Hold the phone! The injury plagued, young Bills team just pulled an upset win against the defending Super Bowl champs Baltimore Ravens today by a score of 23-20. Despite a struggling passing game, despite the Bills defensive backs being down all five starters, the Bills won. It wasn’t pretty in the end, but the Bills and their 5 interceptions were enough to prevail. The Bills now stand at 2-2 after winning a game that most analysts though the Bills would be (to put politely) pulverized. Again the BILLS BEAT LAST YEAR’S SUPERBOWL WINNERS! I’m still a bit euphoric so let’s take a look at the game.
Rushing Offense: A+
So what if the Bills only had one rushing TD on the day. The Bills ran for 203 yards on the day (including all of the last minute kneels) against one of the toughest run defenses in the NFL. [The Ravens were ranked in the top 4 defenses in rushing yards allowed heading into today’s game.] Spiller had some good runs, although ankle injuries limited his 23 carries for 77 yards. Fred Jackson though made a nice statement with 16 rushes for 87 yards (5.4 avg) and a TD. Graham and Wood each had a nice 14 and 13 yard run respectively. It was also nice to Manuel keeping the ball on some options although he should be more conscientious about ball security. See what happens when you toss in a fullback once in a while!
Passing Offense: D+
E.J. Manuel started off the first half strongly, but struggled mightily in the second half with just 4 completions. Manuel finished 10-22 passing for 167 yards with 1 TD (a beaut of a 42 yard pass to Robert Woods) but also had 2 picks. Woods finished the day with 4 catches for 80 yards and a TD (almost nabbing another as well). Stevie was shut down with 1 catch for -1 yards. The offensive line meanwhile gave up just 2 sacks, compared to 8 last week, although Terrell Suggs seemed to be in the backfield a lot coupled with several holding penalties.
Run Defense: A++
After giving up 149 yards to Powell of the Jets last week, the Bills gave up just 24 yards TOTAL on just 9 carries. Let’s face the fact, given the Bills banged up secondary, we knew that the Ravens would be passing a lot, but because the defense stuffed the run game to just 17 yards in the first half, the Ravens opted to run just one run play in the second. Dareus had a great game with 2 sacks, but also headed up the run defense making 7 tackles.
Pass Defense: A
The Bills gave up two TD passes and 347 passing yards to Flacco and the Ravens (both with Rogers covering), but they came up huge with not 1, 2, 3, or 4 picks, but 5 interceptions! Jim Leonhard had one, Aaron Williams made 2 (before leaving with an injury) and Kiko Alonso also had 2 including one phenomenal dive and grab in the final minute of the game to stop the Ravens last drive. Factoring in the fact that by the end of the game, the Bills were without their 5 top defensive backs (Gilmore, McKelvin, Brooks, Byrd and now Williams), the secondary backups were for the most part, solid. Searcy and Williams both broke up 4 passes and kept Flacco from completing half of his passes. Also the Bills recorded 4 sacks (2 by Dareus, 1 by Mario and 1 by Lawson).
Special Teams: C
Easley continues to make at least one huge tackle in special team coverage a game. Kick and punt coverage overall was decent, but not as great compared to the first few games. Carpenter made all three chip shot field goals. Shawn Powell seems to make a few nice punts a game but, as before, shanked a few as well which almost cost the Bills big today.
Despite injuries and a slew of penalties, Marrone and company managed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn’t pretty or easy by any means, but this was a big win for the Bills. Marrone needs to find a way to keep Manuel consistent especially in the red zone, but the offensive play calling was more diverse and the run game opened up considerably. Defensively, the secondary gave up yardage, but made big plays, more impressive that they were mostly composed of backups. Blitzes seemed to be picked up well by the Ravens, but Pettine’s D was awesome to keep the run game grounded.
Sneak Peak for Next Week:
The Bills have only a short time to savor the win as they face the surprisingly 2-2 Cleveland Browns next week on the road for Thursday Night Football. The Browns have been doing well with the power combo of unknown QB Bryan Hoyer and TE Jordan Cameron and will be using RB Willis McGahee more prominently. Shut down these three players, the Browns offense may struggle (although Cameron will be the biggest hurdle to overcome of the trio). Their O-Line is fairly stout, but both guard positions are not as strong for them. The Browns "D" did a nice job shutting down the Bengals offense this week and to date have been in the top half of run and pass defenses in the NFL so far. There are certain areas to take advantage of like the Woods v Haden matchup.