Here’s what we learned …
1. Yes, this was a nail-biting win against a Bills team without their starting quarterback and top two wideouts, but Jaguars owner Shad Khan likely won’t look at it that way. A dominant first half in London — and, really, a diving touchdown catch to re-take the lead in the fourth quarter — was likely well-attended by the kind of investors and power players that can truly influence a team looking to make dual citizenship work.
2. Blake Bortles — arguably one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL over the last few weeks — started the game well but faded in a dangerous way for large stretches. The positive takeaway is that he’s navigating the pocket like a 10-year veteran and effectively using his legs. The game-winning touchdown pass was perfect. The negative is that a dangerous pick-six nearly cost Jacksonville the game, and that outside of a few drops, Bortles was letting his improving mechanics slip a bit against an opportunistic defense.
3. The Jaguars talked all week about closing games, and Sunday’s win was another example of a young team still learning to keep their foot on the gas. After a 27-point second quarter, games like these should be cemented, especially with Jacksonville getting the ball to start the second half. Maybe this unique scenario is on Toby Gerhart, who failed to punch the ball in from a yard out in four tries, but that wasn’t their only gaffe. Still, watching the sidelines erupt after stopping the Bills on fourth down was fun. These are a bunch of 23 and 24 year olds figuring it out together.
— Conor Orr
Manuel crumbled early on Sunday with a trio of turnovers that paved the way for Jacksonville to build a daunting 27-3 lead. Over three drives and just eight plays, the fill-in signal-caller lost a sack-fumble deep in Bills territory that pass rusher Chris Clemons turned into a Jaguars touchdown. On the first play of the next possession — just seven seconds later — Manuel unfurled a ridiculous lob into the arms of linebacker Telvin Smith for the pick six. One series later, EJ was intercepted by linebacker Paul Posluszny.
The second half was a different story, though, with Manuel guiding the Bills to a late fourth-quarter lead. That had plenty to do with Bortles and the Jaguars offense vanishing into oblivion for long stretches of time.
What a mix of good and bad: Manuel tossed a pretty 57-yard touchdown strike to wideout Marcus Easley, but the box score won’t show that Smith dropped another potential pick in the end zone. The Bills passer deserves credit for generating points with so many skill players injured, but he’s responsible for too many overthrows and ill-fated plays. It was a resilient effort, but Tyrod Taylor remains the better option.
5. Buffalo’s sagging pass rush was under fire all week after Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus questioned Rex Ryan’s beloved scheme. Facing a player in Bortles who moves so well out of the pocket, Williams and friends tallied just two sacks and one additional quarterback hit. The D-line drew its share of holding penalties, but that’s not what Ryan was hired for. That said, this Bills defense eliminated the Jaguars for much of the game.
6. With only four active wideouts, Buffalo’s injury-riddled offense hoped to lean hard on running back LeSean McCoy. With the Jaguars up 34-3 at one stage, Shady had run for just 33 yards at 2.5 yards per carry. He finished with 68 yards on the day, but cost the team with a fourth-quarter fumble at the goal line. Manuel’s early haze of errors buried any hopes of a ground-oriented attack. That said, who expected a team missing Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Cyrus Kouandjio to put up 31 points.
— Marc Sessler