Words – Edd Hodsdon, Images – Andy Neale
Buffalo Bills 31 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 34
In the second International Series game of the season, the Buffalo Bills took on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley. Bills fans had taken over Regents Street the day before, and were confident in a win before their bye.
But hopes were dashed after the Jaguars took an early 27-3 lead. Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled in the first half as Jacksonville’s offense took control of Manuel’s turnovers.
However, Manuel then led the Bills to 28 unanswered points to give them a late fourth quarter lead. The Jaguars offense had effectively disappeared for a large stretch of the game, letting Buffalo back in.
But Blake Bortles had other ideas, and tossed the game winning touchdown 31 yards to Allen Hurns, who made a spectacular diving catch to seal Jacksonville’s first win at Wembley.
Bortles completed 13 of his 29 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. An earlier 10 yard pass to Allen Robinson helped increase Jacksonville’s lead before Bortles sealed the game with the winning pass to Hurns. But Bortles had his fair share of mistakes too, tossing a pick-six that Bills cornerback Corey Graham returned 44 yards.
T.J. Yeldon also scored on a 28 yard touchdown run during Jacksonville’s dominant first half streak. He finished with 20 carries for 115 yards. LeSean McCoy struggled for the Bills, managing just 68 yards on 18 carries.
E.J. Manuel completed 24 of his 42 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo’s comeback push. He tossed a 16 yard score to Robert Woods, then a huge 58 yard lob to Marcus Easley. McCoy converted for two points. But Manuel had his fair share of mistakes. He threw two interceptions. One was returned 26 yards by linebacker Telvin Smith, while the other was caught by linebacker Paul Posluszny.
Turnovers ultimately killed Buffalo’s chances, particularly in the first half. The Bills fumbled four times, losing two. Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons returned one fumble six yards for a touchdown.
The Bills sacked Bortles just two times as their talented front seven continues to struggle under Rex Ryan. Jacksonville sacked Manuel four times.
Both teams head into their bye week scratching their heads. Rex Ryan needs to figure out how to use one of the most talented defenses he has ever coached, while the Jaguars must figure out how to control games from start to finish. Despite being 2-5, if Jacksonville can become more consistent, they could be a threat in the dismal AFC South.
Roger Goodgroves has a full set of images from the recent Bills practice session in London last week - https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cs3xkeaa65jkr8k/AAAZzbzrleBXIxlaEXASbwCGa?dl=0
Andy Neale has a full set of images from the recent practice days held in London by the Jaguars and Bills, they can be viewed here = https://www.flickr.com/photos/whizzyfingers/sets/72157658064716144
BILLS COACH REX RYAN UPBEAT WITH HIS PRAISE FOR THE GROVE
If enthusiasm for the International Series wins games, then the Jacksonville Jaguars can pack their bags now because Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills will simply cast aside their opponents in the next International Series game. While he was frank and honest when fielding the questions regarding the team’s performance, he was vigorous in his passion for the NFL’s appeal for an UK audience.
In his press conference at The Grove Wednesday, Ryan couldn’t praise the facilities enough as he lavished compliments upon the team’s surroundings. “This facility right here at the Grove has been absolutely tremendous for us. I love the location and we’re going to try and make it as normal a week as possible with travelling across country. “
“With the setup, with the meetings, the grass practice field all that type of stuff, we feel pretty good about it. We want to make it as normal a business trip as we can. This is a tremendous facility and the people have been great.”
RYAN BELIEVES THE NFL’S INTERNATIONAL SERIES CAN SPREAD THE WORD
Coach Ryan acknowledged the NFL for choosing the Bills to be part of their expansion with the International Series. He is a coach under pressure, but he still enthused and didn’t complain about shifting his team 3,500 miles with all the logistics involved to play an important regular season game.
When asked a question about the need to bring the game to the UK, Coach Ryan was energetic with his response. “I think it’s great,” he offered. ”It gives it a greater audience here and maybe for the people who haven’t been a fan of our football, it gives them an opportunity to witness it.”
