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Opinion: Buffalo Bills had a chance to steal a game they didn’t deserve and that’s exciting

Bills left (at least) ten huge plays on the field.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to process after the Buffalo Bills’ 24-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The perception of a gap between the two teams remains as the Ravens left New Era Field with a victory and the Bills failed to clinch their second playoff berth in 19 years. Buffalo had an opportunity to tie (or go ahead with another 2-pt conversion) at the two-minute mark on the Ravens’ 18-yard line. Ultimately the game ended with the ball tumbling into the end zone after an oh-so-close connection between Josh Allen and John Brown.

That image seemed to be a microcosm of the entire afternoon; a pass a little better, a catch reeled in, an extra second of protection, and things might have been different. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

It is a distinctive aspect of this loss how granular fans are with their complaints about several moments that could have been game-changing.

10 “game-changing” plays left on the field

  1. Josh Allen overthrew John Brown on a deep 33-yard pass on third down of the first drive of the game. That drive ended in a punt.
  2. Josh Allen missed another 33-yard third-down pass to Robert Foster along the Bills’ sideline on their second drive of the game. That drive ended in a punt.
  3. Corey Bojorquez shanked a 35-yard punt at the end of that second drive to give the Ravens a start at the Buffalo 45-yard line. The ensuing drive ended with a Ravens’ field goal.
  4. Josh Allen again missed John Brown in the middle of the field on what would have been at least a 19-yard pass on third down of their third drive. That drive ended in a punt.
  5. Dawson Knox got absolutely smoked like my Thanksgiving turkey by Matt Judon on the Bills’ fourth drive of the game, which led to a strip-sack and a short field for Baltimore. The Ravens scored a touchdown five plays and 24 yards later.
  6. Jordan Poyer hesitated and second-guessed his assignment on the third play of the second half and gave up a 61-yard TD to Hayden Hurst.
  7. Dawson Knox dropped what would have been a first-down conversion or more on the Bills’ first drive after halftime. That drive ended with a Stephen Hauschka field goal.
  8. Cole Beasley let a third-down pass slip through his arms near midfield that would have extended the drive with two minutes left in the third quarter. That drive ended in a punt.
  9. Corey Bojorquez shanked another 29-yard punt to start the fourth quarter. The Ravens took over at midfield and scored a touchdown nine plays later.
  10. Josh Allen missed (at least) his fourth deep ball of the day by overthrowing Devin Singletary—who had a step on his man—on the first play of the Bills’ last drive. That would have either tied the game with just over five minutes left if Singletary scores or at least put the Bills at the Ravens 40 if caught.

This wasn’t the Bills’ best shot

Despite all the moments unseized all afternoon, the Bills still had a chance with 1:08 left on the Baltimore 16-yard line.

Is it unusual for things like these to happen in any game? Absolutely not. However, what should be giving Bills fans optimism is that while the defense did what was admittedly the most difficult task in the game by stifling Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense to a pedestrian output, the Bills undoubtedly did not give the Ravens their best shot. Some might even wonder if they beat themselves as much as the Ravens beat them. Others would be quick to protest the inconsistent officiating; which is a battle that this podcaster will leave for others to fight.

If Allen connects on one of those deep balls, who knows what happens? If Knox or Beasley don’t drop drive-extending passes, who knows what happens. If Bojo doesn’t shank two punts to give the Ravens short fields that turn into ten points, who knows what happens. If Jordan Poyer doesn’t get out of position on the long TD pass, who knows what happens. If Dawson Knox doesn’t get obliterated on his blocking assignment that caused a strip sack that turned into seven points, who knows what happens.

Did they deserve the win?

Baltimore took advantage of the opportunities Buffalo gave them and the Bills were giving the Ravens more opportunities than you can afford against a hardened opponent. And even still, the Bills failed to capitalize on a final play of significance where the opportunity existed to tie or take the lead with one minute left in the game.

Did the Bills deserve to win this game? Probably not. It’s rare to leave this many plays on the field against a great team and still win. Many would probably have even flirted with the idea of having “stolen” a win if the Bills came out victorious. It should, however, be objectively encouraging that the Bills found themselves with a chance at the end despite shooting themselves in the foot and not capitalizing on at least 10 (TEN!!) specifically influential plays to that point in the game.

Next time

The Bills’ players spoke in the locker room after the loss as though they expected to see the Ravens again in the 2019 season. That would only happen in the AFC Divisional or Championship round of the playoffs. It’s safe to say that the Bills have learned the hard way how much missed opportunities like these will hurt them against an opponent like the Ravens. And if they are right and they do meet again, I don’t know that I expect them to make the same mistake twice.

You can follow me on Twitter @NickBat and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.