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Quarter by Quarter: Matchups and second-guesses on Bills' implosion

BILLS-RAVENS 1ST QUARTER

Theme: The Bills looked ready for a 4 p.m. kickoff.

Matchup watch: Which team showed up with the better quarterback? It was no contest. Say what you want about sometimes-maligned Joe Flacco, but he improved to 93-62 for his regular-season career as a starter. Flacco knew exactly where to go with the ball.

Nathan Peterman, in his third career start, was double-clutching in the pocket from his second-drop back of the game. He had time but gave up a coverage sack. Flacco had 115 yards passing in the first quarter. Peterman had 7. It only got worse.

Missed opportunity: Peterman was a smidge late on a first-down short slant for Jeremy Kerley to start the second drive. It was a tight window but Kerley was open for a moment.

Zebra Report: The Ravens got a 28-yard pass interference penalty on Taron Johnson on their second touchdown drive to convert a third-and-7 situation. It was a ticky-tack call. Johnson stumbled and might have nicked receiver Willie Snead. But the contact happened at the Bills’ 25 and the ball landed at the 25. It should have been ruled uncatchable.

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BILLS-RAVENS 2ND QUARTER

Theme: Nightmare on Peterman Street. The Bills’ QB threw two interceptions as the Ravens’ lead ballooned from 14-0 to 26-0.

Matchup watch: The Ravens’ special teams have ranked among the top five in the NFL six straight years. Baltimore ranked No. 5 on punt returns and No. 1 on kickoff returns. Rookie Janarion Grant burned the Bills for a 51-yard punt return early in the second quarter.

Jay Skurski's 10 observations: A Bills meltdown of epic proportions

Key injury: Rookie slot cornerback Taron Johnson went down with a shoulder injury midway through the second quarter while making a hard tackle. The Bills opted to replace him with third safety Rafael Bush rather than use their fifth cornerback, Lafayette Pitts. It was a case of putting the best 11 on the field. But against potent pass offenses (like the Chargers next week), the Bills likely will need to play three cornerbacks.

Second guess: Somehow, the Bills needed to get LeSean McCoy more involved early. He had four touches in the first half. He fell down on one swing pass aimed at him. Obviously, all the first-down failures and penalties derailed the game plan. But getting the ball to “25” is a must.

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BILLS-RAVENS 3RD QUARTER

Theme: Throwing gasoline on the Bills’ fire.

Top miscues: It didn’t take long for the Ravens to build the lead to 40-0. Corey Bojorquez fumbled the snap of a punt to give Baltimore the ball at the Buffalo 14. Peterman overthrew Kelvin Benjamin by a mile on the next series, and Brandon Carr’s 32-yard interception return went to the Bills’ 1.

Bills-Ravens Report Card: Straight Fs across the board for Buffalo

Matchup watch: The Bills’ “middle three” vs. Baltimore’s defensive line was a figurative technical knockout. The Bills rushed for 2.9 yards in the first half and yielded six sacks overall. Center Ryan Groy fell down on the Ravens’ second sack and had a false-start penalty. Guard Vlad Ducasse was flagged for holding and a false start. Guard John Miller drew a holding foul and was beaten on a second-quarter sack. It wasn’t just heralded D-line starters Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce doing the damage for the Ravens. Backups Chris Wormley and Za’Darius Smith were in the backfield, too.

Escape artist: At least Josh Allen helped the offensive line with his feet. In leading the Bills to a field goal, Allen had runs of 11, 14 and 3 yards and had a miraculous escape of a near sack for a throwaway.

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BILLS-RAVENS 4TH QUARTER

Theme: Nearly the worst loss ever. The only one worse: The 56-10 blowout at the hands of the undefeated New England Patriots on a Sunday night in Orchard Park in 2007.

Home cooking: The Ravens improved to 6-1 in their last seven home openers and 16-2 in September since 2008 under John Harbaugh. It was Baltimore’s third-largest margin of victory in its 23-year franchise history.

Unsung: Bills linebacker Matt Milano looked aggressive and instinctive in shooting gaps created at times by Ravens pulling linemen. Milano was one reason the Bills held the Ravens to 3.4 yards per carry. Milano led the Bills with eight tackles.

Injury note: Shaq Lawson tweaked a hamstring chasing Lamar Jackson toward the sideline early in the fourth quarter. The Bills need a healthy Lawson.

Second guess: Can we request a do-over on the trade with Oakland for AJ McCarron? Granted, Allen likely will take over soon, if not for Sunday’s home opener. But given the number of hits Peterman and Allen took, there would be a little more sense of security with McCarron on the team. And, obviously, another QB option.

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