The team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game, and it’s no mystery why: Whether a fumble that stakes an underdog to a lead, a giveaway that shifts momentum, or a pick-six in overtime, few plays make more of a difference in winning and losing. Dave Archibald looks at Aaron Colvin’s corner blitz and strip-sack that helped the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 in London.
Yahoo.com made headlines for broadcasting Sunday’s Buffalo Bills – Jacksonville Jaguars game on an Internet live stream, and more than 15 million viewers around the globe saw a sloppily-played but exciting 34-31 Jaguars victory in London, UK. The Bills scored 28 unanswered points at one stretch, but a late touchdown connection between Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles and wideout Allen Hurns gave the Jags the last laugh. Buffalo had fought hard to come back, but they dug themselves a 27-3 hole, thanks in large part to turnovers.
The first came early in the second quarter after the Jaguars scored to take a 7-3 lead, with the Bills facing a 3rd-and-9 on their own 23-yard-line. In the obvious passing situation, Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich reach into their bag of tricks, dialing up a clever blitz.
The Bills align quarterback E.J. Manuel in the shotgun with trips left and running back LeSean McCoy (#25) to his right in the backfield. The Jaguars show an overload blitz right, with two down linemen, two linebackers, and safety Sergio Brown (#38) lined up to the right of the ball and only defensive end Chris Clemons (#91) to the left. Accordingly, Buffalo slides protection to the right side.
Jacksonville, however, is thinking a step ahead. Prior to the snap, cornerback Aaron Colvin (#22) cheats in from his slot position on the left side of the ball while Brown loops around to to the left side. Clemons stunts to the middle of the defensive line and left tackle Cordy Glenn (#77) follows him, meaning both Brown and Colvin come through the line untouched. McCoy chips Brown, but Colvin has a clear shot at the quarterback. He drills Manuel as he cocks back to throw and the football pops in the air. After a scramble, Clemons picks up the ball and stumbles into the end zone, extending the Jacksonville lead to 14-3.
Manuel, having lost the starting job four games into the 2014 season despite being drafted in the first round in 2013, was pressed into action due to injury to starter Tyrod Taylor. This play shows some of Manuel’s limitations: With protection slid to the right, he is responsible for the unblocked rusher on the left and must therefore unload the ball before the blitz gets home. The 25-year-old has physical talent, but lacks the split-second understanding and decision-making to make plays and avoid mistakes consistently.
Things got even worse for Manuel. After the ensuing kickoff, he threw a pass right into the arms of linebacker Telvin Smith who was waiting in zone coverage and Smith returned it for another Jaguars defensive touchdown. On the following possession, he again threw an interception to a Jacksonville linebacker, this time Paul Posluszny, setting up a T.J. Yeldon touchdown run. The Bills bounced back from that early deficit, thanks in part to a defensive touchdown of their own, but their early errors still counted on the scoreboard.
If Manuel had not been so careless with the football, Buffalo might have won, and his mistakes show in part why he has been relegated to backup duty. The Bills have some talent on both sides of the ball, but they’ve dropped two games in a row since Taylor’s injury and now find themselves in last place. Buffalo is the only franchise not to make the playoffs this millennium; they need Taylor to come back soon to break that streak.
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