ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought in spite of their woeful offense, and they lost the AFC wild-card game in Jacksonville because of their offense.
This was not unexpected, because the matchup of Buffalo's offense and Jacksonville's defense was going to be the one that decided the game, and the Bills scored only three points.
"Obviously we need to score more points," said head coach Sean McDermott.
The Bills had a golden opportunity late in the second quarter when they moved to a first-and-goal at the 1, but it all fell apart due to some poor decision-making by offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
In a scoreless game, the Bills were lining up for a field goal, but the Jaguars jumped offside, giving Buffalo the first down at the 1. But rather than trying to run the ball in, Dennison gave Taylor a run-pass option call. The pass option was a fade to Kelvin Benjamin, and for some reason, Taylor felt that was the way to go, even though Benjamin was going against Pro-Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Benjamin pushed off, was flagged for pass interference, and after being pushed back to the 11, the Bills did not get in the end zone and settled for a field goal.
"There's some calls we want back," McDermott said. "That's probably one of them. Just situationally right there more than anything."
Running back LeSean McCoy said he thought the Bills should have run the ball in that situation. As it turned out, the Bills never came close to scoring again, and outside of that one drive, their deepest penetration was the Jaguars 48 on three different possessions.
"Everything but score," said McCoy, though that wasn't really true as the Bills only totaled 263 yards. "Made some plays that hurt us. Just not converting. We dropped the ball. Not making plays. We have to do our job and make plays and we didn't do that. We should've done that. We had this game. I can confidently say that we had this game."
Again, not really true because the offense never threatened after Stephen Hauschka's field goal. The Bills had only 115 yards in the second half with four punts and an interception at the end of the game.
The Bills did more than enough to win on defense, but the Jaguars were able to answer the field goal at the end of the first half, and then put together one solid drive in the third quarter that decided the outcome. They moved 86 yards in 15 plays, and scored on Blake Bortles' 1-yard pass to tight end Ben Koyack on fourth-and-goal.
Guard Richie Incognito was in the news Sunday night and Monday morning because Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue accused of him of using racial slurs during the game. Ngakoue tweeted three hours after the final gun: "Great win to day! And 64, you goin have to come harder than some weak racist slurs. I'm proud of my African heritage, as are 70% of the other Black players in this league. #Iaintjonathanmartin!"
Incognito wears No. 64, and the hashtag at the end refers to Incognito's celebrated incident when he was suspended eight games in 2013 for his role in the bullying scandal of his former Dolphins teammate, Jonathan Martin.
Incognito did not speak to the media Monday, but fellow offensive linemen Dion Dawkins (who is black) and Eric Wood denied that anything happened on the field.
Dawkins actually tweeted late Sunday night: "Just for the world to know, everyone always tryna put some bad thing on @68INCOGNITO I was next to my guy the entire game and the entire season and believe me, if he was saying some racist stuff I would have been the first to let him know that was out of line. Cut The BS."
Wood, who plays right next to Incognito on the line, said Monday, "It was chippy out there, but I didn't hear anything. I know Dion tweeted that he didn't hear anything. Richie has done a lot the last few years to restore his image and I hope it's not all thrown away based on speculation, but I didn't hear it, so I can't really speak on it."
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander will be 35 years old in May, but during locker cleanout day, when he was asked about retirement, he said it was "not on my radar. I still got it." Alexander probably played his best game of the season Sunday in the Bills' wild-card loss to the Jaguars. He was in on 10 tackles, had a sack, and one other tackle for loss.
Alexander's snap counts were down on defense as he played 61 percent of the snaps due in part to the Bills playing a lot of nickel defense, but he remained a key member of the special teams units. He said he plans on being in Buffalo to work out at the team facility, at least until he's told he's not welcome back. He understood that the Bills could decide to move on, given his age. He has one year left on his contract at $3.4 million, but given his value as a leader, it would be wise for the Bills to bring him back, especially if defensive tackle Kyle Williams decides to retire.
Speaking of Kyle Williams, he wasn't ready to make any decisions about his future, especially right now in the wake of a playoff loss 24 hours earlier. He said he will take some time, and will talk to the Bills, and his family, before he decides what he wants to do. He is a free agent when his contract expires in March.
"I'm gonna need a little more time," he said Monday. "We'll meet with the people that need to be met with and discuss and we'll see where we go." When he was asked, how much gas he has left in the tank and he answered, "I've got enough to get there."
