The Silver Lining
At a micro-level, you have every reason to be mad about today’s game. We had a chance to topple the best team in the NFL, secure a spot in the playoffs, and put ourselves in position to win the AFC East for the first time in over 20 years. (I got mad just typing that.)
However, if you take a step back and look at this game from a macro point of view, you will realize the Bills went toe to toe with the best team in the NFL. You cannot win every game, and sometimes it is hard to remember that as you are watching the game unfold. Yes, the offense sucked, but the defense was mostly great. This team has a growth mindset and will in all likelihood learn from their mistakes today and correct their errors moving forward into Pittsburgh.
This team is night and day better than the team that was curb-stomped by this very same Ravens team, led by Joe Flacco, no less than a year ago. These aren’t the “same old Bills” that would have let this game get out of hand early. However, they still lack elite top-end talent especially on offense, and because of that, our offense will ebb and flow from week to week. Until we add more firepower on offense, I’m content with a bad game from the offense if they learn from those mistakes, and it makes our young QB better in the long run. The Steelers run a very similar attack style defense, so next week will be a good gauge to see how Allen learns from this game.
“Before the season you would have taken 9-4,” and “if I told you the game would come down to the final drive you’d take it” are piss poor perspectives. Expectations change as a team’s performance change. Despite this, I do not think it is fair to judge the offense on a macro level over one game. Let’s give them a chance to show what they learned and hopefully clinch a playoff birth in prime-time next week.
The Defense “Cracks the Code”… Sort of
At the end of the day, Lamar Jackson threw three touchdowns, and that is not ideal. However, with the exception of the 61-yard catch and run by Hayden Hurst, the Bills defense held the powerful Ravens offense mostly in check. If the Bills offense was even remotely competent, the Bills defense would have faced fewer Ravens possessions, would not have been playing defense on a short field so much, and wouldn’t have allowed a majority of those three touchdowns.
The Bills are great communicators in the secondary and it showed. Minus the Hurst touchdown, they were able to play blanketing zone defense and not breakdown leaving players wide open for the big play. Shaq Lawson was huge in keeping Lamar Jackson in the pocket and making throws to the sidelines as opposed to over the middle, something he struggles with. Tremaine Edmunds was all over the field and in on almost every tackle in the run game, he also came down with an interception. Kevin Johnson has really stood out the last few weeks making aggressive tackles on receivers at or around the line of scrimmage.
It’ll Be All About Lamar… But
In the third quarter, Lamar scrambled right and threw a back footed throw to Nick Boyle about 25 yards down the field that was just out of his reach. Fouts then spent the next two minutes lauding Lamar Jackson for his ability to make those types of throws. That same love wasn’t there when Josh Allen made the same exact throw to Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone in the second quarter.
His team won the game and he had three touchdowns. The national media will be relentless in their praise of Lamar Jackson this week. But we can sleep tight at night knowing that our defense had his number. As stated above, if our offense did not put our defense up against the wall drive after drive, that national narrative would be different today. Let’s hope we get another shot at him in January.
The Offense Was Offensive
Josh Allen could not hit open receivers down the field early. He was holding onto the ball far too long, and he needed to diagnose a blitz quicker and find his hot read. Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley had backbreaking drops on third down. Our offensive line, Cody Ford especially, couldn’t block anybody. To put it simply, there were plays to be made, but nobody executed.
Brian Daboll deserves to shoulder some of the blame as well. He knew coming in that the Ravens would blitz Allen relentlessly and didn’t seem to have a solid plan for it. He saw it happen for two full quarters and didn’t change much in the second half.
What stood out the most was the Bills’ inability to keep the running game involved in the game-plan. The Bills were in empty sets far too often.
Here is a breakdown of runs to passes by quarter:
- 1st Quarter: 7 passes, 4 runs
- 2nd Quarter: 10 passes, 10 runs
- 3rd Quarter: 10 passes, 4 runs
- 4th Quarter: 12 passes, 5 runs
In total, the Bills threw 39 times compared to 23 designed runs. The Ravens had eight possessions all game last week against the 49ers. They had seven in the first half against the Bills. Give Lamar the ball that many times, and he is going to score on you.
With the Texans, Colts, and Raiders losses, the Bills would have clinched with a win over the Ravens. That still holds true next week, and the week after, and the week after that. One win and the Bills are in. Their match-ups? Steelers in prime-time on the road, Patriots on a short week on the road, then home vs a Jets team playing with nothing to lose. We control our destiny.
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