“In my opinion these are the greatest athletes in the world, but it’s a different thing. This is so physical and it has its own grace, and I think this is a sport that will really catch on. It broadens our appeal to Europe. I think it’s good. I think if we can get several thousand fans out of this, it will be great and if they become Buffalo Bills fans, it will be even greater for us.”
Coach Ryan doesn’t believe football is misunderstood as a game in the UK. “These are the best of the best,” he said, “and I think the fans will appreciate it.”
On the challenge of travelling overseas for the game in a different time zone, Coach Ryan offered that it was a level playing field with both teams having the same travel issues. “We are doing it different to the way they (Jaguars) are, but I kinda like the way we did it. Come out here with a couple of days to recover and then you try and make it as normal a week as you can. The time change is a factor. I just think getting here for the entire week gives your body clock a chance to reset itself.”
He again reaffirmed that in the Grove the team has the facilities and it would not be used as an excuse if the Bills lose the game. “It’s not going to have anything to do with the facilities or anything else in my opinion,” he added.
BILLS A WORK IN PROGRESS
The Bills are 3-3 on the season and when questioned by Buffalo media on that form, Coach Ryan was realistic in confirming there had been some good and some not so good. He continued by saying the team was a work in progress and that they have to get better each week although injuries had been an issue and he was looking forward to having a full, healthy team.
Cincinnati Bengals 34 Buffalo Bills 21
The Buffalo Bills fell to 3-3 after a disappointing 34-21 loss to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. With Tyrod Taylor out with an MCL injury, former first round pick E.J. Manuel got the start for the Bills.
Manuel completed 28 of his 42 passes for 263 yards and a 22 yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins. Manuel also threw an interception and had a two yard rushing touchdown. Buffalo’s only other score came from a LeSean McCoy four yard touchdown run.
McCoy looked much better after struggling with an injury for much of the season. McCoy rushed 17 times for 90 yards.
Andy Dalton completed 22 of his 33 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Jeremy Hill caught a 13 yard pass, Marvin Jones scored on a 10 yard catch, and Tyler Eifert caught a four yard score as Dalton failed to throw an interception.
Cincinnati’s vast stable of offensive weapons put them in a good position after the Bills managed to effectively neutralise number one receiver A.J. Green. Green caught four passes for 36 yards. But Marvin Jones emerged to take the star role, catching nine passes for 95 yards.
Behind McCoy and Manuel, Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound team racked up 112 rushing yards. But they failed to outgain Cincinnati’s star backfield as Hill and Giovanni Bernard rushed for 114 yards.
The Bills, despite being loaded with talent on defense, struggled to hit Andy Dalton. They couldn’t score a single sack against Cincinnati’s offensive line, while the Bengals brought Manuel down twice.
The Bills will now head to London to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Houston Texans 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
The AFC South continues to be an unpredictable division as the Houston Texans beat an improved Jacksonville team 31-20. Brian Hoyer had a strong performance after retaking the starting job from Ryan Mallett.
Hoyer completed 24 of his 36 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns; one to Arian Foster and two to DeAndre Hopkins. Hoyer avoided throwing an interception. Hopkins finished with 10 catches for 148 yards, and is on course for 139 catches for 1936 yards this season.
Blake Bortles played well, but had several costly turnovers for the Jaguars. Bortles completed 30 of his 53 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns. Allen Robinson caught a short two yard score, Julius Thomas hauled in a 29 yard pass as he continued to return from a hand injury, and Allen Hurns caught an 11 yard touchdown.
But Bortles also threw three interceptions, including a 31 yard pick-six to Houston safety Andre Hal. Meanwhile the Texans didn’t turn the ball over in an efficient display. Houston sacked Bortles three time, while Hoyer only went down once. J.J. Watt failed to get a sack for the second consecutive game.
The Jaguars will head back to Wembley this week to host the Buffalo Bills, and need a win to keep their hopes of contending in the AFC South alive.
