BALTIMORE --This was not the sort of performance that optimistic Buffalo fans had expected from the offense.
With a more polished and confident Tyrod Taylor, a healthy and refreshed LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, and an intact and well-paid offensive line, the Bills were supposed to be a dynamic, high-scoring team this year.
But that was hardly the case in Sunday's season opener at M&T Bank Stadium. The offense was tentative and conservative. Taylor didn't throw the ball much down the middle and spent much of the day throwing into the flats. The offensive line was average.
It was sadly reminiscent of so many road performances of the millennium, like a relic from the Dick Jauron era. Actually, at times it was a near-replica of last year's Tennessee game, when Taylor made a couple of extraordinary athletic plays in the late going to pull out a victory after doing nothing in the first half.
This year, there were no such heroics from Taylor and the offense. The Bills got a terrific performance from their defense, but the offense didn't keep up its end of the bargain, finding the end zone just once in a discouraging, 13-7 loss, to the Ravens.
One of the reasons the Bills hedged their bet on Taylor's $90 million extension was Doug Whaley's desire to see him lead some fourth-quarter comebacks. The Bills lost their last three close games a year ago -- all on the road -- and Taylor did little in those clutch situations.
Taylor had his chance Sunday. Despite an uninspiring first 55 minutes, he still had a chance to pull it out after the defense held the Ravens to a field goal, leaving the Bills behind, 13-7, with 5:30 to play.
But after a penalty -- one of nine on the Bills -- Taylor threw a safe, 9-yard out to Robert Woods. Then he was sacked on third down, on a play when the Bills were guilty of holding, anyway.
So the defense was asked for one last stop, and appeared a bit weary in the late going -- again, something we've seen countless times in road losses over the year.
The Ravens got a first down on end around by Mike Wallace -- who had burned Duke Williams for their only TD -- with 3:09 to play. On second-and-8, Justin Forsett took a toss right, avoided a Corey Graham tackle, and gained seven to set up a crucial third-and-1 at the two-minute warning. The Bills had only one timeout remaining, so this was a desperately needed stop. Terrance West, who had a solid day as the No. 2 back, sliced through for the first down that effectively ended it.
The Bills wouldn't have been in a position to win if not for a mind-boggling play by Taylor with the Bills trailing, 10-0, in the second quarter. Taylor appeared to be sacked on a third-and-13 from the Ravens' 37. But he spun out of the tackle and found Charles Clay open downfield for a 33-yard gain.
The Bills scored four plays later on a 1-yard plunge by McCoy on fourth down, lifting them right back into the contest. Still, they gained only 92 yards in the first half -- to 225 for the Ravens. You wondered how they would bounce back after halftime, especially with left tackle Cordy Glenn apparently out for the day with an ankle injury.
The answer was no. The Bills didn't score again. Taylor never got anything going in the passing game. He finished 15 of 22 for 111 yards, a sorry 5.0 yards per throw. That'll happen when most of your passes are to the flats and you rarely throw the ball down the middle of the field.
Sammy Watkins had four catches for 43 yards, but wasn't a major factor. There was an ominous report before the game from ESPN's Adam Schefter that Watkins was still struggling with his broken foot and might not be 100 percent for a long time.
That doesn't bode well for a Bills offense that came off as badly overrated in the opener. This was not a great Ravens defense. Failing to score more than seven points was a disturbing outcome. The Jets' defense won't be any picnic Thursday night, either.
The Bills have now lost five straight road games going back to a year ago. The opener seemed like a continuation, not a departure. In four of those games, Taylor and the offense were within seven points in the fourth quarter and failed to rise to the occasion.
Let's not even discuss the continued lack of poise and discipline by a Rex Ryan team. This was a bad loss against an AFC opponent they'll likely contend with for a wild-card spot.
They can't afford to lose these games, which have a way of haunting you later in the year.
In so many ways, it seemed like the same old Bills.