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Upon further review: Bills' pass rush lacks punch in loss to Ravens

Even the one time the Buffalo Bills did sack Joe Flacco on Sunday was a bit of a disappointment.

With the Baltimore Ravens leading 17-0 early in the second quarter, Flacco dropped back to pass. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes came racing into the backfield, and looked to have a free shot on Flacco. Instead of taking down the Ravens’ quarterback, however, Hughes whiffed when he attempted to strip the ball.

Flacco then scrambled, and was eventually brought down at the line of scrimmage by rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds for no gain. That went into the books as Edmunds’ first career sack. It was the only one the Bills would get against Flacco on Sunday in a humiliating 47-3 defeat.

“You've got to take advantage of protections. When you get one-on-ones you have to win, no matter who they may be (against),” Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “Sometimes the ball's out, so there's a lot of different things that go in. I know the better we rush, the better guys cover, and vice versa. We all have to work together for that to work.”

The Bills rebuilt their defensive front seven in the offseason in part to improve the pass rush. Defensive end Trent Murphy was signed in free agency to apply pressure off the edge, while defensive tackle Star Lotulelei’s addition was designed to take blockers off of those around him, freeing them up to make plays.

The early returns were not good. The Bills managed just four quarterback hits against Flacco and Lamar Jackson once he took over. Conversely, the Ravens finished with nine.

“Today just wasn't our day. ... We just couldn't get to Joe in enough time to create havoc on their game plan,” Hughes said. “You've got to get pressure on quarterbacks like that if you want to win football games. We understand that. We certainly didn't do that today. We fell short.”

Give credit to the Ravens here, too. The offensive game plan involved rolling Flacco out to buy him time, and the veteran quarterback looked mobile and on top of his game.

“They had a couple new wrinkles, but it’s Week 1. You expect that to happen,” Hughes said. “We just need to answer better. We didn’t. We’ve got a lot to focus on on our part.”

“They were play-action passing and getting some guys open,” Bills safety Micah Hyde added. “The few times (Flacco) got some time, he seemed like he had six, seven, eight seconds to throw the ball across the field. … They did their thing today and knew how to beat us.”

The quarterback conondrum 

Was trading quarterback AJ McCarron a good idea? The Bills sent McCarron to the Raiders on the day of final cuts for a fifth-round draft pick. It looked like decent value for a player who lost the three-man quarterback competition, but it took one half of football Sunday for that decision to look dubious.

Nathan Peterman melting down – again – the way he did Sunday puts the Bills in a bind. Clearly, the team didn’t think rookie Josh Allen was ready for the starting job at this point, but there looks to be no other choice. How can coach Sean McDermott go into the Bills’ locker room and sell veterans like Williams, Hughes and LeSean McCoy on the idea Peterman really gives the Bills the best chance to win? McDermott runs the risk of losing any good will he built up by ending the playoff drought last year if he stubbornly insists on giving Peterman another shot.

It’s not unusual for teams to go into a season with two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but that’s usually done when there is an established starter in place. It would be easy for the coaching staff to turn things over to McCarron after what happened Sunday if they felt like Allen needed more time on the sidelines to develop. Now, that option is gone.

Stat of the game: 6 for 6

That’s what the Ravens finished in the red zone Sunday. That’s the first time since 2007 an opponent converted six trips inside the Bills’ 20-yard line into touchdowns. The New England Patriots did that during their 56-10 walloping of the Bills during a perfect regular season. That remains the most lopsided loss in franchise history, a record that was given a serious run for its money Sunday.

Game ball: Tremaine Edmunds

Somebody has to get it, right? Why not the rookie middle linebacker, who finished with seven tackles, one sack, two passes defensed and one forced fumble. Edmunds showed flashes of why the Bills traded up in the first round to draft him out of Virginia Tech.

“He looked like he was flying around, making plays,” McDermott said of Edmunds. “He got us in and out of the huddle on defense. They ran some no huddle, and it looked like he managed that and communicated well. We’ve got some young players out there playing, and this is our first taste of a regular-season NFL game.”

Quote of the day

“It’s only one game – even though a lot of people are going to blow it out of proportion, we have to remember that. It’s only one game.” – Rookie cornerback Taron Johnson, who made a pair of solo tackles before leaving the game midway through the second quarter with a shoulder injury.

Snap count notes

1. Clearly, the Bills didn’t feel great about their chances of running the ball against the Ravens. That was shown by the fact fullback Patrick DiMarco was on the field for just one snap.

2. Defensive end Trent Murphy was on the field for 28 of 80 defensive snaps (35 percent) as he comes back from a nagging groin injury. Shaq Lawson started in Murphy’s place and played 35 snaps. Interestingly enough, Lawson finished third among defensive ends in snaps, behind Jerry Hughes (53) and Eddie Yarbrough (39).

3. Edmunds was the only defensive player to take all 80 snaps.

4. Running back Marcus Murphy took 23 offensive snaps Sunday, compared to just seven for Chris Ivory. The lopsided nature of the game might have played into that, so it’s a bit premature to say Murphy has taken over the No. 2 running back job, but that will be the case if the numbers look similar in Week 2.

5. Logan Thomas and Jason Croom each got 18 snaps behind starting tight end Charles Clay. Khari Lee, the best blocking tight end on the roster, was a healthy inactive – another sign the team thought running the ball was going to be a challenge.

Coming attractions

The Los Angeles Chargers make the cross-country trip to Orchard Park at 1 p.m. Sunday to serve as the opponent in the Bills’ home opener. Los Angeles is coming off a 38-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Three things to know about the Chargers …

1. They may be without Joey Bosa. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that a lingering foot injury may cost Bosa more than just Week 1. According to Schefter, Bosa is scheduled to meet with Dr. Robert Anderson on Wednesday to determine the extent of the injury and get a timetable of how much time he could miss.

“We definitely missed Joey,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters Sunday.

2. Their special teams was a mess Sunday. L.A. allowed a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, undrafted rookie J.J. Jones fumbled a punt, which Kansas City recovered at the Chargers’ 2-yard line, setting up a touchdown that put the game away. Additionally, kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 48-yard field goal wide left.

3. Philip Rivers shows no signs of slowing down in his 15th season. The 36-year-old threw for 424 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs. The Chargers also got a combined 292 yards from scrimmages from running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. They will be a challenge for a Buffalo defense still licking its wounds from Sunday’s performance.

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