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Buffalo Bills 23, Baltimore Ravens 20: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills executed a textbook comeback win in Baltimore

You can understand the Buffalo Bills for starting out their game against the Baltimore Ravens looking like they were still trying to shake off a hangover from their weekend in Miami. Last week’s loss took a toll on the team physically, mentally, and emotionally—and when the team took the field this afternoon, they played flatter than the tires on an abandoned sedan.

A cold shower can be a wonderful hangover cure, though, and on a chilly, rainy, breezy day near the Baltimore harbor, the Bills roused themselves and scored 20 unanswered points to set up a fantastic 23-20 comeback win over their AFC North opponent.

Credit for this win starts with the Buffalo defense, who watched quarterback Josh Allen and his offense own the limelight for the first three weeks while they settled into their usual top-five rankings across the board. The Bills were up against an MVP candidate in quarterback Lamar Jackson, one who had potent teammates like Mark Andrews and J.K. Dobbins as supporting cast members. Defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier called a phenomenal game, and his players executed it to a T.

Tight end Mark Andrews, whose average day this season saw a 7/82/1 receiving slash, was limited to two catches for 15 yards. Dobbins scored two TDs, but his 17 touches only claimed 63 yards of real estate. And Jackson, who led the league in total touchdowns before today, was limited to 217 yards and a single touchdown on 40 touches, as the Bills intercepted two of his passes.

The Bills dug themselves a deep hole in the first half. Taking the field to start the game, they saw their opening-drive TD streak end when Allen’s pass was barely tipped—just enough to bounce of Dawson Knox’s hands and into the arms of Marlon Humphrey. It wasn’t even two minutes into the game that Buffalo found itself in a 0-7 hole.

Buffalo was able to string together a field goal drive in response, but the Ravens pulled out a masterwork of a Greg Roman drive after that: 15 plays (ten carries, five passes), 81 yards, nine minutes of clock taken up, ending with a four yard touchdown run. Running back Devin Singletary fumbled away Buffalo’s next drive, and the Ravens looked like they were about to open a 21-3 lead, but Jackson’s deep pass to Mark Andrews sailed too far. Aided by a penalty, and Von Miller’s sack, the Bills were able to limit the damage to a field goal.

The Bills’ offense tried running back Zack Moss on their next outing, and that failed to accomplish anything. They punted after three plays, and the Ravens put together another long drive that used nearly eight minutes of clock. Defensive end Greg Rousseau and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones were able to sack Jackson to kill the drive, which led to another Ravens field goal and a 20-3 score differential. When Buffalo went three-and-out on another drive, it looked like the game might be a blowout before long.

But the Bills forced a Ravens punt in only three plays, and the Bills suddenly had possession with two minutes and three timeouts left. Josh Allen and Devin Singletary were able to string together enough encouraging pass and run plays to set the team up for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the half.

From the start of the second half, Buffalo’s defense tightened their vise grip. The Ravens’ first three drives of the half went punt, punt, interception, as the team gained 36 yards on 15 plays. Meanwhile, the Bills methodically closed the gap with a touchdown and another field goal, tying the game in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens found new life in the fourth quarter, marching down the field on a clock-munching 14-play, 93-yard, 9:29 drive that brought them to the two-yard line. They faced 4th & GOAL, and opted to try a touchdown rather than kick the go-ahead field goal. But Jackson threw a pass into the hands of safety Jordan Poyer, and miraculously a drive that could’ve ended in 3 or 7 Baltimore points ended with zero.

The Bills played the four-minute drill to a textbook finish from that point onward. Allen and Singletary used up every bit of clock and every Baltimore timeout on a 12-play, 77-yard drive that somehow only saw a single third down—aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty—and set up kicker Tyler Bass for a chip shot game-winner.

The Bills righted the ship with their win, and are back into a tie for first place in the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins (who presently own the tiebreaker). They’ll head back home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers next week, looking for a third AFC win.

Injury report

  • Wide receiver Jamison Crowder suffered an ankle injury on a second-half kickoff return, and it wasn’t a good one. His leg was placed in an air cast, and he was carted to the locker room.
  • Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie made it two receivers in the injury room when he suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet collision in the third quarter. After being evaluated, he was taken out of the rest of the game. Wide receiver Khalil Shakir took on a bigger role through the end of the game, to make up for the absence of those two.
  • Safety Jordan Poyer headed into the X-ray room after landing his second interception today. More to come as we hear about it.

Quick hits

  • Do you think the Bills missed Jordan Poyer? The All-Pro safety returned from a foot injury to snag two interceptions today. One of them was a seven-point play, keeping the Ravens from scoring anything when they were right at the goalline.
  • Khalil Shakir caught his first career pass today, a nifty 14-yard catch and run that earned a first down and set the Bills up in the red zone on one of their touchdown drives.
  • Defensive end Greg Rousseau is off to a phenomenal start this year, adding another half sack to his ledger. He has four sacks through four games.
  • Send a shout-out to defensive tackle Prince Emili, elevated from the practice squad again this week. He tipped a pass that led to one of Poyer’s interceptions.
  • EDGE Von Miller had his third sack and fifth tackle for a loss today. To paraphrase the announcers, it was nice to see that Buffalo’s Superstar could keep Baltimore’s in check.
  • Wide receiver Gabe Davis is still mired in a slump, and it’s fair to wonder how much his injured ankle is still messing him up. He dropped two passes, and finished the game with one catch for 13 yards.
  • Devin Singletary fumbled for the first time of the season today, and that was an early killer. But he was critical to the team’s second-half revival—after four carries for 12 yards in the first half (and two catches for 17), he touched the ball nine more times in the second half for 67 yards. His hard running (and sensibility in not trying to score a touchdown at the end of the game) locked up the victory.
  • Buffalo’s defense has to feel great about holding Lamar Jackson, MVP frontrunner, in check. Jackson threw two picks to one touchdown. He had 217 total yards on 40 touches. He was almost entirely shut out in the second half.
  • Tyler Bass and punter Sam Martin saw some real action for the first time this season. Bass went 3-for-3 on field goals and was perfect on extra points on a day with miserable weather conditions. Martin had three punts for an average of 45.3 yards, with one landing inside the 20-yard line. None of his punts were returned.

Next week

The Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3). The Steelers lost a nail-biter to the New York Jets, 24-20. Pittsburgh benched quarterback Mitch Trubisky at halftime for the debut of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. While Pickett led them to two TDs in the second half, one of his interceptions set up New York’s game-winning touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter.