Sunday’s Bills-Jaguars game started off tense when Jalen Ramsey took time from his busy day to remind Buffalo’s players they were trash. That conflict boiled to a head in the third quarter when a brawl erupted on the turf at New Era Field.
The scuffled started innocently enough. Donte Moncrief hauled in a pass near the end zone over defensive back Levi Wallace, who also got a chunk of the ball as the two tumbled into the end zone. Wallace and Moncrief lay prone near the pylon for an extended stretch in a slow-motion wrestling match for possession as the side judge ruled the play a touchdown. A Jaguars player then shoved away Bills safety Micah Hyde, who was protesting the call to the nearby official.
That set off a scrum. Hyde got shoved and grabbed Dede Westbrook in response. His teammates came back pushing and jostling in response. Everything seemed to be a run-of-the-mill, all bark, no bite exchange until Bills defender Shaq Lawson took a shove at Jacksonville tailback Carlos Hyde and drew some punches from Leonard Fournette, who wasn’t on the field for the previous play and had run up the sideline as backup, in retaliation.
What was the outcome of the fight?
Fournette and Lawson both earned ejections, though Lawson wasn’t interested in letting his newfound beef with the Jaguars’ tailback die down. He taunted Fournette as he was being separated and led off the field, even continuing as he was led into the tunnel as part of a referee-mandated ejection.
Shaq Lawson is losing his damn mind at Leonard Fournette. pic.twitter.com/hycO3Ci2tE— Big Sad Country (@BigCatCountry) November 25, 2018
Fournette also got tossed from the game. And he got punched by a fan from the stands as he made his egress.
Here is a fan in the front row making contact with Leonard Fournette as he’s ejected and exits through tunnel at same time as Shaq Lawson. pic.twitter.com/K9BjQj9Bjd— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) November 25, 2018
But that was just the tip of the crap iceberg for Jacksonville. The jog across the field for Fournette resulted in a one-game suspension. NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan announced the discipline in a letter on Monday:
“Sportsmanship is the cornerstone of the game and the League will not tolerate game-related misconduct that conveys a lack of respect for the game itself and those involved in it… Video of the incident shows that you were not a participant in the play and that you ran from your sideline to the opposite side of the field to insert yourself as an active participant in a fight. Once you entered the fight area, you struck a member of the opposing team. Your actions adversely reflected on the NFL and have no place in the game.”
That’s especially bad news, because losing Fournette on Sunday triggered a spiral that cost the Jaguars the game. While he appealed the league’s ruling, his appeal was denied Wednesday. He’ll miss Week 13’s game against a surging Colts team.
The Jaguars’ touchdown that kicked off the fight was overturned, instead giving them the ball at the Bills’ 1-yard line. Without Fournette out of the lineup, Hyde ran for a loss of one on first down. A pair of penalties and a sack turned a first-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line into a fourth-and-goal opportunity from the Buffalo 24.
And then Josh Lambo missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The final count on the fight? A whole bunch of flags, two ejections, one suspension, and zero points scored after a play originally ruled a touchdown on the field.
What happened after the Jaguars’ failed drive?
The Bills drove 68 yards in three plays after Lambo’s miss to take a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Things didn’t get better for the Jaguars from there. The Jags’ first 10 plays after the fight and without Fournette resulted in a net gain of -33 yards.
A solid Jaguars stand got Jacksonville’s offense the ball with 5:48 to play, but Blake Bortles remained his team’s biggest impediment in its quest for points. A second-down pass caromed off tight end James O’Shaughnessy’s hands and into safety Jordan Poyer’s, giving Buffalo the ball at the Jacksonville 18. At some point between the turnover and Stephen Hauschka’s 22-yard field goal, even CBS began to feel bad, giving the Jags a pity point on their own unofficial scoreboard:
Buffalo fans, sensing impending victory, aimed their vitriol at the defensive back who’d taunted their team’s sideline just a couple quarters earlier.
A 'RAMSEY SUCKS' chant has broken out at New Era Field.— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) November 25, 2018
The crowd took a brief break after Bortles drove the Jags 70 yards in 1:46 to make this a 24-21 game with 1:20 to play. But their comeback hopes were extinguished when Zay Jones corralled a last-ditch onside kick effort, preserving a 24-21 win for Buffalo and all but crushing Jacksonville’s already meager playoff aspirations.
Here’s what happened after the game
If Ramsey’s feelings were hurt by the loss, he wasn’t showing it on the field.
Ramsey is the first guy to shake Josh Allen's hand. Had to grab him to turn him around. Respect that.— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) November 25, 2018
“I appreciated that,” Allen would tell reporters in the postgame press conference. “It takes a big man to do that.”
Ramsey was, as expected, a popular target in his team’s postgame media scrum. He didn’t exactly walk back his opinion of Allen, but he didn’t insult him, either.
“It doesn’t matter what I said or anything like that,” Ramsey told reporters after his team fell to 3-8. “I’m sure that’s what he was thinking on his side, it doesn’t matter. You have opinions every day. They can have opinions, but it’s about what you go out there and do and what he went out there and did for his team is get a win. So you can’t really say anything about it.”
But while Allen didn’t harbor any ill will toward Ramsey, the Bills’ official Twitter account wasn’t willing to let the All-Pro cornerback off easy.
This tweet didn’t age well. pic.twitter.com/4liA2qJU1n— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 25, 2018
Ramsey remained diplomatic in a quiet postgame talk with reporters, but his father was slightly less deferential to his teammates.
And while Ramsey may not have explicitly said anything about his teammates after Sunday’s loss, he took to Instagram to co-sign his dad’s responses.
Blake Bortles attributed some of his team’s second half offensive struggles on Fournette’s absence, but also on the Bills’ ability to make adjustments.
WATCH: Head Coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Blake Bortles LIVE followed by analysis of the game from @jpshadrick, @md_1010xl and @FredTaylorMade on the Jaguars Postgame Show. https://t.co/OS7OTeRC72— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) November 25, 2018
Fournette later apologized to fans for his actions:
Just want to apologize to the fans and kids out there was totally out of character was in the heat of the moment in a important game, emotions got the best of me apologize again to you all....— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) November 25, 2018
Bills coach Sean McDermott also identified the fight as a turning point. And he praised the home crowd for firing up his players along the way.
“I thought it was great ... I loved it. I loved the crowd getting into it. That’s playing at Buffalo. That’s what we’re all about.”
McDermott also identified the blood stains on his hoodie as being half him half “from the scrum.” He also didn’t anticipate any team discipline for Lawson after his ejection.
“We do things the right way, but when people step up and challenge us, I don’t expect us to back down.”
Someone got fired
It didn’t have much to do with the fight, nothing at all really, but the Jaguars offense is bad enough that it’s not helping deescalate things. On Monday morning, the Jags fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.