Welcome back to Sports Obsessive. This week, we will see the Baltimore Ravens face off against the Buffalo Bills. Lamar Jackson comes to town once again, but this time faces one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL, Josh Allen. Can the Bills air it out against the Ravens’ sixth ranked pass defence? Or will Lamar run all over the Bills middle of the pack run defence?
What We Saw Last Week
Colts vs Bills
This was a rough game for Josh and the Buffalo offence. The Colts wanted to keep Allen in the pocket, pressure him as much as possible, and force him to throw it before Diggs could find a way to get open down field. For the majority of the game their plan worked; Allen was getting hit, and looked uncomfortable. Making matters worse, Cole Beasley was clearly still nursing his knee, and did not have the quickness to get open in the middle of the field like we are used to seeing.
Colts long possession time
The Bills scored their first TD of the day when Dawson Knox caught a shot put pass from Allen in the back right corner of the end zone with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. After that scoring drive, the sailing got rough for most of the second quarter. Indianapolis possessed the ball for almost 12 minutes of the second quarter, and looked to go into halftime leading 10-7.
OC Ignites a spark
Brian Daboll could see the struggles Josh Allen and the entire Bills offence were having. He knew he needed to do something to boost the confidence in his young QB. His QB was struggling through the air, so he switched up the game plan near the end of the first half. Passing was not working so he turned to Josh Allen’s legs to get some positive yards and build a bit of confidence. His plan worked to a tee, and resulted in Josh finding the end zone on a 5 yard run to put the Bills back on top 14-10 going into halftime.
Perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise on the day came from Gabe Davis. Twice in the first half, he caught a pass near the sidelines and toe dragged his way to two excellent receptions. His toes were so close to the sideline during both catches that the plays had to be reviewed. The call on the field of a completed catch was confirmed for both receptions.
The Bills did enough to win this game, but it was certainly not an easy victory. Here are the stat lines for some of Buffalo’s key offensive players:
- Passing: 26/35/324/2
- Rushing: 11/54/1
- Interceptions: 0
- Fumble: 1
- Receiving: 7/7/57/0
- Receiving: 4/4/85/0
- Receiving: 2/3/5/1
Baltimore Ravens Offence
Ravens vs Titans
The Ravens started their game slowly, with a three and out on their first possession, followed by a bad interception thrown by Jackson. In general, the offence looked sluggish and unimpressive all day long. The Titans have one of the worst defences in the league, but still found ways to stifle the Baltimore Ravens pass attack. They also kept Jackson from being able to get outside the tackle for the majority of the day. While the box score will look favourably on Jackson’s rushing yards and YPC (yards per carry), the truth of the matter is that that 104 of his 136 rushing yards came on three plays.
There is not a more dynamic rushing QB in the league than Lamar Jackson. By now this is not a surprise to anyone, but it still bares repeating. The Titans had contained his rushing for most of the first half, until 2:45 left in the second quarter. On third and nine, Lamar dropped back to pass and with nobody open down field, he found a gap up the middle and took off. Once he cleared the second level of defenders he left the Titans front seven in the dust and sprinted toward the end zone. He was pushed out of bounds at the two yard line by Adoree’ Jackson, but before stepping out of bounds he extended his arms across the goal line for a 48 yard touchdown.
Every DC in the NFL knows what you have to do to throw Lamar off his game. He has accuracy issues at the best of times; add a bit of pressure and more often than not, it will cause inaccurate throws. The Titans were able to sack Jackson five times on the day but also got consistent pressure in his face. The issue here is that with such a mobile quarterback and a legitimately bad defence on the other side of the field, Lamar should have been able to escape the pressure. He tends to hold onto the ball too long and just doesn’t see the pass rush coming quick enough to look for scrambling lanes to escape. We saw it over and over again throughout the regular season, and once again on Sunday. Lamar was sacked four times in the first half. He just needs to be better.
The interception came on an out route to Myles Boykin from the right side of the field. Jackson was supposed to lead him to the sideline for a 26 yard pass at the Titan’s 28 yard line. After the snap, Rashaan Evans found a clean gap to rush Jackson and created a pressure situation. Lamar saw the pressure and uncorked a pass that was way off the mark and no where close to the sideline. Boykin was drifting toward the sideline and had no chance to contest the ball. Malcolm Butler made one of the easiest interceptions of his career.
- Rushing: 16/136/1
- Interceptions: 1
- Fumble: 0
- Rushing: 9/43/1
- Receiving: 1/1/-6
- Receiving: 7/9/109/0
Buffalo Bills Defence
The Bills were once again bend but do not break on defence. They did what they set out to do and limited Jonathan Taylor and the Colts run game to a respectable stat line.
What the box score does not show you is how close the Bills came to losing this game. There are three key defensive plays that altered the way the game ended.
First was the aggressive fourth and goal missed TD pass to Pittman in the end zone from the four yard line. Frank Reich saw the success that Michael Pittman was having against the Bills defence and decided to give his veteran QB a chance. The Colts ran a shallow cross to Pittman towards the back left side of the end zone. They called the right play, Pittman was open, but Rivers overthrew him and the drive was over. The debate over this call will last, but personally I think it was the right call.
If Rivers was a more accurate QB, the Colts would have been up by 10 with under two minutes left in the quarter. Because he missed it, everyone wants to say he should have just kicked the field goal. That’s football folks, if you miss then you’re an ass, but if it works you’re a genius. It’s not fair, but it is what it is.