Buffalo Bills 14 @ Tennessee Titans 13
In a low-scoring, low excitement contest, the Buffalo Bills kept their wild card hopes alive with a win over the improving Tennessee Titans.
Without LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, or Karlos Williams, the Bills struggled to generate any offense outside of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor completed 10 out of 17 passes for 109 yards and a two yard touchdown to receiver Chris Hogan. Taylor also led the Bills in rushing with eight carries for 76 yards, including this 22 yard touchdown run. Taylor also caught a trick pass for four yards.
Second overall pick Marcus Mariota had to carry his team as well. Mariota completed 21 out of 32 passes for 187 yards and an interception with 1:32 remaining that sealed the narrow 14-13 win for the Bills. Mariota was also Tennessee’s leading rusher with five carries for 47 yards.
Antonio Andrews scored Tennessee’s only touchdown on a one yard run as the Titans struggled to take advantage of a big opportunity to close the gap to the Colts in the dismal AFC South. Tennessee looked like the best team, failing to lose a fumble and sacking Taylor four times.
The Bills lost a fumble and could muster just two sacks. Discipline continued to be a problem, and Buffalo was lucky to stay above .500. The Bills will host the red-hot 5-0 Cincinnati Bengals this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars 31 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38
The Jaguars blew several chances to complete an in-state sweep after an earlier win over Miami. Blake Bortles outplayed Jameis Winston but Jacksonville couldn’t stop a strong Tampa Bay running game in a disappointing 38-31 loss.
Bortles showed real signs of progress after struggling in his rookie season last year. Bortles completed 23 out of 33 passes for four touchdowns and an interception. Allen Robinson caught touchdown passes of 13 and five yards, with Allen Hurns catching one for 12 yards and rookie running back T.J. Yeldon adding another scoring catch for four yards.
Jacksonville’s young offensive core is quickly becoming a team strength, especially with star tight end Julius Thomas returning to the field in limited action.
Jameis Winston completed 13 out of 19 passes for 209 yards as the running game took centre stage. Winston had his first interception-free game and threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Doug Martin. Martin rushed 24 times for 123 yards and had two one-yard touchdowns on the ground in addition to his touchdown catch.
The Buccaneers recovered a Jacksonville fumble for a three yard touchdown. Jameis Winston threw the two point conversion to Vincent Jackson. Tampa Bay sacked Bortles six times, while the Jaguars could only register two sacks without their star linebacker Paul Posluszny.
The Jaguars will host the Houston Texans next week, and will attempt to get a divisional win and move up the pecking order in the AFC South.
New York Giants 24 Buffalo Bills 10
After an impressive 41-14 win in Miami last week, the Bills were once again riding high. But against a Giants team that finally strung together a strong performance on both sides of the ball, the Bills were brought back down to earth in a 24-10 defeat at home.
Without LeSean McCoy or Sammy Watkins, the Bills struggled. Tyrod Taylor completed 28/42 passes for 274 yards, a 23 yard touchdown pass to running back Karlos Williams, and an interception. Buffalo’s bread and butter is running the football. But they managed just 55 yards on 24 carries with no rushing touchdowns against the Giants.
As the defense played well and stopped Buffalo’s rushing attack, Eli Manning had a good game. He completed 20 of his 35 passes for 212 yards and three touchdown passes; 21 yards to Dwayne Harris, 11 yards to Reuben Randle, and 51 yards to Rashad Jennings to seal the game. He also threw an interception.
The Bills did manage to shut down Odell Beckham, who had five catches for just 38 yards. The Giants sacked Taylor twice, while Buffalo’s star-studded defensive front could only sack Manning once. Buffalo tight end Charles Clay had 111 yards on nine receptions.
The Bills prove inconsistent once again, while the Giants found some consistency to get another win against a good team. But both teams struggle with rhythm week-to-week, so only time will tell whether either can make the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars 13 Indianapolis Colts 16 (OT)
With the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans struggling, the AFC South is a wide open division, with opportunities for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans to challenge the established order.
