Has the shift in power in the AFC ever been more pronounced than on Saturday, when a second-year expansion team may have put the finishing touches on an era of dominance?
The Jacksonville Jaguars were gutsy, resourceful and patient in stunning the Buffalo Bills 30-27 in an NFL playoff game.
“We wanted to make a statement to the world,” said receiver Keenan McCardell, who made one of many big plays. “We wanted to say these Jaguars are pretty good and you’ve got to recognize us.”
Mike Hollis’ 45-yard field goal, his third of the game, was decisive. The kick, with 3:07 remaining, hit near the top of the right upright and went through, sending the second-year team into the divisional round next week, at either Denver or New England.
“I didn’t see it hit the upright. I was falling back,” said Hollis. “I saw it fade to the right … I thought it would go right in.”
Hollis is a graduate of Central Valley High School and the University of Idaho.
Ironically, the Jaguars got into the playoffs when Atlanta’s Morten Andersen, one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers, missed a 30-yard field goal last week.
The Bills, the AFC’s dominant team this decade with four Super Bowl appearances - and as many losses - for the first time lost a playoff game at Rich Stadium, where they were 9-0.
“Any time your season ends in a loss, you are disappointed,” receiver Steve Tasker said. “Losing a playoff game at home is something we are not used to. But I don’t think you can ever write this team off.”
Buffalo couldn’t handle Natrone Means, who rushed for 175 yards, or Mark Brunell, who improvised under constant pressure to hit Jimmy Smith and McCardell for big plays.
The biggest might have been an 11-yard third-down pass to McCardell on which Jeff Burris, earlier a hero, missed a tackle that would have forced a punt. It led to Hollis’ winning kick as Jacksonville continued its hot streak - the Jaguars won their final five games to surge into the playoffs at 9-7.
The drive was set up by Jim Kelly’s fumble on a run. Aaron Beasley recovered and ran it to the Buffalo 42, and Kelly left the game with a concussion.
Todd Collins could do nothing in Kelly’s place, and the Jaguars won their first playoff appearance.
“I’m not worried about what’s going on with Buffalo,” said center Dave Widell. “I’m worried about what tradition we’re trying to build in Jacksonville.”
Added Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, “The end of an era? Well, it’s the beginning of one for us.”
Brunell finished 18 for 33 for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
Jaguars 30, Bills 27
Jacksonville 10 7 3 10 - 30
Buffalo 14 3 3 7 - 27
Buf-Thomas 7 pass from Kelly (Christie kick) Jac-Simmons 20 interception return (Hollis kick) Buf-Thomas 2 run (Christie kick) Jac-FG Hollis 27 Jac-Means 30 run (Hollis kick) Buf-FG Christie 33 Buf-FG Christie 47 Jac-FG Hollis 24 Buf-Burris 38 interception return (Christie kick) Jac-Smith 2 pass from Brunell (Hollis kick) Jac-FG Hollis 45 A-70,213.
Jac Buf First downs 18 19 Rushes-yards 35-184 29-92 Passing 225 216 Punt Returns 2-11 5-32 Kickoff Returns 5-99 7-172 Interceptions Ret. 1-20 2-38 Comp-Att-Int 18-33-2 22-36-1 Sacked-Yards Lost 2-14 3-30 Punts 5-50.6 5-43.2 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-2 Penalties-Yards 6-42 6-39 Time of Possession 33:06 26:54 Individual statistics RUSHINGJacksonville, Means 31-175, Brunell 3-9, Stewart 1-0. Buffalo, Thomas 14-50, Kelly 4-18, Holmes 9-10, Tasker 1-9, Tindale 1-5.
PASSINGJacksonville, Brunell 18-33-2-239. Buffalo, Kelly 21-32-1-239, Collins 1-4-0-7.
RECEIVINGJacksonville, Smith 5-58, McCardell 4-76, Mitchell 3-64, Maston 2-21, Jackson 1-11, Brown 1-8, Stewart 1-5, Means 1-(minus 4). Buffalo, Early 9-122, Reed 3-32, Tasker 3-30, Johnson 3-27, Thomas 3-24, Holmes 1-11.
MISSED FIELD GOALSJacksonville, Hollis 58 (SH).
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LONG TIME COMING The last time the Buffalo Bills lost at home in the playoffs was against Kansas City in the AFL championship game in 1967.
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