Colts were down 17-10 with just under four minutes left the third quarter and faced a fourth and seven from the Bills’ 15. Out came Indy’s kicking team to pull the Colts within four points of the Bills. Rodrigo Blankenship has been spectacular this year, missing only 5 three-pointers all season. The 33 yard boot looked good at the start but drifted to the right and clanged off of the upright. The kick was no good. Buffalo took over on downs and drove down the field for an eventual Diggs TD reception early in the fourth quarter to put the Bills up by 14.
The playoffs are a series of crucial opportunities that make or break a team’s chances to move on to the next round. Missed throws, toe tapping catches, bad calls from the referee; any one of these could end the season for one of the teams on the field. This play did not have as dire consequences as the infamous Robey-Coleman non-PI call vs the Saints in the NFC Championship game a couple years ago, but it was certainly important. Rivers and the Idianapolis Colts were up against the wall, needing a fourth and 10 conversion to keep their drive and season alive. Rivers did his part and got the ball to Zach Pascal for a 17 yard hookup. The pass was low, and Pascal made a great sliding catch without being touched by any Bill defender.
The controversial portion of the play came when Pascal was getting up. He raised his left knee off the turf just as Jordan Poyer’s left hand touched his back. Poyer then reached in with his right hand and stripped the ball out of his hands for a fumble that was recovered by Buffalo. After officials reviewed the play, they decided that there was not enough clear evidence to reverse the call on the field of down by contact. Luckily for Buffalo, that play did not result in the Colts come back, and the Bills won the game 27-24.
Bills Defensive Stat Line:
- Passing yards allowed: 309
- Rushing yards allowed: 163
- Sacks: 0
- Interceptions: 0
- Forced Fumbles: 1
- Touchdowns allowed: 3
- Field Goals allowed: 1
Baltimore Ravens Defence
Baltimore didn’t hide their game plan against the Tennessee offence this week. For the majority of the game, Marlon Humphrey lined up man on man against AJ Brown and their front seven focused on stopping Derrick Henry. For the most part, the game plan worked. Brown scored on a nice touch pass over the head of Humphrey in the back left side of the end zone in the first half. Aside from that, the Titans only managed two field goals.
There is not a lot else to take away from this game as Tennessee did not take a lot of shots down field. The Ravens defence made the stops they needed when they needed. The Titans rely on Derrick Henry for the majority of their offensive attack, and when the Ravens shut him down, Tennessee’s offence was easily contained.
Baltimore has a good defence, not great, but they simply were not challenged in this game.
- Passing yards allowed: 165
- Rushing yards allowed: 51
- Interceptions: 1
- Sacks: 1
- Forced Fumbles: 0
- Touchdowns allowed: 1
- Field Goals allowed: 2
Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills This Week
Buffalo Bills Key to Victory
The Bills will head into Saturday without their promising young running back Zack Moss. He will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. They have signed Devonta Freeman to the practice squad, who will likely get some work behind Devon Singletary this week.
The key to this game for Buffalo will remain in the hands of Josh Allen. I expect some combination of Humphrey and Marcus Peters trying to contain Stefon Diggs this week. If Diggs is back to his old self I do not see either one of these two defenders to be a major challenge. In fact, Humphrey has been the second most targeted corner this season by opposing quarterbacks; second only to Malcolm Butler of the Tennessee Titans.
The Bills will also hope that Cole Beasley will be in better shape for this game. For the record, I would not bet on seeing a lot of him this week. If he is in fact a no go, expect to see another uptick in targets to Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox.
However you want to phrase it, Matt Milano will likely setup camp directly across from Lamar Jackson for a lot of the game. Buffalo needs to spy him all game long and keep him contained. The Bills have had major issues stopping the run this year and the Ravens know it. Buffalo stopped Jonathan Taylor last week, but he is no where near the dynamic runner that they will see this week in number eight for the Baltimore Ravens. Lesley Frasier must draw up plays to keep Jackson behind the line of scrimmage and let his pro bowl secondary go to work against a mediocre receiving core led by Hollywood Brown.
Baltimore Ravens Key to Victory
Lamar Jackson will look for lanes to run all day against the 20th ranked rush defence in the NFL. This is a ground and pound game if ever there was one for Baltimore. This week is not the time to test Jackson’s accuracy through the air. While he will most certainly need to find a way to make completions down field, Buffalo’s secondary is excellent, allowing just under 64% pass completion rate.
The Baltimore Ravens defence must step up their game this week. Much like Buffalo’s defence, Baltimore must keep Josh Allen in the pocket. If they can do that, the next step will be to find a way to penetrate the Bills’ O-line, and pressure Allen into throwing before he can find open receivers.
The final piece of the puzzle for a Ravens victory will be double teaming Diggs all day long. Josh Allen has become one of the most accurate passers in the league over the past month of the season. Allen will make completions, but he must be forced to find check down receivers and be limited to short passes.
The Ravens are not a team that is built to play from behind. We have heard it all season long, and for the most part this has been true. They have came back from a deficit only four times this season to win the game. Buffalo is one of the highest scoring offences in the NFL.
Should the Bills get a lead this week, I am not sure the Ravens have either the offensive firepower to keep up them, or the defensive prowess to limit them to a score which will allow them to come from behind.
I predict a box score very similar to last week for the Baltimore Ravens. We should also expect to see another 100 yard rushing day for Jackson, and likely two touchdowns on the ground. I am also expecting at least two interceptions from the Bills secondary.
The Bills should be able to find ways to run up the score for at least 28 points this week and secure their ticket to the AFC Championship.
Bills Win 28-17
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