"Win Ugly". That is a philosophy that the Buffalo Bills employed on Sunday, and the philosophy was good enough for the team to pick up its second win of the season in a 19-14 upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Winning two of their last three games, the young Bills used a strong defensive effort, a solid rushing attack and dominant special teams to beat a sloppy Ravens team led by former Bills RB Willis McGahee.
Willis Bottled Up
In the case of McGahee, the stats tell lies: Willis finished the game with 114 yards on 19 carries (6.0 yards per carry) and a 46-yard touchdown run. That is an impressive stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Take away that 46-yard touchdown jaunt, and you begin to see just how effective McGahee was in this game: 18 carries, 68 yards (3.7 yards per). Other than that one big play - in which Buffalo's tackling was atrocious - McGahee was held in check by a still-improving Bills run defense.
With McGahee mostly ineffective and with the Bills in the lead throughout the contest, Ravens QB Kyle Boller was forced to attempt to win the game. He could not - Boller finished the contest 21 of 36 passing for 191 yards and 1 TD, but he missed on several throws late in the contest as Baltimore was fighting for a game-winning score. The Bills brought pressure throughout the contest, bothering Boller into some high throws and one sack. Despite the touchdown throw - which came on a fourth down deep in Bills territory - Boller's poor play was a big factor in the Bills victory.
Edwards the Game Manager
Facing the league's fourth-ranked defense, Buffalo threw a bit of a curveball when they decided to let rookie QB Trent Edwards run a no-huddle offense throughout the contest. As a result, Baltimore was forced to abandon their usual "attack-first" tactic early, allowing the Bills to get early points (albeit in the form of 3 Rian Lindell field goals) and some momentum.
Edwards was efficient enough in victory, completing 11 of 21 passes (52%) for 153 yards. For the first time in his three starts, the deep pass was included in the offensive attack, as Edwards hooked up with Lee Evans (5 catches, 98 yards) on a 54-yard reception in the third quarter that set up the clinching touchdown. It was, however, his poorest outing in three starts - he was sacked twice, threw an untimely interception that eventually allowed the Ravens to score and often looked confused in an unspectacular second half performance. One positive - Edwards' cadence confused the Ravens into five defensive offsides penalties (Baltimore committed 11 penalties in total).
Fortunately, Edwards was helped out by fellow rookie Marshawn Lynch, who churned out 84 yards and a touchdown against a Baltimore run defense that had surrendered just 67 yards per game heading into the contest. The fact that Lynch carried 27 times (and fellow backs Dwayne Wright and Anthony Thomas each had 3) allowed the Bills to control time of possession and keep their defense fresh enough to pull out a win.
Rumblings Game Balls
K Rian Lindell: After taking some heat from me earlier this week, Lindell connected on all four of his field goal attempts - and trust me, all of them were big kicks. Lindell headed up a strong special teams effort that was helped out by four muffed kicks by rookie return man Yamon Figurs of the Ravens.
LB John DiGiorgio: The backup-turned-starter at middle linebacker was all over the field again this week, finishing with 4 tackles, half a sack and a fumble recovery. DiGiorgio is at the center of a run defense that continues to perform well despite a rash of injuries.
RB Marshawn Lynch: The rookie continues to impress, scoring his fourth TD of the season and ripping off 84 yards - including a 23-yarder - against a very tough run defense. Opponents continue to try to shut down Lynch, but the hard-running rookie is a tough matchup for anyone in the league.
Note: the Bills victory over the Ravens will re-air Monday night at 7:00 PM ET on NFL Network.