With 1:03 remaining, Arians ensured his continued employment Thursday, arcing through a 46-yarder. The kick gave the Bills a 13-10 win over Jacksonville, their first victory after an 0-4 start.
Despite the first-year kicker's pair of first-half hooks, Buffalo coach Gregg Williams sent Arians out on fourth-and-inches from the Jacksonville 29 rather than try to move closer to the goal posts.
"I said to him on the sidelines at halftime, 'Jake, you're going to win this ballgame for us,'" Williams said. "And he did."
"It was a team win," Arians said. "Those guys did a great job getting the ball down there and the defense did a great job stopping them."
Travares Tillman's interception with 44 seconds left sealed Buffalo's first win and capped a performance that was a near total reversal of its first four outings.
---After more than a month of questions about whether Buffalo did the right thing by keeping Rob Johnson, the quarterback delivered his sharpest game of the season and very possibly since coming to Buffalo.
"It's unbelievable," Johnson said of his first win following eight straight Buffalo losses in games he started, dating back to last season. "To finally get a win, and it was such a team effort ... hopefully, we can carry this over."
Johnson finished 23-of-30 passing for 238 yards and a 27-yard third-quarter touchdown to Eric Moulds. More important, he directed an offense that controlled the ball for 35 minutes and 34 second without turning the ball over and converted six third-down opportunities in 14 tries.
"I thought Rob played lights-out," Williams said. "He did a great job of directing our team."
With the game tied at 10, Johnson led Buffalo on a 10-play, 48-yard drive to set up Arians' decisive kick, mixing short pases and runs to move the ball while eating the clock. During one four-play sequence, fullback Larry Centers handled the ball four times, picking up 24 yards and a pair of vital third-down conversions.
"(Johnson) fought and he didn't overdo it, he didn't force anything," said Centers, who caught seven passes for 59 yards. "Sometimes the protections wasn't there and he made do. He stepped up today. In my opinion, he grew up and became a top-notch quarterback."
Leading or tied for most of the game, the Bills were able to stick with the running game. Rookie Travis Henry pounded out 63 yards on 27 carries, helping keep Buffalo in manageable down-and-distance situations. With the Jaguars unable to load up their pass rush like Buffalo's first four opponents had, Johnson was sacked but twice.
He spread the ball around, connecting with six different receivers. Henry also caught a career-high five passes, with many of the throws to the backs coming on first and second downs.
"We were calling shorter routes tonight, and I'm getting more comfortable, too, seeing who's open every week," Johnson said.
While Johnson worked underneath for most of the night, the touchdown to Moulds came on a deep route. Jacksonville cornerback Fernando Bryant allowed Moulds to pass through the short zone and safety Ainsley Battles arrived a moment too late.
"It was a cover-two (zone) -- they were playing it all night," said Moulds, who had 60 yards on four catches. "Rob said, 'We're going to take a shot. I'm going to put it up and you use your athletic ability to go up and get it."
The touchdown marked the first time Buffalo has taken a lead this year once an opponent had scored.
"Whenever a team scored on us, we didn't answer," Johnson said. "To come right back and score was huge."
The Bills put up 317 yards despite more offensive line shuffling. Right tackle Jonas Jennings left Buffalo's first drive with a sprained foot and third-stringer Jon Carman replaced backup Marques Sullivan in the second quarter.
"I'd taken reps all week and (center) Bill Conaty does a great job and (right guard) Corey Hulsey did a great job of helping me with the calls," Carman said. "That made it easy to step right in."
Conaty also left the game briefly with a separated shoulder. But he had it popped back into place and returned after two plays.
"That's what this game's about," Williams said. "Playing tough and playing hurt. Bill did a great job of that tonight."
---Buffalo's defense, twice torched for 42 points, turned in its best performance of the season. The Jaguars went three-and-out on their first three series, drawing boos from the crowd of 58,893. Jacksonville managed just 69 yards in the first half, never moving past the Bills' 48-yard line until the final minute of the second quarter.
As New Orleans did on opening day, Jacksonville seemed to solve Buffalo's defensive scheme on its first drive of the third quarter. The Jaguars glided 76 yards in five plays, capped by Mark Brunell's 20-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Brady.
But after Brunell rolled all the way to the sideline and hit a leaping Brady midway through the end zone, the Bills didn't collapse, as they did when they yielded 24 unanswered points to the Saints.
"Before, something like that would happen and it seemed like we'd crumble," said cornerback Ken Irvin, who lost his starting spot to rookie Nate Clements but stopped Jacksonville's best first-half scoring chance with a diving interception. "This time, we fought through that."
Jacksonville moved deep into Buffalo territory on its next drive, but Winfield stopped Jimmy Smith at the Bills' 10-yard line, a yard short of a first down on third-and-7.
"During the bye week," Winfield said, "the coaches stressed staying over top and giving them the short pattern underneath, then coming up to make the tackle. It was a zone call, I stayed over top, Jimmy Smith ran an under route and I just came in and made the stop." "If you don't give up the big plays we know we have a chance town."
Jacksonville tried a field goal, but a high snap went through holder Chris Hanson's hands and Buffalo took over at its own 36.
Buffalo also held Jacksonville to a field goal after Brian Moorman's shanked 28-yard punt set the Jaguars up at the Bills' 29. Mike Hollis' 41-yarder with 4:54 left tied it at 10, but gave the Bills a lift.
Buffalo also got a boost from its revived pass rush, which registered four sacks after managing just five in the first four games.
"We just relaxed, went out and played," said defensive end Eric Flowers, who had a sack and several second-half pressures. "Before, I was out there like, 'I've got to make a play, I've got to make a play.' Tonight, especially in the second half, I didn't sweat it. If everybody does what they need to do, we'll be fine."
---Other than Arians' early misses and Moorman's shank, Buffalo's special teams came through. A pair of key tackles by Shawn Bryson and one by Phillip Crosby helped put the Jaguars at or behind their own 20-yard line on four drives and behind their own 31 on four more.
"I thought our offense did a great job of keeping the ball away from them and our special teams did a great job of pinning them in," Williams said.
The Bills hope their change in fortunes continues next week in San Diego.
"Guys will be less tense and less puckered-up," Johnson said. "Hopefully, it will springboard us."