JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles never had a game like this.
Not in college. Not in high school. Not in peewee football. Not even in the backyard against family and friends.
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.
Bortles became the second starting quarterback in the past 25 years to win a playoff game with more rushing yards (88) than passing (87). Atlanta’s Michael Vick also did it against the St. Louis Rams in the 2004 playoffs.
“That’s usually not ideal for a quarterback,” Bortles said.
It was enough to help the third-seeded Jaguars (11-6) get to the next round against No. 2 seed Pittsburgh.
The sixth-seeded Bills (9-8) will head home after ending the longest, current playoff drought in North American professional sports.
“We had bigger goals,” Buffalo linebacker Preston Brown said. “Once we got in the dance, we didn’t want to be one and done. We didn’t want to treat this like a bowl game, go down to Florida and everybody relaxes. We wanted to move on.
“This really stings to lose in this way when you hold them to 10 points. We just didn’t find a way to hold them to zero points to win the game.”
Bortles was a big reason Jacksonville won its first playoff game since January 2008. He was big reason it was so close, too.
This was far from a passing clinic. It was more like a painful exercise in overcoming poor passing.
Bortles made up for it with his scrambling ability. He had several long runs, with the highlight coming in the fourth quarter when he fumbled a shotgun snap, picked it up and outran two defenders for an 18-yard gain.
The play prompted a Bills assistant to slam his clipboard to the ground, which left Bortles smiling as he flipped the ball to an official.
“We weren’t sharp. We made some bad plays and did some stupid stuff,” Bortles said. “But we found a way to win, and that’s all that matters.”
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, picking up first downs and helping Jacksonville win its first playoff game at home since the 1999 season.
“He found a way,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “You’ve got to find a way. Whatever it takes, we’ve got to get to these goals we talked about. All this work we put in in the offseason is for moments like this. For him to find a way and do it with his legs, I have the utmost respect for him.”
The Bills had plenty of chances down the stretch, but a huge penalty against tight end Charles Clay, a dropped pass by Zay Jones and then a tackle that knocked quarterback Tyrod Taylor out of the game ended any threat of a comeback.
Taylor’s helmet slammed hard against the ground after getting thrown down by Dante Fowler Jr. He had to be helped off the field, forcing 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.
“I don’t care what people call it, we got a playoff win,” Ramsey said. “We’re going to come to work for another week while other teams are sitting home.”
The Bills finished with 263 yards, 119 of those coming from hobbled running back LeSean McCoy (ankle). The Jags had a measly 230 yards, the team’s third-fewest total of the season. Leonard Fournette ran 21 times for 57 yards.
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.
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.
Jaguars: Linebacker Paul Posluszny (hip) left, tried to return and then headed to the locker room. He did not return. Receiver/punt returner Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) also left the game.
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.
“I’m sure they’re thinking that game was a fluke,” Ramsey said.