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Wonderfully Bad Football in the NFL Playoffs

January 7th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL

The Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two generically hapless NFL teams meeting, astonishingly enough, in the NFL playoffs.

For the Jaguars, it was a first playoffs game since 2007, a streak of futility “bettered” by only one team: Their opponents, the Bills, in the playoffs for the first time since 1999 — the longest no-playoffs streak among any of North America’s Big Four sports.

It was the early NFL game today, meaning a 7 p.m. start in France, which made it easy to watch.

And potentially attractive in an unconventional way.

The Bills and Jaguars brought with them the real possibility of lots of inept football.

The Bills sneaked into the playoffs despite having, statistically, one of the worst teams in the league — 29th in yards gained, 26th in yards allowed.

And the Jaguars are led by Football’s Punchline — quarterback Blake Bortles, he of the faux Twitter account “Blake Bortles Facts” and its 60,000 followers.

I was not disappointed.

The game was so dreadful it made for compelling viewing.

Which inept club would be able to score? Could one of them get into the end zone? OK, to bring the bar a bit lower … could one of them string together a few first downs and cross midfield under their own power?

The first six possessions ended with punts. The seventh with an interception thrown by Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor. Not that the Jaguars took advantage, punting after three plays netted minus-3 yards.

This was a stretch littered with tragicomic offense. Bortles was particularly wretched, throwing low, throwing wide, throwing high — and almost all of them short passes.

Matt Hasselbeck could hardly stand it.

“It was awful offense,” he said. “It should be a concern. Not only was it bad offense, they were trying to script for success for Blake Bortals with easy throws …

“He was just plain missing, and bad.”

It was fascinating to watch a team that went 10-6 and won the AFC South … and wonder how they did that with Bortles at quarterback. We know Bortles had a hot streak that covered much of November, the apparent inspiration for a lengthy apologia posted by The Ringer last week and spending a lot of time on the snide silliness of “Blake Bortles Facts”. (To wit: “Blake is undefeated in 194 countries” … “Blake Bortles has never lost four Super Bowls in a row #Bills”)

Unfortunately, benign Blake Bortles is back to being bad Blake Bortles, at least when he is passing.

Tyrod Taylor was not better, and we figured out how a quick guy with a decent arm could be considered not a long-term answer as a starter. It didn’t help that his receivers looked like high school kids the Bills rounded up in the parking lot. Part of that is pegged to the Bills trading Sammy Watkins and Richard Woods to the Rams ahead of this season, leaving them with nothing useful aside from runnng back LeSean McCoy.

Then came a weird moment.

Someone scored. The Bills, actually, which stunned the home crowd into silence.

It wasn’t some lightning bolt. In fact, it was a slog. A laborious, 18-play push that included five first downs and a thrust to the 1 yard line– only for a brainless offensive-pass-interference penalty to push the Bills back 10 yards and settle for a 31-yard field goal.

That shot across the bow was what Blake Bortles needed to rediscover a measure of competence. — albeit two punts later, the second a 34-yard shank by the Bills.

Bortles scrambled for 20 yards and then 12, and after nearly throwing away a chance to score as the clock wound down following a sack spiked the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds left in the half, and Josh Lambo kicked a 44-yard field goal.

At halftime, the Sky analysts conceded that one of their predictions of a 7-3 final score had been compromised. But there were more thrills to come.

Ladies and gentlemen … we had a touchdown.

Bortles did more dinking and scrambling and had a first-and-goal at the 5 — and needed four plays to make the five yards, the final one coming on a Bortles throw of about 10 yards to tight end Ben Koyack,

10-3, Jags. And there was your game.

The highlights?

–17 punts.

–The fewest points scored in an NFL playoffs game since Pittsburgh defeated New England 7-6 in 1997.

–Bortles gaining more yards rushing (88) than passing (87), a stat combination that pretty much never happens.

–Bortles averaging of 3.9 yards per pass attempt, which is awful.

–Tyrod Taylor averaging 3.6 yards per pass, which is even more awful. His longest passing gain was 16 yards

–493 yards between the teams — 263 by the Jaguars, 230 by the Bills.

It was terrible. I thought it might be and it was, and I saw it to the very end, and turned away with one question:

How in hell can Blake Bortles and the Jaguars win at Pittsburgh next weekend? That could be ugly, too, but probably not in a fun way.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // Jan 8, 2018 at 5:13 PM

    Having two teams this bad make the playoffs shows just how much the level of NFL play has declined. No wonder fans are staying away and not even watching on TV compared to previous years.

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