And with Andrew Luck out with a separated throwing shoulder, the Jaguars may not have had a better chance to end Indianapolis’ divisional winning streak. However, the Jaguars failed to capitalise on multiple chances to win, eventually losing 16-13 in overtime as Indy tied the record for the longest divisional winning streak in history with 15 consecutive wins over the AFC South.
Blake Bortles completed 28 of his 50 passes for 298 yards and an eight yard touchdown to Allen Hurns. T.J. Yeldon had 22 carries for 105 yards and Hurns finished with 11 catches for 116 yards to go with his touchdown catch.
Matt Hasselbeck started the game for the Colts. The 17 year veteran completed 30 out of his 47 passes for 282 yards and a two yard touchdown to Coby Fleener in his first start since 2012.
The Jaguars were a better team for most of the game. The Colts lost two out of three forced fumbles, and Hasselbeck was sacked three times while the Colts sacked Bortles just once.
But after the Jaguars missed two potentially game-winning kicks at the end of regulation and in overtime, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal to keep Indy’s division streak alive.
The Jaguars have shown flashes of promise this season, but need to win the big points and capitalise on every opportunity. They still have a chance to win their AFC South title since 1999, but will have to fight hard to get there. They play Tampa Bay next week for a chance to go 2-0 against their in-state rivals after beating Miami earlier this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars 17 New England Patriots 51
Despite an impressive win over in-state rivals Miami last week, the clash against the Patriots was always going to be a tough one for the Jaguars. They were outclassed in almost every phase of play, and couldn’t stop the Patriots from continuing to wreak havoc in the NFL.
Tom Brady completed 33 of his 42 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns. His one yard strike to Danny Amendola made Brady only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 career touchdown passes; joining Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino.
The Patriots scored three touchdowns on the ground against a porous Jaguars defense. Dion Lewis continues to be a multi-dimensional threat in Bill Belichick’s scheme, and LeGarrette Blount pounded the Jaguars once the Patriots had an insurmountable lead.
Despite the result, there were some positives for Jacksonville. Despite an interception from Blake Bortles, the Jaguars allowed just two sacks after averaging over four per game last season. Bortles completed 17 of his 33 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, including this beautiful 59 yard strike to Allen Hurns.
Rob Gronkowski had four catches for 101 yards, but no touchdowns for New England. The Patriots allowed two sacks on Brady, but didn’t have any turnovers in an impressive home win. They head into their bye week unbeaten.
The Jaguars will take some positives away from the game, and have clearly improved in some areas. They will face the struggling Indianapolis Colts on the road this week, and will have a chance to see if they have closed the gap in the AFC South.
Buffalo Bills 41 Miami Dolphins 14
After humiliating losses last week, both teams were hoping to bounce back this weekend. The Bills were still angry after a slapping down from the Patriots, while the Dolphins were hoping to salvage their season after an inexcusable loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bills delivered another beatdown to a potential AFC playoff contender with a 41-14 win in Miami. Tyrod Taylor impressed in his first road start, completing 21 of his 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns, including this 25 yard score to Charles Clay.
Rookie running back Karlos Williams carried much of the load against the Dolphins, finishing with 12 carries for 110 yards and a 41 yard score. Miami managed just 104 total rushing yards with three different backs against Buffalo’s dominant front seven.
Ryan Tannehill had carried the team through the first two weeks with good play. But Miami’s last strength became a weakness against Buffalo. Tannehill completed 26 of his 49 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns to Rishard Matthews, including this 46 yard score. But he also threw three interceptions, including this pick six which Bills linebacker Preston Brown returned for 43 yard touchdown.
Miami’s front seven, which looked like it could’ve been one of the league’s best, floundered once again. After disturbing reports of star free agent Ndamukong Suh going AWOL in last week’s loss, the Dolphins failed to generate a single sack or turnover against Buffalo.
