The Jaguars built a team centered around strong defense and a powerful running game.
With some unexpected contributors, that formula produced the franchise’s first playoff victory in more than 10 years.
Blake Bortles rushed for a career-high 88 yards and cornerback Jalen Ramsey pulled down a game-sealing interception as the Jaguars beat Buffalo 10-3 in front of 69,442 on Sunday at EverBank Field.
The Jaguars will play at Pittsburgh at 1:05 p.m. next Sunday. The winner of that game will play either New England or Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game.
Bortles completed 12 of 23 for just 87 yards but repeatedly was able to make critical plays with his legs.
His best throw of the day came late in the third quarter when he hit tight end Ben Koyack for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Jaguars up 10-3.
A gutsy call by coach Doug Marrone kept the offense on the field for fourth-and-goal from the 1 after running back Leonard Fournette’s attempt to jump over the line of scrimmage on third down resulted in no gain.
Bortles, who appeared to be stepped on while taking the snap, faked a hand-off to Fournette and fired a pass to Koyack in the back of the end zone.
The score was Koyack’s first of the season (second in career) and capped a 15-play drive that took 8:52 — the Jaguars’ longest drive by time this season.
The Jaguars’ defense made the only touchdown of the day stand up.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was knocked out of the game with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter when his head slammed to the turf while he was being tackled by Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler.
Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, a Bartram Trail grad, ran for 4 yards on the ensuing fourth-and-3 play. However, he was intercepted by Ramsey in the final minute to end the game.
Taylor completed 17 of 38 for 134 yards with two interceptions.
Prior to Sunday, the Jaguars’ last playoff win was a 31-29 victory at Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2008, and their last home playoff win was a 62-7 demolishing of Miami on Jan. 15, 2000.
Sunday looked nothing like either of those games.
An underwhelming first half by both teams produced the first 3-3 halftime score in a playoff game since the 1988 season.
For the Jaguars, Josh Lambo made a 44-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the second quarter. Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka was good from 31 yards away three possessions before.
Otherwise, it was tough to watch.
Hauschka’s make came with 1:49 left in the second quarter, but the Bills had to feel like an opportunity had been missed.
After the Jaguars gifted the Bills another chance when linebacker Telvin Smith was called for a neutral zone infraction on fourth-and-1 from the Jacksonville 3-yard line, they moved backward.
Buffalo receiver Kelvin Benjamin was flagged for offensive pass interference in the end zone, which pushed his team back to the 11. Taylor then lost 2 on a run and threw a pair of incompletions.
In all, Buffalo ran 18 plays on the drive, which lasted 8:06.
The Jaguars squandered a prime scoring opportunity earlier in the second quarter after fourth-year cornerback Aaron Colvin grabbed his first career interception.
Colvin made a diving effort when a pass from Taylor that was intended for tight end Logan Thomas was deflected. Colvin also got a hand on it before corralling the ball as he fell to the turf to give the Jaguars possession at the Buffalo 35-yard line.
However, the Jaguars went Fournette run (no gain), screen to tight end Marcedes Lewis (loss of 3) and screen to running back Chris Ivory (incomplete) and punted back to the Bills.
Bortles has mostly played well this season, but his critics will point to his sluggish first half.
Bortles was an underwhelming 6-of-15 passing for 33 yards and needed receiver Dede Westbrook to break up a pass to avoid throwing an interception.
Westbrook was the only Jaguars receiver to catch a pass in the game.
Bortles ran for 35 yards in the first half, including gains of 20 and 12 yards to set up Lambo’s field goal.
The Jaguars had five first downs in the first half.
Taylor was also more effective with his legs (six carries, 25 yards), converting a pair of third-down tries by scrambling during the Bills’ lone first-half scoring drive.
Taylor nearly ran for a 2-yard score prior to Hauschka’s field goal but was tripped from behind by defensive end Calais Campbell.