REPORT CARD;Balanced attack gains steam
The Jaguars showed why Buffalo has the worst run defense in the league, compiling the second-most rushing yards (216) as a team in their last 34 games. Maurice Jones-Drew had a couple of explosive runs, though he didn't crack the 100-yard mark. What made this effort special was Deji Karim adding 70 yards on the ground in his NFL debut, and receiver Mike Thomas using his speed to get a couple big gains on reverse plays.
For the second consecutive game, quarterback David Garrard was exceptional by making good decisions and putting the ball where it needed to be. He played close to perfect after forcing a ball to Marcedes Lewis on his first pass, which was tipped up and intercepted by Andra Davis. Garrard (16-of-20 for 178 yards) had three TD passes and a 122.5 rating. The more Lewis becomes such a huge threat in the red zone, the better Garrard is looking.
The Jaguars looked awful in the first quarter. There were a lot of missed tackles, especially by safety Anthony Smith. The Jaguars allowed Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to get into the secondary too often. But in the last three quarters, the Bills didn't find many running lanes, making them a one-dimensional offense once the Jaguars rallied to tie the game.
A better job than usual, especially after CB David Jones allowed Lee Evans to run by him on a 45-yard bomb. The Jaguars were able to get pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Thanks mostly to Aaron Kampman and push up the middle from Terrance Knighton, the Jaguars are showing pass-rush improvement. Though Rashean Mathis did get picked on for a couple TDs by Steve Johnson, Derek Cox replaced Jones and performed admirably.
This unit keeps distinguishing itself. Josh Scobee connected on all five field goals, four from 40 yards or longer. Karim showed why they drafted him with returns of 31, 51 and 41 yards, which led to 17 points. Montell Owens, the special-teams godfather, also stopped a fake punt by Brian Moorman short of a first down. That ended any chance of the winless Bills sending the crowd home happy. The only hiccup was Thomas fumbling a punt return that led to a Buffalo touchdown.
Except for a foolish fourth-down quarterback sneak call, it was a terrific job by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He got receiver and budding star Mike Thomas more involved on reverse plays and found a way to return backup tight end Zach Miller into his pass-catching role. What started out looking like another road disaster turned into one of the Jaguars' best comebacks in years.
Compiled by GENE FRENETTE/The Times-Union