It was another close one (get used to that) but the Bills were able to hold on to defeat the defending champion Ravens. The last time the Bills beat a defending Super Bowl champ, Eric Moulds was their first round draft pick and EJ Manuel had just graduated…from kindergarten. It’s been a long road but, the re-building finally seems to actually be building a better team. Here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from week 4.
Pettine’s Defense: Check out these stats: 9 rushing attempts for 24 yards, 5 interceptions, 4 sacks for a loss of 26 yards. You’d think you were reading the line stats from an average Ravens defensive stand. But no, those are the numbers the Bills put up against the Ravens this Sunday. The only weakness in that defense was Justin Rogers but, we’ve come to expect that (see below). How about Aaron Williams? After a crazy couple of years getting moved around without much production, Williams came out Sunday and put together a career game with 2 picks and a couple touchdown-saving blocked passes. Once Gilmore and McKelvin get healthy, he’ll be heading back to safety but has definitely made his impact at the corner spot.
Kiko Alonso: All the rookies were great this week but the one that’s stood out all season is Kiko Alonso. I gotta tell you, I was pumped when we got this guy. I even drafted him to my fantasy team. He’s one of those linebackers that played at an NFL level in college so, the transition to the big leagues was easy for him. Picking up both his third and forth interceptions on the season, Alonso is the most consistent player on this defense. His speed and agility liken him to a safety but then you see him tackle and know why he is where he is. What a great fit for an aggressive, fast paced defense. You need to click here and watch his Superman interception. Also, check out the buzz he created on Twitter. #TheLegendOfKikoAlonso.
Overall Offense: I don’t usually give the offense much credit because of the countering mistakes they make but, this week, they deserve some props. The line opened some huge holes so CJ and Fred could finally get something going in the run game. As of today, the Bills are 2nd overall in rushing yards. Establishing the run game opened up opportunities for EJ Manuel downfield, leading to 42 yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods. It was the first touchdown the Ravens had given up in two and a half games. Woods would go on to have 4 receptions for 80 yards. The Bills had six total 3-and-outs, which doesn’t seem bad until you factor in the other two punts that were the result of 4-and-outs. And the other turnovers? A fumble and an interception. Some work is ahead of them to prepare for a good Cleveland defense but, they’ve shown great strides in improvement this week
Good/Bad: EJ Manuel: He looked sharp on touchdown drives and showed his usual composure in pressure situations, picking up key third downs with precision passes to Chandler and Woods. However, he’s not stepping into his throws when there’s a guy in his face. This leads to over or under thrown passes and potential interceptions. Ball protection continues to be an issue for the young gun as he had another stripped ball fumble on Sunday and a bobbled snap which he juggled into a fumble. Most of that can be solved by increased awareness. When he’s looking for an open man while scrambling, he’s losing track of the guy right behind him swiping at the ball. He’s looking downfield instead of protecting the ball. There’s a learning curve to spatial awareness and it’s obvious that Manuel is a fast learner so, this too shall pass…or run without fumbling.
Penalties: The Bills committed 11 infractions for a total of 99 yards. Worse yet, two of those penalties resulted in first downs for the Ravens. This recurring category stepped up from Ugly to Bad this week simply because the Bills were able to make up for most of their mistakes and only a few were their usual bonehead penalties I talked about a couple weeks ago.
Justin Rogers: His only view of opposing receivers should be from the bench. Rogers is the weak link in this defense. Even Aaron Williams, who was expected to be nothing more than a warm body at the corner, had the game of his life Sunday. Rogers is consistently getting thrown at in critical situations and is getting beat on a regular basis. Both of Flacco’s touchdowns were thrown to receivers covered by Justin Rogers. That’s why he made the Ugly List 2 weeks in a row.
No matter how you cut it, this was a banner win for a young Bills team trying to find their way. They caught the eyes of the nation this week and, you can bet, teams will be watching that tape as they prepare to face off against the Buffalo Kids.
It’s a short week for the Bills as they head to Cleveland to battle their second AFC North opponent, the 2-2 Browns on Thursday night. The Browns are coming off a 17-6 victory over the Bengals. Look for my game preview article. There are more similarities between these teams than just their common Lake Erie shoreline.
– Josh Paufler