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.