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been playing on an injured knee since he first hurt it on Nov. 19 in Los Angeles against the Chargers. It was clear his effectiveness was hindered, but he expects to be fine after he undergoes surgery to repair the torn meniscus. Once the surgery is performed, he was told it would be a 4-to-6 week recovery period before he can start doing any rehab work. Given that timeline, he should be able to participate in the Bills' OTA sessions when they begin.
NOTES: QB Tyrod Taylor had a rough day, completing only 17-of-37 passes for 134 yards with one interception. He was knocked out of the game when his head slammed to the ground at the end of a run in the final minute. He was in concussion protocol and did not speak to the media Sunday or Monday. ... RB LeSean McCoy played on a sprained ankle and rushed for 75 yards and caught six passes for 44 yards. He was the Bills' best player in the game. ... WR Kelvin Benjamin was held to one catch for nine yards, and was flagged for a critical pass interference penalty that helped cost the Bills a touchdown opportunity. ... SS Micah Hyde suffered a concussion in the third quarter and could not finish the game. He is in concussion protocol. ... CB Tre'Davious White had to leave the game briefly in the third quarter due to cramps, but later returned. ... TE Charles Clay had three catches for 15 yards, playing on a sore hamstring that forced him to miss a few plays early. ... LB Lorenzo Alexander had one of his best games of the season with 10 tackles and a sack.
REPORT CARD VS. JAGUARS
--PASSING OFFENSE: F - If this is the end of the Tyrod Taylor Era, it did not end well. He exited the game with a concussion in the final minute, capping off a performance that was simply not good enough. He completed just 17-of-37 passes for 134 yards and one interception, though it wasn't his fault. As usual, the Bills' weak receiving corps gave him no help, but his poor ball placement also played a role in that. WR Kelvin Benjamin was targeted only twice; he caught one for nine yards, and was flagged for a critical pass interference in the end zone on the other.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: B - LeSean McCoy was questionable to play all week due to a sprained ankle, but he tied his season-high with 57 snaps. McCoy provided the bulk of the Bills offense as he rushed for 75 yards and caught six passes for 44 yards, totaling 25 touches in all. Mike Tolbert contributed an 11-yard run, and Taylor chipped in with 27 yards on seven attempts, some of them designed keepers. However, the Bills did not trust their run game on first-and-goal at the 1 in the second quarter, and it proved disastrous. Benjamin's penalty pushed them back, and they ended up settling for a field goal.
--PASS DEFENSE: A - Blake Bortles made it pretty easy on the Bills as he threw for just 87 yards and consistently missed receivers, even when they were open. The Bills put decent pressure on Bortles, but they did a poor job of containing him and he was able to run for 88 yards, several of them critical gains. The Bills had to work through injuries to SS Micah Hyde, his replacement, Colt Anderson, and CB Tre'Davious White, but still, the Jaguars did nothing through the air.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus - The Jaguars were the No. 1 rushing team in the league, but the Bills did slowed Leonard Fournette, who gained only 57 yards, averaging 2.7 per carry. Where the Bills failed was against Bortles and allowing him to escape too often. LB Lorenzo Alexander played one of his best games of the year as he led the Bills with 10 tackles including two for lost yardage. LB Preston Brown also had two tackles for loss among his six stops. LB Matt Milano's speed may have helped on some of those Bortles runs, but he was unable to play.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus - Not a great day. CB Breon Borders, who joined the team in mid-December, made his debut for the Bills and committed two penalties on second-quarter punt returns that cost the Bills 30 yards in field position in a game where every yard mattered. Colton Schmidt had five of his eight punts downed inside the 20, but he also had a 34-yarder at the end of the first half that helped set up Jacksonville's game-tying field-goal drive. Stephen Hauschka made his only field-goal attempt and knocked both of his kickoffs through the end zone.
--COACHING: D - The Bills need to be better on offense, and part of that falls at the feet of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Too often this season he made puzzling play calls that hurt the Bills, and the sequence at the end of the first half when the Bills had first-and-goal at the 1 and failed to score a touchdown was notable. It was a season-long problem for the Bills, and while the Bills search for their new quarterback, they should also join the hunt for a coordinator. On defense, the Bills' coaches had a strong day, with the exception of not adjusting to Bortles' scrambles.