposed to get squeezed between the defenders. In this case, however, Evans had a lot of room to haul in the pass before he stepped out of bounds.
"Little too much time (to throw), little too much space over there," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
Evans' catch was the big play of the game. Yeah, Hardy caught the game-winner, but it was Evans who broke the Jaguars' back.
It left Del Rio to lament all of the third downs the Jaguars didn't convert and all of the third downs the Bills did convert. That's the difference in the game. That's why Buffalo won. They converted six of 11 third downs compared to the Jaguars' two of 11.
Edwards had a Peyton Manning look about him. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and a 119.8 passer rating. Edwards started the game by driving 82 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. It wasn't until 6:34 remained in the first half that Edwards threw an incompletion.
Each week, we gather more evidence that the NFL is a big-play league. The Jaguars thought they made the big play in the third quarter when, after a touchdown drive tied the game at 10-10, they attempted and recovered an onside kick. The game was theirs for the taking. They just couldn't take it. They had to settle for a field goal.
"We had a chance to take control on that drive in the third quarter," Del Rio said. "Not enough to be happy on Sunday night, so we'll take our lumps."
Their lumps now number two. In a season most thought would send the Jaguars to new heights, they have quickly sunk to unimagined depths. They are 0-2 and next up is a trip to Indianapolis. No more analysis is required.
What to do? That's simple: Find a way to convert on third down and make big plays. The Bills were able to make a big play when they needed one. The Jaguars' longest pass-completion was 15 yards.
David Garrard is going to take the fall for this one. That's a quarterback's job. He accepts as much in exchange for cashing the big check each week.
In this case, the blame is deserved. He made a horrible throw at the end of the first half; cost his team a field goal, at the least. Also, as mentioned, the third-down conversion rate is abysmal.
What if, however, Garrard was throwing to Lee Evans? That was the difference in Sunday's game. The Jaguars just couldn't find a way to make a play downfield and it has spilled over into the Jags' vaunted running game. The Bills held Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to 66 yards rushing combined.
It's become a weekly thing. Taylor and Jones-Drew haven't combined for 100 yards in a game since before the playoff win in Pittsburgh. Why? Because opponents are crowding the line of scrimmage and daring the Jaguars to throw. The Bills repeatedly left Jaguars receivers in single coverage.
"A good team has got to put it away there," Del Rio said, referring to the field goal drive following the onside kick.
Yeah, that's when you need someone to make a big play.