BALTIMORE MD - OCTOBER 24: Steve Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 24 2010 in Baltimore Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bills 37-34. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
The Bad. Believe it or not, there was quite a bit from this game that didn't go well. Hence the sixth straight loss.
Defending Opposing Tight Ends: Bills opponents must absolutely salivate during game preparation. Buffalo simply cannot stop the tight end. It's really somewhat simple how good teams stop tight ends. First: the outside linebacker has to make life tough for the tight end getting off the line of scrimmage. In Buffalo's scheme, that player is the strong-side linebacker. Second: after the tight end's timing has been thrown off, a smaller defender covers the tight end, likely a safety. I know that Todd Heap (three receptions, 59 yards, two touchdowns) is good. But every tight end that plays the Bills shouldn't be able to get open like Antonio Gates.
Outside Run Defense: I can almost create a template for this article, leaving this in the bad section. Buffalo gets run on between the tackles, but so does every other team at times. Seeing Willis McGahee and Ray Rice get outside with such ease is troublesome. In fact, McGahee went wide left, gaining good yards, only to have the played called back on penalty. The Ravens ran the same play the very next play, just to the right, and McGahee picked up similarly good yardage. The outside linebackers need to press against the blocker, and not stay glued to the blocker if the back bounces outside.
Juking and Elusiveness: I understand that C.J. Spiller and Roscoe Parrish are extrodinarily elusive, and that's part of their game. But sometimes you should stop dancing, put your head down, and get the first down. Buffalo did a great job picking up first downs on third down, going 11-for-17. Some of those conversions were unneeded, as Buffalo runners could have just powered for first downs. Knowing when to be elusive and when to go north-south will come with time for Spiller.
The Good. Let's strive to end on some positive notes, shall we?
The Passing Game: Wow. Seriously, wow. Ryan Fitzpatrick played another strong game. Lee Evans looked like the Evans from 2004-2006. Steve Johnson is coming of age. Parrish is realizing his potential. Shawn Nelson got into the act a bit. I won't comment on the offensive line play, since that's Ron's specialty, but from just one real-time look, they looked like they held their own versus Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and company. Is this the same offense? Sure, the Ravens' corners are weak. But Buffalo scored 34 legitimate offensive points (no special teams or defensive points) against what is still, even after that thrashing, a Top 10 defense in the NFL.
Chan Gailey: Playing off the previous point, we might be seeing what having a legitimate offensive mind will do for an offense. The offense started slowly, changed the quarterback and running back, and didn't have the best personnel to begin with. That all said, Gailey's play calling was very good. The plays were sound, and Gailey didn't back off the Ravens' defense, continuing to pound the ball into the defense with runs into the fourth quarter. The passes were smart (hello slant pattern!), and there wasn't much gimmickery. Putting up 34 points against the Ravens with the current talent is a testament to Gailey, and could be foreshadowing what is to come.
Toughness: I sort of expected the Ravens to hit the Bills into submission, similar to how Ray Lewis thought it would be. I was wrong. A couple weeks ago, I wrote in this column after the Jets loss that I could see a growing sense of physicality on this team. This week, we saw more of it. Gailey (and Buddy Nix) have to know that to compete in the AFC, they have to be as physical as the Steelers and Ravens. Buffalo ran the ball well, and despite pitiful run defense, played the Ravens' offense pretty tough. This is the culture that Buffalo wants, and is starting to get.
Outlook: I understand how Gailey described the Lewis strip of Nelson in overtime. It may be right, but Buffalo absolutely deserved to win this game on their offensive play alone. The Ravens are one of the AFC's elite teams, contending for the right to play in the Super Bowl, and Buffalo gave them all they could handle. The ending didn't seem right.
Next week: A visit to New Arrowhead to play the surprisingly good Chiefs.