On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills rebounded well from a disappointing game against the New York Jets last week, pulling out to a 20-7 halftime lead and then holding on to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, 23-20. The team made their share of mistakes in the game, as rookie QB EJ Manuel had a couple of turnovers and the offensive line took some dubious penalties to kill drives, but overall the offense did just enough to win the game. There were a couple of missed opportunities – with Manuel overthrowing a wide open Stevie Johnson on a potential touchdown pass and tight end Lee Smith falling down on another possible TD – and a bad break when a touchdown throw to Robert Woods was overturned by a questionable replay review. But the combination of a sound rushing attack, (accomplished mostly by committee as C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and even Tashard Choice rotated in and out of the lineup, with a sprinkling of successful end-arounds by Woods and T.J. Graham) and a great defensive effort sealed the win for coach Doug Marrone’s club. Buffalo took the early lead with a pair of pretty touchdown plays – a perfectly thrown Manuel pass to Woods for a 42 yard score, and a Jackson run up the gut for a 16 yard TD.
Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco burned the Bills’ secondary with some long throws, but the Buffalo defense held Baltimore to field goals when it mattered most. The rush defense was stellar, holding the Ravens to 24 yards, while the pass defense, playing with a patchwork secondary, sacked Flacco four times and intercepted him five times. Aaron Williams, moved from safety back to cornerback due to injuries, picked off a pair of Flacco’s throws, as did playmaking rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is probably the top rookie defensive player in the NFL through the first four weeks of the season. Jim Leonhard had the other pick, while Marcell Dareus had a pair of sacks, with Mario Williams and Manny Lawson getting the others. For the most part, it was a tremendous team effort by the defense, with contributions coming from the entire unit.
The Bills now have a short week to prepare for a Thursday night matchup with the Browns in Cleveland, another tough test on the road, where they didn’t exactly distinguish themselves in their first game away from home against the Jets. They now have to figure out how to transfer the resilient attitude they’ve shown at home to a hostile road environment.