Dante Fowler

Jaguars beat Bills 10-3 in ugly, sometimes unwatchable game

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles put together one decent drive all day, doing as much with his legs as his arm, and the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars eked out an ugly and sometimes unwatchable 10-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game Sunday.

In the postseason for the first time since January 2008, the third-seeded Jaguars (11-6) advanced to play at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh next week.

The sixth-seeded Bills (9-8) will head home after ending the longest, current playoff drought in North American professional sports.

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.

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 prepare hard and we study a lot of tape, we practice hard,” Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell said.

“We’re battle-tested, so we know that if we just keep playing ball, good things will happen.”

The Bills finished with 263 yards, with 119 of those coming from hobbled running back LeSean McCoy (ankle).

The Jags had a measly 230 yards. Leonard Fournette ran 21 times for 57 yards.

RUNNING PASSERS

Bortles is the second starting quarterback in the past 25 seasons to win a playoff game with more rushing yards than passing yards (88 rushing, 87 passing). The other was Atlanta’s Michael Vick in the 2004 divisional round against the Rams (119 rushing, 82 passing).

HUGE SWING

Trailing 10-3 with about six minutes to play, the Bills looked as if they picked up a first down on an 11-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to Clay. Jacksonville players standing on the sideline pointed to Clay’s feet, and coach Doug Marrone threw the challenge flag. Officials overturned the completion, saying Clay was out of bounds and setting up a third-and-10 play from the Jacksonville 48-yard line. Linebacker Myles Jack sacked Taylor on the next play, forcing a punt.

INJURIES

Bills: 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.

Jaguars: Linebacker Paul Posluszny left the game with a hip injury, tried to return and then headed to the locker room for further evaluation. He was listed as questionable and returned to the sideline after halftime. Receiver/punt returner Jaydon Mickens left with a hamstring injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

The Jaguars will play at second-seeded Pittsburgh next Sunday, a rematch from Week 5. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, and Jacksonville won 30-9. The Steelers have won 10 of 11 since, the lone loss coming against New England.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Jaguars thump Texans 45-7 for 1st playoff berth since 2007

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade thanks to a 45-7 drubbing of rival Houston on Sunday.

Once the NFL’s poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league’s top turnaround stories.

Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes, including two to a reserve receiver who slept in his car earlier this season. The Jaguars won for the seventh time in eight games to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2007.

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Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career, including 186 yards and a touchdown to rookie Keelan Cole. Primary punt returner Jaydon Mickens, who stepped in for injured starter Marqise Lee in the first quarter, caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores against the Texans (4-10).

It was a career day for Mickens, who said this week he spent nights in his car outside the facility while on the practice squad in September and October. He did it to save money, not knowing how long he would remain in town.

Now, he and teammates will be getting playoff checks.

That’s a huge change for Jacksonville. The Jaguars were an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years, more a laughingstock than a postseason contender.

Owner Shad Khan fired coach Gus Bradley one year ago Sunday, following a close loss at Houston. Khan hired Tom Coughlin to oversee football decisions and made interim Doug Marrone the head coach. Coughlin and Marrone added several key players and changed the culture with a grueling offseason and training camp.

The Jags got off to an up-and-down start, but have hit their stride down the stretch.

Bortles has been better than expected of late, with seven touchdown passes and no turnovers the last three games. Cole and fellow rookie Dede Westbrook have been equally impressive.

The Jags didn’t even need rookie Leonard Fournette on Sunday. He was inactive because of a sore right quadriceps muscle.

Jacksonville’s defense has been the glue all season and was dominant again. Jacksonville led 31-0 for the biggest halftime lead in team history.

The defense had one lapse, when DeAndre Hopkins beat Jalen Ramsey for gains of 40 and 25 yards in the third quarter. The second one went for a touchdown.

T.J. Yates, making his first start since 2015, was mostly ineffective in place of Tom Savage (concussion). Yates completed 12 of 31 passes for 128 yards, with the TD and an interception.

INJURIES

Texans: Center Nick Martin (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (concussion) left in the second half. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney injured a shoulder making a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return.

