Bills give the NFL's best team all they could handle

The offense left too many plays on the field in a 24-17 loss to the Ravens

Howard Simon
December 08, 2019 - 6:48 pm
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That was quite the fight.

The Buffalo Bills moved up into the heavyweight class in their game with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, and while they did not get the result they wanted, they went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 contender right now.

In a nutshell, the Bills defense played great against the most explosive offense in the league. However, the Bills offense couldn’t make enough plays against a stout Ravens defense.

Some of that was due to Baltimore, but some of it were self inflicted wounds. In some ways, this game might have reminded you of the October loss to New England. The Bills were playing, perhaps, the best team in the league (at least we thought that at the time) and the defense was more than up to the challenge, but the offense wasn’t able to make enough plays (while losing quarterback Josh Allen in the second half to a concussion) and the Bills lost by six points.

The defense put together one of the best showings by any team against Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and company this season. They kept one of the favorites for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award in check. A busted coverage on a 61-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter was one of very few mistakes from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s group. Jackson threw for just 145 yards and ran for only 40 on 11 carries.

Here are some of the numbers that will show you just how impressive the defense was in this game:

  • Baltimore scored 24 points (they averaged 33 points per-game)
  • Allowed 257 total yards (average was 420 yards per-game)
  • Allowed 118 yards rushing (average was 207 yards per-game)
  • Allowed 3.6 yards per-carry (average was 5.6 yards per-carry)
  • Limited the Ravens to 27% on third down conversions (average was 48%)
  • Forced seven punts (season high for punts in a game was three)

As for the Buffalo offense, it did next to nothing in the first half, came alive in the second half, but left too many plays on the field. In a one possession game, that made a big difference.

The Bills knew the Ravens love to blitz, but their protection was shaky, leaving Allen under pressure and running for his life way too much. Allen has to take some of the blame as well, because he couldn’t make enough throws to make them pay for all of the blitzes.

Allen’s biggest problem of his second season was very evident again as he repeatedly missed on deep throws when receivers had gotten separation. In fact, Allen missed an open target once on each of the first three drives. On the Bills' first possession, an accurate pass to wide receiver John Brown might have produced a touchdown.  

His teammates also left plays on the field. Rookie tight end Dawson Knox dropped a 3rd-and-8 pass from Allen that would have given the Bills a first down inside the Baltimore 20-yard line early in the third quarter. The Bills had to kick a field goal after that, which pulled them to within eight points. On the Bills' next possession, a 3rd-and-5 pass went through the hands of wide receiver Cole Beasley down the sidelines. A catch would have given the Bills a first down near midfield. 

Allen ended the day 17-of-39 for just 146 yards, was sacked six times and lost one fumble.

Baltimore’s secondary, one of the best in the league, was outstanding in coverage with all of those blitzes. Brown didn’t have any receiving yards in the first half, and was limited to just 26 yards on three catches for the day. Beasley had 29 yards on four grabs, but did grab Buffalo's lone touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter. Bills receivers were targeted 24 times and combined for 10 catches and 80 yards.

The Bills has just 209 total yards, and were just 4-for-17 on third down. They faced 3rd-and-8 or longer on nine occasions and did not convert one single time. 

Despite the loss, I think this game should leave with you a couple of thoughts. One, the Bills won’t have any trouble winning at least one more game, which should be enough to get them in the playoffs. Two, this Bills team is good enough to go on the road in the Wild Card round and win a game.

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