Sal's Sticks: Bills at Ravens

Who was ahead and who was behind them?

Sal Capaccio
September 09, 2018 - 10:00 pm

Photo: Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY Sports

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On a 747 (WGR 550) - Before I even get into the Sticks, I’ll tell you that yes, it was as miserable down on the field at M&T Bank Stadium as it may have appeared on television, and probably worse. A constant rain, wet equipment, and of course, a game that was hard to watch no matter where you were standing. At least from the Bills’ vantage point.

There’s not much I can write that went right, and too much I can specifically point to that went wrong. So that’s how I had to construct the Sticks this week, starting, of course, with being behind them, which the Bills offense was all day:


BEHIND THE STICKS

The entire offense

Of course once everything got out of hand and both teams had backups in, including Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen, the numbers improved and didn’t look as bad in the end. Here’s what the Bills offense did in the first half before all of that:

  • Total plays - 23
  • Total yards - 33
  • Total First Downs - 0 (!)
  • Third down conversions: - 0-for-7
  • Drive results - punt, punt, punt, punt, missed FG, INT, punt

Things didn’t get too much better in the second half, either. Here are the overall numbers for the game:

  • Yards per play - 2.5
  • Net yards rushing - 83
  • Net yards passing - 70
  • Third down conversions - 2-for-15 (13%)

It’s hard to imagine a worse thirty minutes of football, for any team.


Offensive Line

The concerns from the preseason have officially turned to worry. The line was overmatched all afternoon, allowing six sacks of Bills’ quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen, numerous pressures when there wasn’t a sack, not giving any space for the running game, and committing several penalties. It was just a poor performance for the unit all around.


QB Nathan Peterman

No doubt Peterman was under pressure and also had to play in some pretty bad conditions. However, regardless of those things, the second-year quarterback just wasn’t good enough. He finished 5-for-18 for only 24 yards and two interceptions before being pulled in the second half. And it wasn’t just the issues we’ve seen before coming up again. Peterman was off target too often, on top of pre-determining a couple throws that allowed Ravens defenders to jump routes and get their hands on the ball.   


WR Kelvin Benjamin

Benjamin had a chance to make a couple plays in the passing game that he’s relied on and expected to make, including a pass down the sideline early in the second half that he had but dropped when he hit the ground, as well as having a potential touchdown toss go off his hands in the back of the end zone. It also appeared he could have given a better effort to, at least, go up for the ball on Peterman’s first interception.


CB Phillip Gaines

Gaines got the start over Vontae Davis (Davis was inactive) and was beaten numerous times. There were far too many Ravens receivers running free in the Bills’ secondary all game, and the blame for that gets shared, but Gaines was too often the player who looked to be either in the wrong spot or losing a battle, including a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree when he failed to turn around quick enough.


First half defense

Of course the second half wasn’t much to be happy about, but the first half defensive performance by the Bills was almost as abysmal as the offense’s. Here are the details:

The Ravens had….

  • 15 first downs
  • 233 Total yards
  • 215 yards passing
  • Scored on 5-of-8 drives
  • Scored 26 points


Three horrible special teams plays

I didn’t want to put punter Corey Bojorquez or the entire special teams unit on this list specifically because he did have a few terrific boots and they did some good things as a group, but Bojorquez fumbled a snap resulting in a loss of 25 yards. Prior to that, due to some pressure, Bojorquez had to rush the punt and didn’t get much hang time on it. That allowed Ravens’ return man Janarion Grant room to run. A couple missed tackles later and he had taken it back 51 yards. The third play for the list is a 52-yard field goal attempt the Bills had blocked that fell way short.

 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

RB/KR Marcus Murphy

Murphy carried his strong preseason play over into the regular season with 31 yards on six carries (5.2 yards per-run) and a 33.5-yard average on five kick returns, including a 49-yarder. He also added a nine yard punt return for a total of 205 all-purpose yards.


Bills linebackers

The trio of Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano and Lorenzo Alexander did a solid job most of the day, especially against the run. Here are their totals:

  • MLB T. Edmunds - 7 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hurry, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble
  • WLB M. Milano - 8 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery
  • SLB - L. Alexander - 9 total tackles (2 on special teams), 1 pass breakup


Run defense

At the end of the day, the numbers weren’t terrific, but most of the Ravens’ 117 yards rushing came in the second half when the game was out of hand and they were just trying to run out the clock. The Bills, overall, did a good job of holding the run game in check, allowing only 16 yards and a measly 1.5 yards a carry in the first half and only 3.4 yards per-carry overall.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

If you’re of the mind that those who kept predicting the Bills will be one of the worst, if not the worst team in the league, were way out of line, Sunday wasn’t a good day to try and prove them wrong. They certainly looked that way, and for the most part, in all three phases.

What was most disturbing to me was how uncompetitive the Bills were for most of the contest. The Ravens basically did whatever they wanted, controlled both lines of scrimmage, and sometimes made it look easy even in the pouring rain.

It’s only one game and we’ve seen teams look great or awful year after year on opening weekend, who then have a season that’s pretty much the opposite of that.

0-1 is 0-1 regardless if the score is 47-3 or 21-20. It all looks the same in the standings. However, nothing the Bills did (or didn’t do) Sunday really instills much confidence that they’ll be much better next week when the Los Angeles Chargers come to Orchard Park.

Ah, the Chargers. The team Nathan Peterman had his infamous first start against last year, throwing five interceptions. Peterman will once again be a huge story throughout this week leading up to the playing the Chargers. This time, it will be because head coach Sean McDermott has to decide if he will go back to him or launch the Josh Allen era two weeks into his rookie season.

The window of opportunity to turn to Allen may never be more wide open than it is right now. Whether it’s the quarterback, personnel on offense or defense, or simply playing at a much higher level than they did in Week1, something has to change fast and dramatically for the Bills, or those people who made those predictions are going to start looking a lot more right than wrong.


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