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All-22 analysis: How the Buffalo Bills tried to slow down Baltimore Ravens’ aggressive defense

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Buffalo threw everything, even the kitchen sink, against Baltimore to try to get past their aggressive defense

The Buffalo Bills’ offense had agonizing stretches where they couldn’t get anything going against a fierce Baltimore Ravens defense. With a lot of blitzes and an emphasis on stopping the run, the Ravens consistently made things difficult for the Bills. After a look at every offensive snap in the game, I’ve reached the conclusion that Brian Daboll tried like hell to crack the code, but execution issues routinely sunk good ideas. It’s another week for notes, so if you’re a glutton for punishment check them out below.


Play 1

If you read through my notes you’ll see how frequently the Bills used a tight end and/or running back to block or create the illusion of extra help. It was pretty regularly, with Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary the most common players used for this. Tyler Kroft (seen above) was pretty common as well. Kroft does alright here, Singletary is late to find someone to block but is likely doing what was asked of him.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. The Ravens used a lot of different pressure looks and the Bills were frequently a step behind. An early unbalanced look to the right catches Jon Feliciano peeking and subsequently missing a block. Mitch Morse doesn’t fare any better and the result is obvious above.

Play 2

The Bills used a few plays early where the entire team was bunched up like this. The Ravens, who were already planning on stacking players in the box, gladly put everyone in front of the Buffalo offense and ran straight at them. Buffalo used motion from the line in various ways to try and get the Ravens off-kilter. It didn’t work on this play, but found some success here and there. Generally speaking, the entire line trying to pull in the same direction was less successful than doing so with just a couple players.

Play 3

The Bills tried the usual methods to beat the blitz. Fans definitely recall deep shots to start the game in the hope of getting the Ravens to back off a bit. The inability to connect on those deep shots made this plan unsuccessful. Later on the Bills would emphasize quick-strike passes that had a fair amount of success. Drops hurt some of these chance too, however, as did other execution problems. There was at least one screen pass for instance where the ball made it to Isaiah McKenzie far quicker than his blockers were able to.

Play 4

This play is here to emphasize the difference between play design and execution. Protections were routinely missed in this game, with just about everyone on the line being at fault for at least one busted play. Dawson Knox helps Dion Dawkins initially when the better play was likely to his left. Making matters worse, to Josh Allen’s right, Cody Ford doesn’t create as much space as he’d like. Allen could still step up and throw, if it weren’t for Feliciano being walked back and preventing it. Similar issues were prevalent all day, and for just about everyone.

Play 5

As the Bills neared the goal line late in the game they even brought out their best blocking unit. Lee Smith had just a few snaps, with two meaningful ones. This one went well. The other one he was walked back into Frank Gore, preventing a possible touchdown. Patrick DiMarco even saw a couple snaps and was perhaps the only player who didn’t put a bad rep on tape against Baltimore.


Summary

I came away surprised at just how much the Buffalo Bills attempted to counter the aggressive Baltimore Ravens’ defense. Deep shots, quick passes, max protect, pulling blockers, and more. The Bills tried it all. A few plays left me cringing, such as the bunched-up formations or a screen pass expecting Cody Ford to outrun a Josh Allen fastball. Overall though, it’s hard to find fault with the game plan as the Bills had prepared for just about everything.

Ultimately, execution issues cost a few golden opportunities. And on many other plays the easy answer is that Baltimore’s defense is the real deal. Just as we’ve seen many players have their worst outings against Buffalo, the Ravens’ complex and aggressive defense is able to create some worst outings of their own.

My film-study notes, if you’re so inclined:
Bills vs Ravens dealing with pressure.pdf