The rivalry history between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars is relatively recent. The Jaguars were added to the NFL as an expansion team in 1995, alongside the Carolina Panthers. Both teams saw shocking success to start their professional football legacies. Both teams made it to their respective conference championships in their second season. It was on this unexpected Jaguars playoff run that our franchises first butted heads.
An Intense Introduction
1996 AFC Wild Card
Things were changing in Western New York. Coming off a tough season the year before, Buffalo wanted to get right back to contending for more Super Bowls. They felt confident. Their core of future Hall of Famers (and Wall of Famers) was still largely intact, though aged, and Jacksonville’s brand-new team hadn’t even got any mud on it yet. A new team’s first playoff game, and they had to visit the recent four-time AFC Champion Buffalo Bills? Things looked bleak.
“Jacksonville who?”– Thurman Thomas, postgame in week 17, ahead of the playoffs
Objectively, it would be one of the best playoff games on that era, just not for Buffalo. They started strongly, pushing downfield for an opening-drive touchdown, and getting a stop defensively right after. The ball was in the offense’s hands again, but it wouldn’t stay there for long. Jim Kelly threw an interception to Clyde Simmons, who returned it for a 20-yard score to even things up. The offense wouldn’t stay down for long, quickly getting back on their feet to score another touchdown on a long drive before the first quarter ended. But a quick Mike Hollis field goal following a 62-yard run would keep the score close.
The game slowed down as both sides adjusted well to each other, but Jacksonville was good. They started the season 4-7 before surging back to make this playoff push, and refused to be kept at bay. On a 30-yard breakaway touchdown by running back Natrone Means, the Jaguars would take their first lead. Buffalo countered with a Steve Christie field goal to make things level once more.
As they did so often in that era, Jim Kelly and crew opened the second half with a big drive, but uncharacteristically fell short, settling for another field goal. The Jaguars answered with a field goal of their own eight minutes later. The game was close and hard-fought, with each team desperate for a break to take a lead. Buffalo got one to start the fourth quarter. Jeff Burris hand-delivered the Bills a seven-point lead when he took an interception 38 yards to the house.
Unfortunately, those would be the last points of the day for the home team. Means meant business, racking up 175 yards on the day and turning the Buffalo defense into swiss cheese, and his team leaned on him to carry them down the field. Their next drive resulted in a two-yard touchdown. Then, tragedy struck.
On third and seven, Jim Kelly’s screen pass was blown up, resulting in a fumble. He dove upon but was unable to secure it, and Jacksonville has a short field. Kelly would leave the field on a stretcher, never to take another snap again. Meanwhile, the Jaguars kicked the ball through the uprights for the go-ahead score. Buffalo couldn’t move the ball with their backup QB. That game was far from the worst loss we suffered that day. Buffalo wouldn’t find another franchise quarterback until 2018.
The Flutie Boot Game (1998)
|Jax 30-27 Buf||Jax 20-14 Buf||Jax 16-17 Buf||Buf 13-10 Jax||Buf 38-17 Jax|
Buffalo’s first win in the all-time series would be just as epic a tale as their first loss. Jacksonville’s Cinderella start in the NFL was still underway. They shot out to 5-0 whilst the Bills had floundered, losing their first three games before righting the ship after the bye week to get to 2-3. Doug Flutie was quarterbacking the last few aging pieces from those legendary Super Bowl seasons. It had been a hard-fought, low-scoring affair. Both teams were within striking distance of one another. The Buffalo Bills defense excelled in containing the Jaguars, but the offense couldn’t seem to get the ball moving. Even with Eric Moulds, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, and more rounding out the skill positions.
The score was 16-10 to Jacksonville, with under two minutes left to play and one timeout. The stadium was tense. Flutie took position under center and started what needed to be a game-winning touchdown drive. Moving the ball well, but much too slowly, they burned most of what little time they had just getting to the Jaguars’ 39-yard line. The Bills needed a big play and they needed it fast. With 39 seconds left, Flutie found Eric Moulds streaking down the left sideline between the zones the defense was covering. After an incredible jumping catch, Moulds fully extended to reach for the endzone.
The stadium exploded, but would soon be disappointed. The referees ruled him down just short of the goal line. The offense had to rush back out to spike the ball, with no timeouts and the clock running down quickly. Two short incompletions later, on fourth down, offensive coordinator Joe Pendry reached to the back of his playbook for something unorthodox. He pulled out a naked QB bootleg, designed to fool the defense into leaving the quarterback outside the pocket, uncovered as a rusher.
It worked to perfection as Flutie strolled into the endzone. Steve Christie put the game-winning extra point through the uprights. As the stadium shook, the life drained out of the Jaguars and their desperate Hail Mary would fall far short. Their perfect season was over and the Buffalo Bills improve to 3-3. They would end up with a 10-6 record which, shockingly, would only be good for third in the division that season.