The Dolphins sink to last place in the AFC East after yet more poor play on both sides of the ball. Head coach Joe Philbin is on the hot seat, and things don’t get any easier when the Dolphins face the much-improved Jets in London this week.
The Bills once again cemented themselves as the closest challenger to the Patriots in the AFC East and as a contender for a wild card spot. They will host the New York Giants this week.
New England Patriots 40 Buffalo Bills 32
All week, Rex Ryan had been trash talking about the Patriots. Ryan said on Monday that his plan to stop Brady and the Patriots had “been ready for a long time.” Ryan followed that up by saying on Friday that “the whole league is hoping (we beat the Patriots).”
But after Sunday’s game, Ryan had been silenced once again by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Experts at cultivating and exploiting the ‘us against the world’ mentality, the Patriots beat the Bills 40-32.
Tom Brady completed 38 out of 59 passes for 466 yards; the second-highest single game total of his career. Brady threw three touchdown passes without throwing any interceptions. Julian Edelman caught scores of eight and 22 yards, sandwiched by a one yard touchdown catch from Rob Gronkowski. Despite Ryan insisting that he had a plan to cover Gronkowski, the Patriots tight end finished with seven catches for 113 yards.
Running back Dion Lewis added a six yard score on the ground in seven carries for 40 yards. Lewis was also a major factor in the passing game, with six catches for 98 yards. Ryan had said that he “couldn’t even tell you” Lewis’ name after a big game against Pittsburgh. It’s safe to say that Ryan knows the name Dion Lewis now.
After falling behind despite opening the scoring with Karlos Williams’ two yard run, the Bills managed to stage a comeback push. Tyrod Taylor completed 23 of his 30 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
Tight end Charles Clay hauled one in for nine yards, Robert Woods scored on 32 yards and Sammy Watkins showed flashes of his pre-draft hype with this 24 yard score. But Taylor also threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times by New England’s front seven. Taylor also added this score on the ground.
On a positive note for the Bills, LeSean McCoy looked a lot better with 15 carries for 89 yards. But if the Bills really want to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East, they have a lot to improve on.
Miami Dolphins 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 23
In Sunday’s battle of the Wembley-bound Florida teams, Blake Bortles led the game-winning drive as the Jaguars upset the Dolphins 23-20.
Bortles completed 18 of his 33 passes for 273 yards and touchdown passes of three and 46 yards to receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson finished with six catches for 155 yards alongside his two scores as the Jaguars found some offense despite still missing star free agent Julius Thomas.
The Jaguars managed 113 yards on the ground against Miami’s supposedly dominant front seven. Rookie T.J. Yeldon led the Jags with 70 yards, followed by 27 from Bortles. Miami didn’t record a single sack on Bortles despite a star-studded pass rush.
Ryan Tannehill looked good, completing 30 out of 44 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. However, Miami struggled to move the ball at times on the ground and couldn’t score in big moments. Tannehill was sacked twice as star tackle Brandon Albert left the game with an injury.
Miami had two receivers who finished with over 100 yards. Rishard Matthews caught six passes for 115 yards while Jarvis Landry caught eight for 110. But if the Dolphins want to live up to their preseason hype, they need to turn impressive yardage into points, especially against supposed minnows like Jacksonville.
Indianapolis Colts 14 Buffalo Bills 27
The Bills bombarded the Colts with a dominant defensive display in Buffalo for a 27-14 win to begin the Rex Ryan era. Indianapolis didn’t get into the game until late in the third quarter as Ryan confused Andrew Luck with a series of blitzes. Ryan promised a Super Bowl for the Bills this season, and a surprise win over the AFC favourites is a good start.
Tyrod Taylor shined in his first game as an NFL starter, completing 14 of his 19 passes for 195 yards and a 51 yard touchdown bomb to Percy Harvin. Luck finished 26/49 for 243 yards and two touchdown passes to receiver Donte Moncrief and tight end Dwayne Allen. Luck also threw two interceptions, including one to Buffalo’s top draft pick Ronald Darby.
