JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Receiver Allen Hurns has made a lot of tough catches in his three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but one he made against Buffalo in London last season sticks out in his mind -- and not because Jacksonville is playing the Bills on Sunday.
The difficulty level of the diving, twisting, 31-yard touchdown catch late in the game was so off the charts that Hurns smiles about it even now.
"The toughest [catches] really are when you’re extending out and hitting the ground," Hurns said. "The ground makes it so tough because the impact. With the rules now, you’ve got to maintain possession all the way.
"Yeah, that probably is one of my toughest catches."
Not just because of the physical aspects of making the catch in the front corner of the end zone before going out of bounds, either. The circumstances of the game and the fact that quarterback Blake Bortles nearly overthrew Hurns contributed, too.
The Jaguars had blown a 27-3 lead, with the capper coming on Corey Graham’s 44-yard interception return for a touchdown to give the Bills a 31-27 lead with 5:21 remaining.
The Jaguars drove from their 16 to the Bills' 31, in part because of a questionable pass interference penalty on Bills cornerback Nickell Robey on third-and-15 -- a play that still steams Bills coach Rex Ryan.
"Hell yeah it still ticks me off," Ryan said this week on a conference call. "Obviously it was a critical loss for us. We had back-to-back [losses] with Cincinnati and Jacksonville. The thing that hurt the most was you go all the way to London and then you get way down in the game, battle all the way back and take the lead and then get that call on a third-and-15 that was ridiculous.
"That pass interference call. Like, really? That was a horrendous call. It cost us the game. Whether it cost us the game outright or not I think is debatable. Trust me, it’s hard to hit a fourth-and-15 in this league."
That call put the ball on the Buffalo 36. Bortles hit Bryan Walters for 5 yards to give the Jaguars a second-and-5 from the 31.
Then it happened. After a play-action fake to running back T.J. Yeldon, Bortles slid out to his left because of pressure up the middle. He had plenty of room to run for the first down, but kept his eyes downfield and threw the ball toward the pylon.
Hurns, who had broken off his route when Bortles scrambled, had 5 yards on Graham. He dove to catch the ball, twisted his body in the air, and got his left elbow and shoulder down in the end zone before sliding out of bounds.
"It was a play we worked a lot," Hurns said. "It was one of the scramble-drill situations. He was able to extend plays with his God-given abilities to run the ball, so that helps us out a lot."
Bortles had a lot of open field in front of him, so he could have gained some significant yardage had he tucked the ball and ran, and for a moment it appeared that’s what he was going to do until he saw Hurns streaking across the field in the front of the end zone.
"I think throwing it was the right decision, but I’m not sure why I threw it so far in front of him," Bortles said. "I would’ve liked to move it a little bit to the right, but he made an unbelievable catch and was able to come down in the end zone.
"It’s cool to go through that and go through those memories, because it was kind of a game of highs and lows. We were up big and then kind of gave it away and then came back and were able to win at the end. So, it was a game full of emotions. It was cool, cool to go through that, cool to see Hurns make that unbelievable catch and come out with the win."
Hurns said he didn’t realize how impressive that catch was at the time.
"After the season, when you reflect on things, yeah, that one sticks out a lot," he said.