All good things must come to an end. After a week of celebrating the Bills' first playoff appearance since 2000, they lost a low-scoring game to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Man, it's devastating," said fan Eric. "You always think there's a chance, but it's just not today."
The Bills had plenty of chances down the stretch, but a huge penalty against Charles Clay and then a tackle that knocked quarterback Tyrod Taylor out of the game ended any threat of a comeback.
Taylor slammed his helmet hard against the ground after getting thrown down by Dante Fowler Jr. He had to be helped off the field and forced backup Nathan Peterman into the game with 1:27 remaining. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey tipped and then intercepted Peterman's third pass, and the Jaguars ran out the clock.
"We had more than enough chances throughout the game that it shouldn't have came down to that," said Eric, "but, unfortunately, it did, but what can you do."
Safety Micah Hyde left the game in the third quarter and was being evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback Tre'Davious White went to the locker room in the fourth to be treated for cramps. Safety Colt Anderson injured his right shoulder in the fourth trying to make a diving interception. Guard Richie Incognito (shoulder) and Clay (hamstring) left briefly in the first half but returned.
Head Coach Sean McDermott said the reserves did a good job when they entered the game.
“That’s really been one of the stories of the season,” said McDermott. “All guys are ready to play. They step in, they step up. I’m extremely proud. I know it burns right now and it hurts, but I’m extremely proud of every single one of those men in that locker room.”
LeSean McCoy, who came in to the game questionable with an ankle injury, had a productive day with 119 total yards. The Bills will head in to the offseason with questions surrounding a few positions including quarterback. McDermott said they have a plan.
“The biggest thing I want to do is get with Brandon (Beane) on some things and make sure we have a good solid evaluation of who we are and what we’ve got to do to improve moving forward,” McDermott said.
Bortles was a big reason Jacksonville won the game and a big reason it was so close. This was far from a passing clinic. It was more like a painful exercise in overcoming poor passing.
Bortles was off most of the day, misfiring short and long, but made up for it with 88 yards rushing. He scrambled for a long first down run after fumbling the ball late, prompting a Bills assistant to slam a clipboard and eliciting a huge grin from Bortles.
"We weren't sharp, we made some bad plays and did some stupid stuff, but we found a way to win and that's all that matters," Bortles said.
He completed 12 of 23 passes for 87 yards, with a touchdown. His TD pass to backup tight end Ben Koyack late in the third quarter was his best throw of the game. It also was a gutsy call on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Bortles did the rest on the ground, scrambling for first downs and helping Jacksonville win its first playoff game at home since the 1997 season.
"You know, when we got beat last week at Tennessee, I didn't run at all, so I thought we got beat without kind of shooting all of our shots, so I said it made it difficult, so let's find some ways to move the ball and do some different stuff," Bortles said.
Since 1941, teams who allowed 9-12 points in a postseason game had gone 81-8. The Bills have become the ninth team to lose doing so.
Roy Schwansessum knows exactly when the Bills were last in the playoffs.
"I was in fourth grade, 1999. Music City Miracle," Schwansessum said. "I cried. I thought the play was illegal, but I guess it wasn't."
"Seventeen and now this," said Kim, a Canadian fan who started buying Bills tickets in 1981.
McDermott said there are no moral victories.
“We’re not done yet,” said McDermott. “When we came in here we set a vision and put forward a plan to accomplish that vision and we’re not there yet. I said that before the game and I’m gonna continue to say it. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but there are things that we can learn from that will help us as we move forward.”
McDermott said getting a home playoff game is something to work towards. The Bills now officially hold the 21st and 22nd picks in the 2018 NFL draft.
"Western New York is known for having some of the highest heart-related illnesses in the country," said fan John Grievas. "So, yeah, it's been full of ups and downs for sure. I get a lot of heartburn."
The Jaguars advance to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.