Buffalo running backs Karlos Williams and Aaron Dixon also picked up scores as LeSean McCoy continued to struggle with an injury. The Bills scored 24 unanswered points before the Colts could respond. The Colts also suffered a big blow for their next few games when number one receiver T.Y. Hilton went down with a knee injury. Hilton could miss four to six weeks.
Veteran additions Frank Gore and Andre Johnson struggled to make impacts for the Colts. Johnson managed just 24 yards on four receptions.
The Bills have seen off one AFC contender, but can they do it again against hated divisional rivals the Patriots this week?
Carolina Panthers 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 9
After an impressive preseason, Blake Bortles struggled in his first game of 2015. Bortles finished 22/40 for 183 yards and a touchdown pass to rookie receiver Rashad Greene, but was also intercepted by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who turned the play into a 30 yard pick six. Bortles was also sacked five times.
But Cam Newton didn’t set the game on fire either. Newton completed 18 of his 31 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery, but also threw an interception. Just a few days after signing a five year, $62million extension with the Panthers, linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered a concussion and left the game.
The Jaguars face another tough test at home this week as the Miami Dolphins come to town. Expect Bortles to suffer multiple sacks against a merciless pass rush led by Ndamukong Suh.
Buffalo Bills 10 Detroit Lions 17
Like most teams, the Bills and Lions rested their key starters on Friday night. Backup quarterback Kellen Moore completed 16/22 for 150 yards and a touchdown for the Lions in a 17-10 win. Rookie running back Zach Zenner scored the winning touchdown for Detroit on a three yard run. Zenner has been making waves in the preseason, but could struggle to secure a roster spot.
Matt Simms finished 22/38 for 223 yards for the Bills. Cornerback Ron Brooks intercepted Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky for the opening score on an 81 yard pick-six. The Bills failed to score an offensive touchdown.
Jacksonville Jaguars 17 Washington Redskins 16
With the starters resting for both teams, it fell to Colt McCoy to lead the Redskins through their off-field upheavals. McCoy finished 22/33 for 208 yards and a touchdown, staking his claim to overtake Robert Griffin as the second-string quarterback.
Running back Mack Brown added a score on the ground. Rashad Ross, a receiver, had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in an impressive bid to make the final roster.
Stephen Morris led the Jaguars to a 17-16 win, completing 16 of his 25 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. But he didn’t make the final roster behind Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, and was released on Friday.
Electric young running back Corey Grant added a touchdown on the ground. Jason Myers nailed a 47 yard field goal to give the Jaguars a last minute win after former starter Josh Scobee was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday.
Detroit Lions 22 Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Matthew Stafford continued his impressive preseason form with a dominant performance with Detroit’s first-team offense. Stafford completed 11 of his 15 passes for 173 yards and two touchdown passes, including this 62 yard pass to Golden Tate. Tate finished with three receptions for 91 yards along with his score.
Rookie running back sensation Ameer Abdullah only had three carries for 8 yards, but also hauled in a 21 yard reception; proving that he is a new dual-threat weapon for the Lions.
Detroit’s defense struggled in the first half before helping to secure a 22-17 win over the Jaguars.
Blake Bortles turned in an impressive game to show huge strides after his turbulent rookie season. Bortles finished 20/29 for 245 yards and a touchdown pass to veteran tight end Mercedes Lewis. Bortles seemed to have good rhythm with the first-team offense, making big throws to Lewis, Allen Hurns and Denard Robinson.
Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville’s second round pick out of Alabama, added a one yard score as well as a 12 yard reception as a safety valve for Bortles. With their key young components working well last night, expect progress from Jacksonville’s offense this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 Buffalo Bills 43
Buffalo’s quarterback race heated up on Saturday night, with good performances from all three competitors. E.J. Manuel threw two touchdown passes to give the Bills a win over Pittsburgh; one to tight end Charles Clay for 67 yards and another to Tobias Palmer for 37 yards. Manuel finished 7/8 for 170 yards.
