Bills 35, Jaguars 32, OT
David Garrard thought there was some unwritten rule in which preseason games weren't supposed to go into overtime.
The Jaguars quarterback was wrong. He stood shivering on the sideline watching the Buffalo Bills force overtime in the final minute, then cap a 35-32 win on Rian Lindell's 40-yard field goal with 3:04 left Saturday night.
''I was shaking my head because I was cold out there,'' Garrard said. ''I guess everybody doesn't abide by these rules.''
It was a game that was 7 minutes short of entering its fourth hour, and one only scrubs and NFL die-hards could love.
Lindell's kick came after Jacksonville's Josh Scobee missed a 53-yard attempt. It was a back-and-forth contest in which Buffalo squandered a 17-point first-half lead and had to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit.
With much of the crowd gone by halftime, Bills backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen forced overtime by hitting Paul Hubbard on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left, then hooking up again for a 2-point conversion.
''An overtime preseason game?'' said Hubbard. ''For a minute, we were thinking it was kind of long and they were dragging it along. But we definitely did everything we could to come out and win it.''
Both teams' preseason records dropped to 1-2 after competing in the NFL's first preseason overtime game since Aug. 16, 2008, when Seattle beat Chicago 29-26. That one was at least decided early, when Brandon Coutu hit a field goal 3:28 into the extra frame.
This one looked like it was going to be decided early after the Bills appeared ready to blow the game open in the first half when their Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense finally showed spark - and a quick-strike dimension - in building a 17-0 lead.
In completing his first 11 attempts, Fitzpatrick threw touchdowns passes on consecutive plays - an 11-yarder to Marcus Easley and a 52-yarder to Stevie Johnson - 65 seconds apart in the second quarter. He finished going 11 of 12 for 165 yards passing in four series through the first half.
That more than doubled the 88 yards Fitzpatrick had in six series through Buffalo's first two preseason games. The two touchdowns were the first scored by the Bills' starters this preseason, and the 17 points in the first half were four more than Buffalo managed in its first two weeks.
''We've said all along, we wanted to carry over what we've been doing in practice onto the game field, and I think we did a good job of that today,'' Fitzpatrick said.
Garrard overcame a slow start by producing 17 points on his final three series. Playing mostly against the second-string defense, Garrard scored on a 4-yard run and then engineered a 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped by Brock Bolen's 2-yard run to open the third quarter.
Garrard finished 11 of 21 for 106 yards in his second start, while both touchdown drives where helped by lengthy pass-interference penalties: a 20-yarder against Drayton Florence and a 31-yarder against Reggie Corner.
''You have to be able to persevere and not let a slow start be a slow finish, too,'' Garrard said. ''We didn't hang our heads and mope around. We kept fighting.''
The Jaguars took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter when linebacker Jacob Cutrera intercepted Thigpen's pass and returned it 16 yards for a score.
Rookie first-round pick Blaine Gabbert had an inconsistent outing for Jacksonville. He went 6 of 13 for 52 yards with an 11-yard touchdown pass to DuJuan Harris and an interception.
Bills running back Fred Jackson backed up his off-the-field comments with a strong showing. He finished with 33 yards rushing and a 30-yard catch to cap a week that began with Jackson questioning whether the Bills disrespected him by starting C.J. Spiller in a 24-10 loss at Denver last weekend.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny had six tackles in his first game against the Bills since signing with Jacksonville in free agency last month. Though Posluszny was beaten by Jackson on a 30-yard catch up the left sideline in the first quarter, he responded by stuffing Jackson for a 1-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1 to force the Bills to settle for Lindell's opening 21-yard field goal.
Otherwise it was a comedy of errors.
The Jaguars twice turned over the ball in their territory in the final 7 minutes. There was Gabbert's interception, which led to Thigpen getting intercepted in the end zone.
The Jaguars then gave back the ball two plays later. Da'Norris Searcy forced Harris to fumble, and it was recovered by Buffalo's Michael Jasper at the Jacksonville 33 with 3:04 left.
It took the Bills nine plays to final score, and on fourth-and-goal from the 4, no less.
''It was a long second half,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''You don't see too many preseason games go into overtime. But it was great for our guys to perform in that pressure situation. And obviously for Lindell to come through was great.''
Notes: Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio had no updates on three regulars who left the game with injuries. Backup RB Rashad Jennings didn't return after hurting his knee in the first quarter. DT D'Anthony Smith didn't return after hurting his foot in the first quarter. RB Montell Owens hurt his back. ... Scobee had gone 7-of-7 in field goal attempts this preseason before missing his last one wide left. ... Bills LB Shawne Merriman missed his second straight preseason game with a groin injury.