The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) entered Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills (5-9) with a marginally slim chance of reaching the playoffs.
But those hopes ended when Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne threw an interception in the end zone with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter as Buffalo beat Jacksonville 27-20 in Jacksonville.
That was the storyline all day for the Jaguars. Lots of opportunities to score, but nothing to show for it.
“Four turnovers is not going to win any game,” Henne said. “You're going to lose the turnover battle and your chances of winning are very slim.”
One of those key turnovers happened at the start of the third quarter when rookie offensive weapon Denard Robinson broke away from Bills defenders for a 24-yard rush that looked like an easy touchdown. But as Robinson tried to extend the ball over the plane, Aaron Williams stripped the ball allowing it to go through the endzone for a touchback.
“When you get that close to the endzone it's a natural reaction to reach the ball out and try to score,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said. “We don't do that. We're supposed to keep it high and tight and I challenged him when he came off the field.”
Buffalo didn't score off the turnover, however, but it was plays like Robinson's fumble that defined the game.
And Williams wasn't done heckling the Jaguars offense. On the third play of the game, Chad Henne forced a pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis that was picked off by Williams which led to a Dan Carpenter field goal.
But the Jaguars would strike back and regain the lead.
Early in the second quarter, Henne found former South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders for a 12-yard touchdown; the first for Sanders in his NFL career.
But after that, the Bills would go on to score 17 unanswered points, giving them a 20-10 lead late in the third quarter.
Once again the Jaguars would find a way to claw their way back in the game due in part to the running back play of Jordan Todman.
Todman was starting in place of Maurice Jones-Drew who was out with a hamstring injury.
Todman had 153 total yards and provided a much needed spark for the Jaguars offense in the second half.
Coach Bradley said the running back stepped up his play in the second half.
“As he played more and more he developed a comfort level,” coach Bradley said.
Entering Sunday's game, Todman's career high in carries was 11 against the Houston Texans on Nov. 24. Against the Bills, Todman rushed 25 times for 109 yards.
Henne wasn't surprised with the way Todman burst on to the scene because of the way Todman practices.
“He runs hard. He has that extra burst of speed on the outside,” Henne said. ” He hits those holes hard and protects the ball.”
In the fourth quarter, Henne found Marcedes Lewis in the end zone for a 13-yard pass tying the game at 20-all. Todman had 41 total yards on the drive. For Lewis, it's his third straight game with a touchdown.
But in the end, Bills rookie quarterback and former Florida State star E.J. Manuel was too much for the Jaguars defense.
Manuel accounted for three touchdowns, the last one coming on a 1-yard TD pass to fullback Frank Summers–capping off an 89-yard drive.
Buffalo took the lead 27-20 and didn't look back.
Even though the outcome was not what the Jaguars wanted, Bradley was pleased with his team's effort.
” I think in the locker room our hearts are broken right now because of (the loss,) but our spirits are not,” Bradley said. ”I think a lot of our young guys stepped up and took advantage of their moments.”