Tyrod Taylor continued to look convincing, completing 12 of his 13 passes for 122 yards, adding a 20 yard touchdown on the ground. Matt Cassel appeared to be losing ground, completing 6 out of 7 passes for just 38 yards.
Buffalo accumulated 542 yards of total offense against the Steelers, who could only manage 229 yards.
Michael Vick, signed on Tuesday, looked good for the Steelers as the second-string quarterback. His first pass went 62 yards to receiver Martavis Bryant. Vick completed four of his five passes for 106 yards. Ben Roethlisberger saw limited action, finishing just 2/4 for 30 yards.
Bryant had a big night, with three receptions going for 138 yards and a touchdown. But Bryant is facing a four game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
After impressive performances from all three of his quarterbacks, Rex Ryan faces a tough choice to decide the Bills’ starter.
Buffalo Bills 11 Cleveland Browns 10
Buffalo’s quarterback battle continues to be one of the talking points of the preseason. Presumed Week 1 starter Matt Cassel did not play against the Browns on Thursday. Instead, former Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor started in Cleveland. Rex Ryan has made no secret of his admiration for Taylor, who put in another strong performance chasing the starting role.
Taylor finished 7 of 10 for 65 yards, setting up a field goal. He has not thrown an interception in the Bills’ two preseason games so far. Taylor also led the Bills in rushing on Thursday night, with 41 yards on four carries. Taylor’s rushing ability fits well with head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme.
Former first-round pick EJ Manuel was inconsistent again, going 9 of 14 for 111 yards. But he did lead the Bills’ game-winning drive with both a touchdown pass and the two point conversion for a 11-10 victory. However, Manuel made some mistakes again. He was sacked three times and fumbled the ball, which was luckily recovered by a team-mate.
Presumed starter Josh McCown struggled for the Browns, finishing 7 of 10 for 57 yards. McCown was picked off twice by Bills cornerback Ronald Derby. The rookie and top Bills draft pick improved massively over his first preseason outing against Carolina.
There was improvement for the Browns though, with Johnny Manziel. After completing 10 out of 18 passes for 118 yards, Manziel also added a touchdown pass as well as 19 rushing yards on three carries. Manziel has not thrown an interception in either of the Browns’ preseason games, but still has a long way to go if he wants to win back the starting job.
Jacksonville Jaguars 12 New York Giants 22
In an uneventful game, Blake Bortles showed some strides for the Jaguars. His three drives ended in field goals as he went 8/16 for 98 yards with no picks and just one sack. But Bortles was still clearly struggling behind a sub-par offensive line.
With Julius Thomas absent after a hand injury, second-year receiver Allen Robinson stepped up with three catches for 64 yards. But Jacksonville fumbled the ball five times, although they did recover four of them.
Amongst contract negotiations and talk of supposedly wanting to be the league’s highest paid player, Eli Manning struggled on Saturday night. The former two-time Super Bowl MVP went just 4 out of 14 for only 46 yards.
Manning continually attempted to force the ball to Odell Beckham. But the electrifying second-year receiver finished without a single catch. The defense got three sacks in what was largely a field goal contest. A 22-12 win was sealed for the Giants with Ryan Nassib’s touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Carolina Panthers 25 Buffalo Bills 24
On Friday night, Rex Ryan and the Bills finally had a chance to see how their quarterback race was shaping up. It’s a three way competition for the job between veteran Matt Cassel, former first round pick EJ Manuel and career backup Tyrod Taylor.
Cassel started against the Panthers on Friday night, completing 7 of 8 passes for 45 yards. EJ Manuel had a chance to win back the starting job and prove his doubters wrong. But after a fumbled snap and several incompletions, it looked like business as usual.
But then Manuel threw a perfect 51 yard touchdown pass to put the Bills ahead 24-17. But Carolina’s third-string quarterback Joe Webb replied with a 42 yard score to running back Brandon Wegher, then converted for 2 on a quick pass to Paul Browning to claim a 25-24 win for the Panthers.
