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Bills 23, Ravens 20: Revisiting five Bills to watch

The Bills won a gritty, messy game to move to 3-1 on the season

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills went into Maryland and struggled to do anything against the Baltimore Ravens for the first 25 minutes of the game on Sunday. However, the team fought through a tough opponent and the adverse weather to pull out a huge comeback victory, winning 23-20 in a game that they never led until the final gun sounded.

As a fun aside, the last time Buffalo won a game like that was all the way back in 1996, when Buffalo trailed the New York Giants 17-0 in the second quarter on opening night at the old Meadowlands. They trailed 20-7 at one point before winning in overtime thanks to a Steve Christie field goal, beating the Giants 23-20. I was at that one as a ten-year-old, and I’m pretty sure that I was much more comfortable watching that one than I was Sunday’s game.

The Ravens did a great job containing Buffalo’s top players for the first part of the game, but the Bills regained their footing and dominated after intermission. Here’s how Buffalo’s top players performed this week.

QB Josh Allen

Before I could even settle in and start streaming the game, Allen had already had a tipped ball intercepted to set up an easy Baltimore touchdown. Through Buffalo’s first five drives, they only ran 20 offensive plays for a total of 63 yards. Those drives ended in two punts, a fumble, an interception, and a field goal. Allen was 5 of 13 for 42 yards. Some of his passes were off target, some of his passes were batted at the line, and some of his passes went right through the hands of his intended receivers. It didn’t look good at all. From that point forward, though, Allen did what he does: He put the team on his back and methodically led them back into the game. When it was all said and done, he finished 19 of 36 for 213 yards, one touchdown, and that one interception. He ran it 11 times for a team-high 70 yards, adding a touchdown to tie the game in the third quarter. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was ultimately effective—and the result is what matters. Allen fought through adversity and came out looking just fine on the afternoon.

TE Dawson Knox

On a day where wide receivers Gabe Davis didn’t play well, Jamison Crowder left with an ankle injury, and Isaiah McKenzie was knocked out with a concussion, it was imperative that someone step up as a secondary option for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. It was Knox who watched that tipped Allen pass sail through his hands on the first drive and into the waiting arms of cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Buffalo’s top tight end was targeted a team-high six times, which tied Diggs and McKenzie for that top honor, and he made the most of those targets. Knox had three catches for 40 yards on the day. Those are modest numbers, but given the ugly weather conditions, that receiving yardage total was second only to Diggs, who led the team with 62 yards, and running back Devin Singletary, who had 47 yards receiving. Singletary, Diggs, and McKenzie all had four catches to tie for the team lead, as well. Perhaps most importantly, Knox looked great as a blocker, helping spring big gains on screen passes to Singletary and rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir, who saw plenty of snaps thanks to injuries. Knox isn’t having a huge season (12 catches, 111 yards), but he is making the most of the limited chances he’s been given.

60% of the offensive line

It wasn’t exactly a banner day for the beleaguered group, but just like the rest of the Bills, they eventually settled and offered solid protection. Early on, Baltimore was able to knock down quite a few passes at the line of scrimmage, as defensive tackles Justin Madubuike had two knockdowns and Calais Campbell had one. The Ravens were able to sack Allen just once, and they scored five quarterback hits on the day, too (not counting the weak roughing-the-passer call that helped Buffalo bleed the clock in the fourth quarter on their game-winning drive). Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, and Spencer Brown started at center, right guard, and right tackle, respectively, and they were all coming off injuries of some regard. They all performed admirably on the day.

LB Matt Milano

What a day for Milano, who covered so much of the field that he must have cloned himself at some point. Milano nearly doubled his season total in tackles, notching 13 total tackles and two tackles for a loss. He made the biggest play of the day when he stopped running back J.K. Dobbins dead in his tracks on a 2nd & GOAL from the one-yard line with just under six minutes left in the game. On more than one play, Milano looked like he’d been shot out of a cannon, breaking into the Ravens’ backfield to blow up plays. He also did a great job in both zone and mirror coverages, helping to keep both quarterback Jackson and his favorite target, Mark Andrews, in check.

S Jaquan Johnson

Well, the Bills saw his performance at safety last week and decided that it would be Damar Hamlin starting in his place next to fellow safety Jordan Poyer this week. Poyer and Hamlin played all 70 defensive snaps against Baltimore, and Johnson was limited to 16 special teams snaps. Hamlin had eight tackles and was a chess piece as an edge blitzer in the second half, while Poyer had six tackles, three pass breakups, and two interceptions on the day. Johnson didn’t register on the stat sheet, which doesn’t bode well for him moving forward given how well Hamlin played in Micah Hyde’s absence.