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How it happened: Jaguars defensive wreaks havoc on Bills

It was one for the ages for the Jaguars defense on Sunday.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

It would be an understatement to say that the Jaguars dominated the Buffalo Bills on defense this past Sunday.

The team executed in near-perfection en route to their most impressive victory since the 2017 playoff run that saw the team go toe-to-toe with the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. In a 9-6 victory, the Jaguars showed exactly how dominating of a force they can be defensively when everything just, clicks.

Jacksonville’s efforts on Sunday shouldn’t be dismissed. The Bills entered the matchup highly rated in the majority of categories on offense, including points scored (1st, 32.7 PPG), average yards per game (6th, 402.9), third-down percentage (2nd, 49.5%) and average passing yards per game (6th, 276.3).

On Sunday, Jacksonville held Buffalo to just six points, allowing 301 total net yards, and, though still impressive for Buffalo, a third-down efficiency rate of 40% (6 out of 15) and just 229 net yards passing on the day.

Bills QB Josh Allen entered the game having completed 65.44% of his throws for 1972 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. On Sunday vs. Jacksonville, Allen’s completion percentage remained steady at 65.95%, but he’d turn the football over three times, including two interceptions thrown, a lost fumble, and of course, zero touchdowns.

From the onset of the game, the Jaguars pressured Allen as well as any team thus far this season has, making the QB uncomfortable from the first to the final snap of the game.

Much of the credit will obviously go to both Jaguars DE/OLB Josh Allen and DE Dawuane Smoot, who were the team’s top pass rushers on the day, accounting for five and seven total pressures during the contest, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus.

However, the interior pass rush provided by Roy Roberson-Harris, Taven Bryan, Adam Gotsis, Malcom Brown and Jihad Ward were impressive, too.

The focus will certainly be on the team’s defensive line, as it should, but the team’s linebackers and defensive backs played well on Sunday, too, rarely giving up the big play. The team’s top-ranked cornerback on the day was Shaquill Griffin, who has played exceptionally through much of the season.

According to PFF, Griffin allowed just three receptions for 34 yards. He also tallied a forced fumble and made several other plays throughout the contest.

Following the game, Bills QB Josh Allen didn’t mince words when asked about his performance.

“They wanted it more,” said Allen. “You know, we had a lot of little things add up to big things. I put the ball in danger too often. [That] bit us in the butt. [I] played like shit, excuse my language, but that starts with me, so I’ve got to be better for this team.”

Here’s how it all happened:

Interior D-line sets the tone

The first play of the game set the tone for the remainder of the contest between Jacksonville and Buffalo, getting pressure up the interior. Though he only accounted for two total pressures, according to PFF, Robertson-Harris was one of the team’s most valuable assets on Sunday.

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer mentioned following the game on Sunday how important

“We have not had that — so I thought — especially Roy was hurt a few weeks, Taven Bryan came in and did a heck of a job, Adam Gotsis, and Jihad Ward gave great penetration inside,” Meyer mentioned, “and that forced the quarterback, a lot of those sacks you saw when he was scrambling away from the interior pressure.

“Really it’s a combination of both, but those guys are great. But the interior pressure really set up a lot of things.”

Bryan would account for two sacks on the day, and four pressures total, his best game as a Jaguars player since being selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The team’s run defense was particularly good, too. While Buffalo didn’t run the ball much, likely attempting to take advantage of what was assumingly a bad Jaguars pass defense, the team did well in defending the run against the Bills running backs.

On the day, Buffalo would run for just

Allen and Smoot have a day

The two stars of the contest were Allen and Smoot, both players who accounted for the most pressures on the team, with Smoot leading the way as referenced above with seven.

The two accounted for favorable pass-rush productivity grades, according to PFF with grades of 9.3 (Smoot) and 8.1 (Allen), both were good for top-20 over the weekend among players with at least 20 pass-rush snaps.

On Sunday, it was clear the two were going to have their fun, and part of the reason why is because of how well the unit as a whole has played together over the past few weeks, Allen said on Wednesday. Allen also mentioned that the trust that he’s built with his teammates has allowed him to play more comfortably.

“I feel like looking at it deeper is just the chemistry we have, and the chemistry that we’re getting with the whole defense is just growing every week and every day actually,” said Allen. “We’re a tight-knit group, and we’re going to continue to be a tight-knit group, continue to fight for each other, and hopefully continue to win a lot more games.”

Allens’ matchup against the other Josh Allen was well-documented, with the young pass rusher having the best game of his career, recording a sack, interception and fumble recovery on the day. The interception would be the first of Allen’s career, dropping back in coverage and moving across the field to make the play.

For his efforts, Allen was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and honor that hadn't been given to a Jaguars defender since his old running mate, Calais Campbell, earned it in 2019.

Run defense wasn’t needed, but played exceptionally

Simply put, the Bills didn’t run the football on Sunday much at all. In fact, their running backs accounted for just nine carries for 22 yards on the day, their lowest total of the season. Even in a low-scoring affair, the team was determined to beat Jacksonville through the air. Of course, it failed.

But, when Buffalo did attempt to run the ball, they were met with the same sort of fight and aggressiveness that the team was putting on display in all other facets of the game. For that reason, there was little they could do on the ground.

Taven Bryan has a break-out performance

Simply put, the Jaguars haven’t gotten much out of Bryan since the fourth-year player was selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Prior to Sunday, Bryan accounted for just 3.5 sacks in his career, including just a half-sack last season.

He has started just 17 games during his NFL career, not missing a single game due to injury. Bryan had also been a healthy scratch for one game this season vs. the Miami Dolphins in London.

On Sunday, a different animal appeared to show up to the gridiron, with Bryan making the most of his 20 defensive snaps, accounting for four pressures on the day, and two sacks. He was part of the heavy rotation along the team’s defensive line and made his presence known early and often.

Following the game, Allen commented on Bryan’s play on Sunday, stating that the young defensive lineman will only get better moving forward.

“And then Taven, oh, my gosh, that’s — that’s all I’m going to say on that one. People hated on him, but he got better,” said Allen. “He’s getting better. He’s a big asset to this team, and he’s going to continue to make a lot of plays for us in the back end, so I’m excited to see that growth, too.”

Confidence goes a long way for some players, and Meyer mentioned just that on Wednesday when asked about Bryan’s performance.

“He’s been trending and he’s a great guy. He’s very powerful, strong. Sometimes you hear people [talk about] his instincts,” Meyer mentioned. “In my opinion, [Defensive Coordinator] Joe Cullen and [Defensive Line Coach] Tosh [Lupoi] are two excellent d-line coaches and they’re doing a good job with him.

“It’s amazing the price tag you can put on confidence. [He’s] a very confident guy right now after last week.”

Bryan was asked about his performance, a break-out game, on Sunday following the game. A man of few words, Bryan was short in his response: “I just think it’s a good start. You know, see what next week brings me.”

Note: For the sake of brevity, not all clips were linked in this article, however, if you follow the links to the tweets, you will find more clips that illustrate what occurred.