The most impressive performance for Buffalo? Tyrod Taylor. The former Ravens backup completed 5 out of his 8 passes for 49 yards, as well as adding 47 rushing yards. Both of Taylor’s drives ended in scores for Buffalo as backup running backs Bryce Brown and Karlos Williams scored a touchdown apiece.
Rex Ryan has always been high on Taylor; attempting to trade for him when coaching in New York. Taylor has been named the starter for Buffalo’s next preseason game against Cleveland.
Cam Newton had a quiet night, completing 5 out of 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin.
LeSean McCoy also saw limited action with just six carries for 16 yards. Ryan’s ground-and-pound philosophy was on display as the Bills rushed 45 times and passed just 27 times.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play in last week’s Hall of Fame game against the Vikings, but suited up against the Jaguars on Friday night. Big Ben completed all three of his attempts for 59 yards; including a 44 yard score to Martavis Bryant.
But despite backup Landry Jones accumulating 200 yards and completing 24 of his 46 passes, the Steelers fell to the Jaguars in a close game.
Blake Bortles had a lengthy stay on the field, and his mechanics looked much better after struggling in his rookie season. Bortles completed 11 of his 15 passes for 118 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
But it wasn’t all good news for Jacksonville. Tight end Julius Thomas, who signed a five year, $46 million contract in the offseason, fractured a finger in his left hand and will miss the rest of the preseason after just one catch for two yards.
The Jaguars travel to New York next week to play the Giants, who lost 10-23 to Cincinnati.
In the second of Wembley’s three games this season, the Buffalo Bills will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars; London’s de-facto home team. Both are among the most intriguing teams this season, and it should be a good game.
The Buffalo Bills came close to ending the NFL’s longest-running playoff drought last year after their first winning record since 2004, but fell short of a wild card spot. Rex Ryan was brought in to soften the surprise departure of Doug Marrone, and executed a bold off-season programme to give the Bills some real hope.
Despite a second losing season under Gus Bradley, similar changes didn’t come to Jacksonville. Instead, Bradley added pieces to a young nucleus of core players; continuing to strengthen the Jaguars’ foundations. Jacksonville could spring a few surprises this year.
One of the biggest shocks of the offseason was a trade that sent Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia in exchange for running back LeSean McCoy. Rex Ryan has always been known for his ground-and-pound offenses, and McCoy gives him a game-changing weapon.
“It’s big for the whole entire football team,” explains Bills offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. “He’s going to help us out on the field and from a locker room standpoint; every area.” McCoy led the league in rushing in 2013 with 1607 yards, and hopes to rekindle that form in Buffalo.
Ryan has always been a defensive-minded coach. And in Buffalo he inherits arguably the most talented defense he has worked with. The defensive line is one of the best position groups in the entire league, with three Pro Bowlers last year.
Which should be enough to hold Jacksonville’s 31st ranked offense back. The Jaguars have a promising young offensive core around second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. Wideouts Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are joined by former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas and 2nd round pick T.J. Yeldon. But they will struggle against a Bills defense that ranked 4th in total defense last season.
However, aside from McCoy, Buffalo’s offense is nothing to shout about either. Sammy Watkins struggled with injuries during his rookie season and will be under pressure to live up to his hype. But the biggest problem is at quarterback.
The Bills must choose a leader out of E.J. Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor. Not exactly a promising group. Manuel was benched last season and hasn’t shown the kind of skill expected of a first round pick since being drafted in 2013.
The Jaguars defense is still emerging, but has some talent. To nurture that talent, the Jaguars signed safety Sergio Brown, who brings experience from top-tier teams like the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.
“Being new, I want to lead by example. The team is great. Everybody’s working together. I feel like it’s going to be a great year for us.”
But against a strong, physical Buffalo team, Week 7 probably won’t be great for the Jaguars.