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Buffalo Bills 17, Baltimore Ravens 3: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills showed who the real defense was in this matchup.

The Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens traded jabs and counter punches for three quarters, but two seismic plays shattered the equilibrium and decided the outcome of Buffalo’s 17-3 win over the Ravens. First, Taron Johnson mugged Lamar Jackson in the end zone and dashed the full length of the field for a 101-yard interception return. With the Ravens knocking on the door of a score, what could’ve been a 10-10 game became a 17-3 game. Baltimore fielded the ensuing kickoff, but two plays later, Patrick Mekari’s snap sailed way over Jackson’s head. As the ball rolled toward the end zone, Jackson fielded it and threw a desperate heave with Bills defenders tackling him into the turf. Jackson slammed his head into the ground and suffered a concussion that ended his night, and also ended any hopes of a Ravens comeback.

The Bills’ offense, one of the league’s best, had its worst game of the season against the Ravens. You can blame it on the wind, if you’d like—it was a gusty, blustery night in Orchard Park—but the Bills were the ones throwing the ball into that wind 80 percent of the time.

The best news, overall, is that Josh Allen avoided making crucial mistakes in this game. His worst play was a strip sack, when two defenders crushed the pocket and Matthew Judon slapped the ball away before Allen could finish his throw. Luckily, the Bills recovered it. But overall, Allen’s decision making was only disappointing in that he tried too many deep passes that missed their mark. Allen finished 23-of-37 for 206 yards and a short touchdown to Stefon Diggs.

The running game, expected to be ineffective against the Ravens, was a non-factor because the Bills didn’t even give it the chance. Devin Singletary had seven carries for 25 yards, and Allen chipped in a couple token carries.

Defensively, the Bills showed up with a rerun of their performance against 2019’s MVP. Jackson was uncomfortable all game long, though he wasn’t helped by his inaccurate center. Jackson carried nine times for 34 yards, part of a Ravens unit that toted the ball 32 times but for only 150 yards. They controlled the clock, but that stopped being effective once the Bills established a lead. Jackson was 14-of-24 for 162 yards and his interception, and took three sacks in this one.

The Bills also held a slight edge in special teams. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, doinked two field goal attempts off the uprights. Ravens punter Sam Koch shanked a punt in Buffalo territory. Bills rookie Tyler Bass missed two field goals of his own, but scored one and added two extra points. The return coverage units were lockdown, and Corey Bojorquez landed two punts inside 20-yard line.

After Jackson departed the game, the Bills switched to a soft zone defense and ran out the clock against Tyler Huntley and the Ravens. The game officially ended when rookie Malik Harrison ran into Corey Bojorquez after the two-minute warning, incurring a penalty that ended Baltimore’s chances of another possession.

The Bills are 15 and 3—15 and 3!—and they advance to the AFC Championship Game. They will play against either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Cleveland Browns. If the Browns win on Sunday, the game will be played in Orchard Park—otherwise it happens in Kansas City.

The Buffalo Bills are one win away from the Super Bowl.

Injury report

  • Gabriel Davis rolled his ankle in the first quarter of the game. He gutted out the remainder of the game, but definitely wasn’t 100 percent.
  • Vernon Butler limped off the field in the first half. He was replaced with extra reps from Harrison Phillips and Quinton Jefferson.
  • Reggie Gilliam needed attention from the trainers after Buffalo’s kickoff near the end of the third quarter.

Miscellaneous

  • The play of the game? Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six. It tied the longest interception return in NFL postseason history, a mark set by George Teague in 1983.
  • That was Johnson’s second interception return touchdown of the year. His first came against Ben Roethlisberger to spark Buffalo’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Major props to Johnson for outrunning the Ravens’ entire offense, including Lamar Jackson, from end zone to end zone.
  • Tyler Bass finally missed a field goal kick, on his second attempt of the night. That broke a streak of 17 consecutive field goal scores dating back to November 8, against the Seattle Seahawks.
  • John Brown was totally shut out in last week’s win over the Colts, but the Bills made him a bigger focus tonight. He had eight catches for 62 yards, coming on 11 targets.
  • When the Bills’ offense sputtered (frequently) in this game, Stefon Diggs stepped up, as always. Diggs caught eight passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
  • Diggs now joins James Lofton as the only Bills to ever tally 100 receiving yards in consecutive postseason games.
  • Diggs also extended his streak of consecutive games with at least six receptions. It’s now 15 games, a streak that began against the Raiders on October 4. This ties for the longest streak in the NFL records, alongside Wes Welker, Marvin Harrison, and Antonio Brown.
  • Major props to Tremaine Edmunds, who was all over the field on several key plays. He led the Bills with nine total tackles, had two QB hits, and a pass defense.
  • Jerry Hughes also had a great game, landing two sacks. Levi Wallace had the other sack for the Bills.
  • Big props to Dion Dawkins, who kept Josh Allen clean for almost the whole night, and recovered Allen’s fumble when he surrendered a sack.