The Buffalo Bills attempted their fewest passes in a game in six years on Sunday.
Nobody was complaining about the play-calling.
With a steady rain drenching Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills imposed their running will on the Jacksonville Jaguars and scored a 34-18 victory.
“I felt like coming out here and seeing what type of day it was, we were gonna have to run the ball,” said Bills running back Fred Jackson. “I told C.J. [Spiller], ‘Expect the ball a lot today.’ ”
“It was gonna be one of those games where it’s gotta be a ground-and-pound game,” Jackson said.
Jackson led the charge, rushing 25 times for 109 yards. Spiller had 14 carries for 77 yards. The Bills finished with 232 rushing yards, a season high and their most in two years.
“We went out there today and knew we wanted to be a more physical team,” said tight end Scott Chandler.
The result moved the Bills (5-7) into a tie with the Jets and Miami in the AFC East. New England (9-3) already has clinched the division title. The Bills remained mathematically alive for a playoff spot, although they’re two games out of the second and final wild-card berth with four games to play.
A gathering of 53,971 braved the crummy weather, which was perfect for caveman football. Jacksonville was the perfect opponent, too.
The Jaguars ranked 29th in the NFL against the run. And with star running back Maurice Jones-Drew out due to injury, the Jaguars’ 32nd-ranked offense was not likely to turn the game into a track meet.
The Bills had plenty of time to be patient with the ground game.
In the first half, Jackson and Spiller combined for 44 rushing yards and 2.75 yards a carry. In the second half, Jackson and Spiller combined for 142 yards and 6.2 yards a carry.
“We knew they were gonna bring that eighth man in the box with the way the weather was,” Jackson said. “We said we just gotta keep pounding. There was really no adjustments made, we stuck with the same game plan. We said if we keep pounding we’ll crack a few.”
Holding a 17-10 halftime lead, the Bills took the second half kickoff and ran on five straight plays for 44 yards.
Jackson burst for 15 yards to the Jacksonville 34 on a well-designed bend-back play to the left. Receiver Brad Smith motioned into a fullback position. The offensive linemen blocked down to the right, while Jackson broke off left tackle, following Smith’s block on a defensive end.
“The coaches drew up a great game plan and we went out and executed it, which is something we hadn’t done,” Chandler said.
On the next play, Smith took the snap from the Wildcat formation, faked inside and rumbled for 17 yards off left tackle, following blocks by Chandler and guard Kraig Urbik.
“When the offensive line is working like that, getting a hat on a hat, the read took me outside and we were able to get some yards with it,” Smith said. “All day the line was doing a good job.”
Three plays later, Stevie Johnson put a good fake on Jacksonville cornerback Kevin Rutland and got wide open on the left side of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. The Bills had a 24-10 lead.
Spiller made it a blowout early in the fourth quarter, running 44 yards around left end for a touchdown to give the Bills a 34-10 advantage.
It was a basic run out of a two-back set. Chandler got a good block on Jacksonville defensive end Jeremy Mincey, and Jags safety Chris Prosinski came up quickly, expecting Spiller to cut inside Mincey. Bad move. Spiller made one lightning cut to the outside and was gone.
“I was cutting [Mincey] off, and C.J. just bounced it outside,” Chandler said. “I was trying to hang onto him long enough, and you don’t have to hang onto him too long for C.J. to break one.”
At that point in the game, Jackson and Spiller had combined for 168 yards. Jacksonville’s offense had just 147.
The Bills held the ball for 35:09.
“That says a lot for this team and where we’re trying to get to,” Smith said. “The offensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage, and the backs were able to take that extra guy [a safety] and cross him out. That’s big for us.”
Coach Chan Gailey said last week his intention was to have Spiller get 60 percent to 65 percent of the touches. It’s not the way it worked out, because Jackson was working so well between the tackles. Jackson got 27 touches, Spiller 15.
“He’ll get hit at the line of scrimmage and still get 4 to 5 yards,” Urbik said of Jackson. “That’s one of the special things he does.”
“You would like for C.J. to be on a fast track,” Gailey said. “He proved with that one run that sometimes it does not matter. When you are in a physical, downhill game, that is more Fred’s game.”
It was Jackson’s 14th career 100-yard game and his first since last November at Dallas.
Fitzpatrick completed 9-of-17 passes for 112 yards with two TDs and one interception.
A 51-yard pass on a post pattern to rookie T.J. Graham set up the first TD of the game. His other TD pass was an 11-yarder to Chandler.
Jacksonville was held to 236 total yards, 50 under its league-low average. The Jags had just 50 yards rushing.
“It feels good to get that losing taste out of our mouths,” Bills safety George Wilson said. “Get out there and protect our home turf, put together another dominant performance on defense and see our offense put it in the end zone a few times.”