Jacksonville’s startling early success as an expansion team was a boon to them. However, the inevitable hard times came fast for both of these franchises. The Bills’ failure to make the postseason during their infamous 18-year playoff drought was largely due to their inability to stay competitive within their division. This was a problem the Jaguars faced as well.
|Jax 13-10 Buf||Jax 24-27 Buf||Buf 14-36 Jax|
|Buf 20-16 Jax||Buf 15-18 Jax||Jax 36-26 Buf|
|Jax 18-34 Buf||Buf 27-20 Jax||Buf 31-34 Jax|
These two teams faced off a number of times through their least successful seasons, but there was very little intrigue. There were a few memorable moments for the drought-era Buffalo Bills, like James Hardy’s late-game touchdown to win it in 2008 and the raging fourth-quarter comeback in London in 2015 that fell just short. Yet, it wasn’t until the 2017-18 season that we would play meaningful football against them again.
2017 AFC Wild Card
Both teams had been largely forgettable until a startling and sudden turnaround by Jacksonville, who’s historic defense brought them massive and immediate success. In one of the most unexpected seasons by any team in recent memory, the 2017 Jaguars led the league in:
- Forced fumbles (17)
- Completion percentage allowed (56.8)
- Passing yards allowed per game (169.9)
- Passer rating allowed (68.5)
- Defensive touchdowns (7)
They also finished second in:
- Sacks (55)
- Interceptions (21)
- Total takeaways (33)
- Yards allowed per game (286.1)
- Points allowed per game (16.8)
Their running game was the best in the league as well, averaging 141 yards per game with Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory putting in work. At quarterback, they had the legendary Blake Bortles.
Meanwhile, the 2017 Buffalo Bills broke the drought with the Tyrod Taylor-led offense and one of the stoutest defenses in the league. If the story just ended there, people would probably have been quite happy.
Now, you have to understand that when we say meaningful football, we don’t necessarily mean good football. The game itself was an absolute debacle from both teams. The NFL was forced to endure one of the most ‘unwatchable’ games of the modern era.
The defenses were great, but it was the absolute ineptitude of both offenses that really caused the low score. A few thousand misfires, bad blocks, and dropped passes littered what could have been an exciting playoff game.
There was but a single decent drive by either team, and it came as the Jaguars found the endzone at the close of the third quarter, ending the 3-3 deadlock. With time running down, Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion after a big hit, setting the stage for Buffalo Bills legend Nathan Peterman to throw the game-sealing interception. This allowed Jacksonville to run out the clock. It wasn’t the game anyone had been hoping for, but the drought was over and it was time to say goodbye to those ‘Same old Bills’ that we’d known for the better part of two decades.
|Jax 21-28 Buf||Buf 3-10 Jax||Jax 21-24 Buf|
Josh Allen’s Breakthrough
The last time we played the Jaguars, things were tense before the kickoff even started. Former Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey had been vocal about his distain for Josh Allen and, as Allen returned for his first game following a lengthy injury, no-one knew what to expect.
“I think Allen is trash. I don’t care what nobody say. He’s trash. And it’s gonna show too. That’s a stupid draft pick to me. We play them this year, and I’m excited as hell. I hope he’s their starting quarterback.”– Jalen Ramsey to qc magazine ahead of Josh Allen’s rookie season
Josh Allen would make him eat his words. In one of the best games of his rookie campaign, Josh was more-or-less mistake-free. Buffalo blew up in the first quarter with two quick drives to take a 14-point lead. Unfortunately, they stumbled over themselves in the second quarter, allowing two consecutive 74-yard drives as Jacksonville equalized. The third quarter featured some drama. Following a three-and-out by the Buffalo offense, the Jaguars got the ball back with excellent field position. A would-be punt-forcing sack by Matt Milano was negated by a defensive holding call. Shortly afterwards, a deep touchdown by Donte Moncrief would be reviewed and brought back out to the three-yard line.
A fight broke out after that play, resulting in even head coach Sean McDermott getting blood on his clothes. Leonard Fournette and Shaq Lawson would be ejected from the game.
Carlos Hyde would lose a yard on the ensuing run up the middle. A false start right after would push Jacksonville further back. Blake Bortles would throw another touchdown on the drive, but it would be negated by another holding call. Then, Kyle Williams sacked Bortles, forcing a 42-yard field goal, which was promptly shanked. One of the most absurd chains of events fell in our favor, and Josh Allen’s 14-yard touchdown run on the next drive would give us a lead we wouldn’t relinquish. An attempted comeback was thwarted, and Allen kneeled out the final minute in the victory formation.
Ultimately, this series has been a close-fought battle. And, whilst we’ve won the head-to-head so far, Jacksonville has had just about every win that mattered, advancing from both of our playoff matchups. We’ll be hosting their brand new first-overall pick Travor Lawrence on Sunday and hope to take one of the NFL’s worst teams down another peg.
Join us next week for Rivalry History as the Buffalo Bills take on the New
Jersey York Jets!