FIRST QUARTER: Ravens rock in red zone
The Baltimore Ravens have ranked among the top five in the NFL in red zone defense nine straight years. They showed why in the first quarter.
The Ravens held the Bills to field goals on two possessions inside the Baltimore 20.
Stout run defense did the job both times. The Ravens stuffed a C.J. Spiller run on second and 4 from the 8 then got the third-down stop on the Bills’ first drive. Later in the quarter they stuffed Spiller for a 2-yard loss on second and 4 from the 11.
Baltimore held foes to TDs on 43 percent of trips inside the 20 last year. That was second best in the league. The year before they held foes to 38 percent TDs, the best rate in the league.
Key plays: Dan Carpenter kicked two 27-yard field goals for the Bills.
Second-guess I: Cordy Glenn was called for unnecessary roughness late in the quarter. The Ravens’ pass rusher had fallen to the ground. Glenn was on his knees and dropped on top of him. It wasn’t necessary but it was hardly roughness.
Second-guess II: Should the Bills have gone for it on fourth and 2 from the Ravens’ 9 on their second drive? Yes. But conventional wisdom says early in the game against a tough defense you take the points.
SECOND QUARTER: Jackson was block solid
Fred Jackson was the star of the first half for the Buffalo Bills.
Jackson picked up a blitz up the middle to give EJ Manuel enough time to throw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods. That gave the Bills a 13-7 lead with 8:40 left in the half.
On the next drive, Jackson rumbled 16 yards up the middle for a touchdown. It gave the Bills a 20-7 lead with 6:52 left in the half. On the play before, Jackson picked up the blitz on a 14-yard pass to Scott Chandler, which converted a third-and-14 situation.
Key plays: The Ravens got a touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Marlon Brown. It capped a three-play, 27-yard drive that was set up by a Manuel fumble. Manuel couldn’t find his first receiver on the play and scrambled to his right. Ravens defensive end Chris Canty caught him from behind and forced the ball out. It was recovered by Brandon Williams at the Buffalo 27.
Zebra report: The officials overturned a fumble recovery by the Bills at the Ravens’ 18. Nickell Robey knocked the ball from the hands of Tandon Doss and Jim Leonhard recovered. It was close but it probably was a fair call.
THIRD QUARTER: Stall ball
All the rhythm the Buffalo offense had in the first half disappeared in the third quarter.
The Bills’ offensive series went like this to open the second half:
Three-and-out, three-and-interception, four-and-out, three-and-out, field goal.
The Bills had outgained the Ravens, 222-121, in the first half.
The Ravens’ fourth-ranked run defense asserted itself in the third quarter, holding the Bills to 44 yards on their first four series of the half.
Buffalo managed to get a field goal late in the quarter after a Kiko Alonso interception set them up at the Baltimore 48. Five straight runs produced 40 yards and gave the Bills a first-and-goal situation from the 8. Buffalo settled for a 22-yard Dan Carpenter field goal to take a 23-14 lead.
Key plays: Baltimore got a 26-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith with 7:17 left in the quarter.
Zebra report: An apparent touchdown pass from EJ Manuel to Robert Woods was overturned on video review. It was hard to tell if Woods had full possession when he got his first foot down in the corner of the end zone.
Said Woods: “My opinion is I caught the pass. … I had it in my bicep then switched hands, which showed control. But the referees at the end of the day have the final call.”
FOURTH QUARTER: Life preserver
Kiko Alonso made his second interception of the game with 57 seconds left to preserve the Bills’ upset.
Alonso dived to grab a pass deflected by Da’Norris Searcy that Joe Flacco threw over the middle for tight end Dallas Clark at the Buffalo 36.
“Everyone was trying to make a play,” Flacco said. “I was trying to have Dallas come across the safety space there and just stick one in there and get a chain moving. The other guy made a nice play, a nice catch.”
Bad timing: Shawn Powell shanked a 29-yard punt with 5:43 left to give the Ravens possession on their 44 and help set up a field goal drive.
Key plays: The Ravens pulled within 23-17 on a 35-yard Justin Tucker field goal with 7:12 left. Tucker booted a 24-yard field goal with 4:04 left to make it 23-20.
Second-guess: Clinging to a three-point lead with 4:04 left, the Bills played it conservative when they got the ball on their own 20. Fred Jackson ran off right tackle on first down. The Ravens ganged up to play the run. If Buffalo was going to pass, first down was the time. But two more runs succeeded in eating 1:44 off the clock and forced the Ravens to use a time out. In the end, the strategy worked.