Jaguars: Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was later ruled out. Ramsey (groin), defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (hamstring) and safety Peyton Thompson (foot) left the game but later returned.

QUESTIONABLE CALL

The Texans could have run out the clock trailing 24-0 late in the first half, but with 53 seconds remaining and three timeouts, coach Bill O’Brien decided to try to get something going. Yates threw an interception, and the Jaguars scored three plays later.

UP NEXT

Texans: Host Pittsburgh next Monday in the team’s home finale.

Jaguars: Play at San Francisco on Sunday.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Dalton, Bengals have ‘good outing’ in loss at Jags (VIDEO)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Cincinnati Bengals were so sharp against Jacksonville that Andy Dalton and several teammates were done long before halftime.

Dalton led the Bengals to two touchdowns in three possessions, earning him a little extra rest in a 26-21 loss to the Jaguars in the preseason Sunday night.

“It was a good outing for us,” said Dalton, who completed 6 of 10 passes for 77 yards and a TD. “Two touchdowns in the first half of a preseason game is pretty good, and we got them both ways. … It’s a good feeling to do it both ways.”

The Bengals (1-2) felt good on both sides of the ball, too. Dalton found Giovani Bernard for a 19-yard score on a third-down play, and then Jeremy Hill capped a 9-minute drive with a 1-yard scramble to the pylon. Defensively, the Bengals held Jacksonville to just 90 yards in the first half. Jacksonville’s first three drives: turnover, three-and-out and three-and-out.

Cincy’s only concern in the regular-season dress rehearsal was the health of three Pro Bowlers.

Receiver A.J. Green left in the first quarter with a bruised right knee, but said he’s fine. Cornerback Adam Jones strained his right calf in preseason warmups and did not play. And special teams ace Cedric Peerman broke his left forearm and could be out for the season.

“It’s unfortunate guys have injuries, but you can’t worry about that,” Dalton said. “You’ve got to worry just about the stuff you can control.”

Safety Tashaun Gipson (bruised knee) was Jacksonville’s only injured starter.

The Jaguars (1-2) had bigger problems – the offense and defense both failed to show – that raised questions about what’s supposed to the franchise’s most talented team in nearly a decade.

T.J. Yeldon fumbled on the opening possession. Center Brandon Linder and quarterback Blake Bortles each were flagged for false starts to open drives. And the left side of Jacksonville’s revamped offensive line was mostly manhandled.

“We kind of killed ourselves. We did some stupid things, really, at every position,” Bortles said. “They didn’t do necessarily anything to stop up, which is a good sign because it’s a good defense. … We were comfortable and confident in what we were doing. We just didn’t execute it and get things done.”

DEBUTS

Bengals: WR Brandon LaFell caught one pass in his Bengals debut. Signed in free agency to help replace Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, LaFell also drew a pass-interference penalty that set up a score.

Jaguars: Playing his first game since tearing a knee ligament last October, LT Kelvin Beachum looked rusty. And Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, looked lost at times at LG.

ROOKIE WATCH

Bengals: WR Alex Erickson scored for the third straight game, stating his case to make the team. Erickson caught a 21-yard TD pass from AJ McCarron early in the third quarter. It was his second TD catch of the preseason. He also returned a punt for a touchdown.

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue got the start ahead of Dante Fowler Jr., but only because the Jaguars wanted to see Ngakoue get some snaps with the first-team defense. Ngakoue finished with two tackles.

POSITION BATTLES

Bengals: Second-round pick WR Tyler Boyd, vying to start opposite Green, had a 9-yard reception.

Jaguars: Fourth-year RB Joe Banyard ran 11 times for 54 yards, including a 7-yard TD run in the third quarter, and had his most extensive work of the preseason. Banyard and Corey Grant are competing to be the fourth-string back.

INJURY UPDATE

Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict and TE Tyler Eifert were among a dozen players ruled out before the game.

Jaguars: Eight players were ruled out beforehand, including DT Roy Miller, rookie DT Sheldon Day and FS Peyton Thompson.

QUOTABLE

Bengals: “I do feel faster this year because I feel healthier.” – Hill.

Jaguars: “We played bad at every position and usually that is what happens when you play bad: you do not score a lot of points.” – Bortles.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL