Hosting the red-hot Baltimore Ravens, the Buffalo Bills’ comeback attempt felt a touchdown short in a 24-17 loss to the Ravens Sunday afternoon at New Era Field.
It was the ninth straight win for Baltimore, who clinched an AFC playoff spot with the road victory.
Buffalo had an opportunity to reach 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1999, while also cementing a second AFC playoff spot in three seasons.
A road date next Sunday night at Pittsburgh looms for the Bills. Here are five things we learned from today’s game:
Buffalo is in the upper echelon of the NFL
During their nine-game winning streak, the Ravens have blown out last year’s Super Bowl teams – the Patriots and Rams – and beat an excellent 49ers team at the buzzer last weekend.
Few teams have hung with the Ravens for four quarters over the last two months, and Buffalo was in position to score a tying touchdown in the final minute.
Marcus Peters broke up a Josh Allen pass to John Brown on a fourth-down throw with just over a minute to play to wrap up the Baltimore win.
Baltimore had to work for this one, and in contrast to previous wins where the offense gained the spotlight, it took a supreme defensive effort to knock off the Bills.
Although it was Buffalo’s fourth loss of the season, its stock should not take a hit at all among NFL pundits.
Jackson can throw it
Other than a couple of nice first-down runs, the Bills held Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in check with just 40 yards on 11 carries. But Jackson’s improvisational skills benefit his ability to throw the ball.
He made excellent decisions, bought time with his legs, and just narrowly missed some deep connections to his tight ends that were off fingertips. The fact that his passing ability is rapidly catching up to his ability to run it could make him nearly indefensible in the near future.
Ravens’ pressure the difference
The Baltimore defense had six sacks of Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, forced a fumble, and tacked on numerous other hard hits on the second-year quarterback.
Seldom did the Buffalo line give Allen the requisite time to find open receivers, and perhaps Allen was a bit shell-shocked as he often scrambled out of the pocket before he was in imminent danger of a sack.
The only other game where Allen was this rattled was the 16-10 loss to the Patriots. The Patriots also pressured Allen regularly, and picked him off three times.
In fact, you can point to the opponent’s pass-rushing effectiveness as a common thread in all four of Buffalo’s losses.
The Buffalo defense played well enough to win
If you told Buffalo fans before the game that the Ravens’ powerful running game would amass only 118 rushing yards (more than 80 below their average), and pick up only 3.6 yards per carry (nearly 2 yards below their season average), you would have some ecstatic fans.
Two of Baltimore’s touchdowns came with short fields – one after the Bills’ lone turnover, and the other after a poor punt.
Baltimore entered the game as the NFL’s highest scoring team, and second in total yards. Buffalo held the Ravens well below both numbers, but didn’t get the complimentary play – today – from the offense.
Buffalo punting a glaring weakness
As mentioned earlier, Buffalo punter Corey Bojorquez’s poor punt in the second half led to Baltimore’s third and deciding touchdown.
Bojorquez has been near the bottom of the NFL all season in gross punting average, and after a 67-yard punt that went for a touchback on Buffalo’s first drive, he was extremely inconsistent.
Over his final six punts, he averaged just 38.8 yards, and if not for some fortuitous rolls, would’ve averaged in the low 30s.
Heading into this week, there were only two other full-time NFL punters averaging under 44 yards a punt aside from Bojorquez.
This is an area of weakness for Buffalo, and a position it will need to upgrade in the offseason – if not sooner.
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