With uncertainty surrounding the Ravens on Sunday, the purple birds knocked off the Buffalo Bills with a 13-7 win.
It might not be the sexiest victory on paper. The Ravens only scored one offensive touchdown. They ran the ball 28 times, averaging three yards per rush. Joe Flacco was sacked four times, and was hit nine times. But the Ravens defense put on a performance to remember, forcing the Bills to punt seven times in their nine offensive drives. With only a six-point margin, those stops proved to be the difference.
Perhaps the game ball this week should go to corner-back Shareece Wright. Wright led the Ravens with 11 tackles, three for losses. 11 tackles is almost unheard of for a corner-back, let alone a corner-back who generally plays on the outside. Wright had not played very well in the preseason, but his performance on Sunday was superb.
“I was in position to make tackles, and we emphasized that, making tackles on McCoy and being able to get those guys down and eliminate big plays,” Wright said after the game. “We know they’re explosive when they’re making guys miss tackles, so that was important today, and I was able to get that done.”
Timmy Jernigan also had himself a nice day. He recorded two tackles for loss, one of them being a sack that came on a third down play that forced Buffalo to punt. When Baltimore got the ball back, they put the ball in the end-zone.
The other Raven to notch a sack was linebacker Terrell Suggs. Playing in his first game in 364 days, Suggs took down former teammate Tyrod Taylor on a third down play in the Bills’ last drive of the game.
All around, it was one of the best Ravens defensive performances since coordinator Dean Pees took over in 2012. Taylor only threw for 111 yards on 15 completions, and the Bills’ run game was limited to 65 yards. Altogether, Buffalo’s offense was held to 160 yards.
“Pees called one hell of a game,” Suggs said post-game.” It was all about don’t let Tyrod Taylor make an explosive play. Don’t let him break the game open, and we did that. We did that collectively.”
Like Buffalo, the Ravens did not have a great offensive performance, but it did not matter. Quarterback Joe Flacco, playing in his first game since tearing his ACL in November, threw for 258 yards and a touchdown. He had defenders in his face several times, especially in the second half. His knee held up fine and he got right back up each time after he was knocked to the grass. One blunder occurred when Flacco fumbled a shot-gun snap, but there appeared to be some miscommunication with center Jeremy Zuttah.
Flacco got everyone involved with the game plan, and threw the ball to 10 different receivers.
Free agent acquisition Mike Wallace led the Ravens receivers, catching three passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. His 66-yard touchdown catch was a thing of beauty; Flacco deep bombs went missing in 2015, and now Baltimore has a few deep threats on the receiving core.
“A lot of people wrote me off,” Wallace said. “They think I don’t have it, but I’ve got something for them. I told you all that from day one. Nothing’s going to change.”
Returning from a ruptured Achilles, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. hauled in five catches for 19 yards. It might be a few weeks before Smith really gets it going, but it was just good to see him running around on the field after he did not play in any preseason games.
M&T Bank Stadium erupted when tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Breshad Perriman hauled in their first receptions. Pitta played in his first game in almost two years after suffering a second hip dislocation in September 2014, and Perriman played in his first NFL game after missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury. He only caught one pass, but it was a big 35-yard grab that might have been the catch of the game.
As much as the defense should be commended for their efforts, it is concerning to see the Ravens only score three points in the final two quarters. The offense seemed to shut down at times, and aside from the field goal, two drives ended in punts and the other ended in a loss of downs. Flacco was sacked three times, twice in the same drive. The offensive line also had trouble opening up holes for running backs Justin Forsett and Terrance West in the second half. The duo combined for 28 yards on 11 carries after halftime. When Buffalo had no timeouts left at the end of the game, the Ravens were able to run out the clock by running the ball, but the Ravens finished with just 83 rushing yards.
Perhaps the best part of Sunday’s game was that no Ravens left the game without suffering any significant injuries. No Raven was lying on the ground at the end of a play throughout the entire game. After ending 2015 with over 20 players on injured reserve, the Ravens will gladly take that.
“Just an excellent team victory,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I thought our guys figured out how to play winning football throughout the course of the game.”
This week, the Ravens will shift their attention to the Cleveland Browns, who suffered a 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. It will be the first real road trip for Baltimore, who will enter “The Dawg Pound.”
By the way, the Orioles won 3-1 today too.