JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 9-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills in a 2021 Week 9 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville
The Jaguars showed up and showed out against a Bills squad that is expected to compete for the AFC Championship. Head Coach Urban Meyer had the team ready to play and it showed, particularly on defense. Defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen led a unit that forced three turnovers and held a white-hot Bills offense to just 301 total yards. Although the Jaguars' offense only mustered nine points and 218 yards, the unit made enough plays – particularly on fourth down – to get the job done. Overall, it was a gritty effort from the Jaguars and should give the team a little confidence boost going forward.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The defense's stellar performance sparked the Jaguars' win. Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen cooked up a masterpiece with a game plan that featured a variety of blitzes, zone pressures and traditional coverage from multiple looks to disrupt the rhythm and timing of the Bills' offense. The Jaguars' ever-changing defensive looks kept Bills quarterback Josh Allen from settling in while his Jaguars namesake was making plays all over the field. With the Jaguars' Allen wreaking havoc (eight tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery), the defense set up scoring opportunities for the offense while also slamming the door on the Bills in the red zone. While the offense must play better to win games against top teams, the unit did just enough against the Bills to chalk up a big win at home.
Ignore Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence's pedestrian stat line (completed 15 of 26 passes for 118 yards without a touchdown or interception) and focus on his toughness, leadership skills and intelligence as a young QB1. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft earned high marks in each of those areas with his solid performance against the Bills. Lawrence returned to the game after sustaining a sprained ankle to lead the Jaguars to the win against one of the best teams in the league. Although the rookie played it safe most of the game to preserve the win, the improved management skills and situational awareness suggest he knows how to win and prioritize wins over stats as a franchise quarterback.
Jaguars defensive lineman Taven Bryan probably played the best game of his short career against the Bills. The first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft was a disruptive force on the interior with a pair of sacks and consistent penetration at the point of attack. Bryan's production was a nice surprise for a unit that has been looking for a complementary playmaker to help Josh Allen along the front line.
It is hard to get excited over a 200-yard performance from an offense that generated only nine points, but the unit deserves kudos for avoiding costly mistakes in a big game. With the defense playing well and controlling the game, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell opted for a conservative strategy that put the ball in the hands of veteran running back Carlos Hyde to secure the victory. The 21-carry, 67-yard effort was enough to keep the ball out of Bills quarterback Josh Allen's hands. Considering the Bills are unable to score without the football, the Jaguars' keep-away offense might have been their best defense on Sunday.
This is the game that Cullen has been awaiting since taking over the defense in the offseason. The grizzled defensive play-caller pulled out all the stops to slow a Bills offense that has been torching opponents behind the strong play of their quarterback. The Jaguars mixed pressure with some traditional coverage to take away some of the easy throws on the perimeter. In addition, the decision to align the safeties to discourage deep throws also helped the Jaguars contain the Bills' offense. With the constant change frustrating Allen due to the lack of flow and rhythm to his offense, the Jaguars were able to pull off an impressive victory against a strong team at home.