By: Associated Press
Save the what-ifs for later. So long as Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, they're focused only on what's ahead and not on whatever opportunities they've squandered.
"What happened before is in the past, and we just have to keep pushing," the high-priced defensive end said. "We are still there. Even though nobody else thinks of it that way, we do."
Slim as their chances might be, the Bills (5-7) have hope for at least one more week after a 34-18 win over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) on Sunday.
"We still have games left," Williams said. "Anything can happen."
Everything went right for the Bills, who won for only the third time in nine games, while delivering a near-complete team victory.
Williams had one of Buffalo's four sacks, in which he forced Chad Henne's fumble, in helping key a defense that allowed 236 yards while stopping the Jaguars on three fourth-down chances.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored another rushing while directing five consecutive scoring drives. Fred Jackson had 109 yards rushing and C.J. Spiller scored on a 44-yard run.
And special teams contributed, as well, with Marcus Easley and Brad Smith combining for 93 yards on two kickoff returns, both of which set up touchdowns.
"We have a lot of belief in our locker room, and we are not in the most ideal situation. But we lose today's game, and we know we're out of it," Fitzpatrick said. "We felt like this was one we should win, and needed to win."
At 5-7, the Bills are tied with Miami and the New York Jets in chasing Indianapolis (8-4), Pittsburgh (7-5) and Cincinnati (7-5) for the AFC's two wild card playoff spots.
It's an altogether different story for the Jaguars (2-10), who are tied with Kansas City with the NFL's worst record.
A combination of familiar problems - injuries, a sputtering offense and porous defense - contributed to seal their latest loss. And they all cropped up a week after Jacksonville snapped a seven-game skid with a 24-19 win over Tennessee.
"We came up very short," said Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Buffalo. "If we would've fought as hard as we could and played our best ball and lost, that's one thing. But that was not the case."
Henne went 18 of 41 for 208 yards with a lost fumble and interception in his worst outing in two-plus games since taking over for injured starter Blaine Gabbert.
The Jaguars defense, which entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL, surrendered 344 yards offense, including 232 rushing. And the injury count continues to rise after running back Rashad Jennings, who is starting in place of Maurice Jones-Drew and Jalen Parmele, and leading receiver Cecil Shorts III both sustained concussions.
This was not the homecoming Jaguars first-year head coach Mike Mularkey had in mind in facing his former team for the first time since he abruptly resigned in Buffalo in January 2006.
"I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to make it a game," Mularkey said. "I thought after the last two weeks, we were really making progress."
The Jaguars unraveled after Henne scored on a 1-yard run to put them ahead 10-7.
The Bills responded by scoring 27 points - three touchdowns and two field goals - on five consecutive possessions. The run began with Fitzpatrick's 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler with 1:56 left in the second quarter. And it ended with Spiller's touchdown run 1:31 into the fourth quarter.
In between, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson on a 13-yard touchdown pass, while Rian Lindell hit field goals from 29 and 50 yards.
The Bills showed resilience by overcoming a rash of injuries of their own. Johnson (left hamstring), center Eric Wood (left knee), right tackle Chris Hairston (right ankle) and cornerback/return specialist Leodis McKelvin (back) failed to finish the game.
"Chan challenged us during the week," Fitzpatrick said of coach Chan Gailey. "He said we needed a team win. We needed all 11 guys. ... And I thought that's what we did today."
NOTES: Fitzpatrick and Johnson have combined for 22 touchdowns, moving into a tie for fourth on the team list in joining Jim Kelly and Pete Metzelaars. ... Chandler's touchdown was his sixth of the season, matching the team's single-season record for tight ends shared by himself (2011), Metzelaars (1992) and Jay Riemersma (1998). ... The Jaguars squandered a chance to score 20 points in three straight games for the first time since a four-game streak in 2010.