The Jaguars (2-5) won their first game in London after losing in each of the past two seasons at Wembley, the home of England’s national soccer team. The Bills (3-4) were playing in the British capital for the first time. The Jags defeated the Bills 34-31.
E.J. Manuel started at quarterback for the Bills for the second straight game because of the absence of the injured Tyrod Taylor. The 9:30 a.m. EDT start didn’t seem to bother either quarterback. Manuel’s early struggles allowed Jacksonville to take a 27-3 lead, but Manuel led the rally until the Jaguars took over for good in the final minutes.
The game was a back and forth affair that gave the London crowd plenty to cheer about. There were spectacular plays on offense and defense that pumped the Bills and Jaguars up, to the delight of the cheering fans.
Blake Bortles had an underwhelming game, but did just enough to get the Jaguars the win. Bortles was 13 of 29 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. E.J. Manuel went 24-of-42 for 298 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills got a better game out of Manuel but the defense didn’t hold up.
In a matter of six minutes, the Jags reeled off 27 unanswered points. And Manuel became the first player this season to turn the ball over three times in a quarter, per ESPN.
EJ Manuel turned it over 3 times in 6 Bills plays over a 2:24 span in the 2nd quarter He is the 1st player with 3 TO in a qtr this season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2015
The Bills had cut into a 27-13 halftime lead with a 26-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter and a 58-yard touchdown pass from E.J. Manuel to wide receiver Marcus Easley early in the quarter.
The Jaguars looked to be in control of the game going into the second half, but saw things begin to change drastically. Neither team scored in the third quarter, though Buffalo kicked a field goal early in the fourth to cut the deficit to 27-16. The Bills were in scoring position again on their next drive, but McCoy fumbled inside Jacksonville’s five-yard line after taking a huge hit from safety Johnathan Cyprien. The Jags recovered, ending another scoring opportunity for Buffalo.
The Bills would return to the end zone with 6:33 remaining in the game, as Manuel would find Marcus Easley on a 58-yard touchdown pass. McCoy would convert the two-point conversion and the Bills were suddenly only down 27-24.
It truly seemed like the Jags were trying to give the game to the Bills. After having the lead going into crunch time, they promptly began to fall apart.
The Jags seem pretty much intent on finding a way to blow this game despite EJ Manuel's efforts to do precisely the same earlier.
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 25, 2015
And it certainly appeared as though Jacksonville blew it on its next possession. Facing pressure on a third-and-11, Bortles floated a pass down the middle of the field and was intercepted by Corey Graham, who took the pick 44 yards to the end zone.
Manuel has a pick-6, a fumble-6 and another pick plus five ground balls and he's still outplayed Blake Bortles.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) October 25, 2015
The Bills’ defense played well enough to win Sunday. They stopped Jacksonville four times at the goal line. They made another critical stop on third down in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough for the Bills to overcome Manuel’s performance. He was brutal. It would have taken a superhuman effort to overcome the mistakes that were made.
The Bills didn’t need E.J. Manuel to be a superhero, they just needed a smart game from him. Somehow, that got lost in the wild atmosphere of Wembley. Manuel helped the Bills wipe a 27-3 deficit off the board. That should have been enough. But it wasn’t.
Rex Ryan was adamant in his support of Manuel, via The Buffalo News. The Bills’ coach was quick to spread the blame across the board and not just blame his quarterback.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to place that all on him,” Ryan said. “One guy gets a free run at the quarterback, the linebacker made a couple good plays. I don’t think you can just place it on him. Obviously, that’s the first guy you’re going to go to because it’s his turnover but it’s on all of us.”
[Feature Photo by Stephen Pond / Getty Images]