Feel free to insert your own cliché on ugly wins when thinking back on the Bills’ win over the Ravens yesterday. The Bills got the thing to the garage but with the effectiveness of a drunk guy wearing an eye patch.
The offensive shortcomings of the second half that allowed the Ravens start to sneak back into the game amplified a lot of the worry of most Bills fans while also erasing an impressive first half from their collective memories.
Buffalo’s defense rebounded well after allowing over 500 yards of offense to the Jets last week and virtually eliminated Baltimore’s running attack while managing to survive with a patchwork secondary that helped contribute to a five-interception day.
Aaron Williams led the way with a pair of interceptions and an overly impressive day that only saw him beaten badly once on a deep ball to Torrey Smith. While it was yet another bad day for Justin Rogers, the contributions of Williams, Kiko Alonso (2 INTs) and a pass rush that recorded four sacks and 12 hits on Joe Flacco bridged the gap for the struggling corner.
The Bills front seven was stout for the entire game. Marcell Dareus had one of, if not the very best performance of his professional career while the others on the line each brought valuable contributions themselves.
Manny Lawson, in addition to adding his first sack of the season, was stepping to the slot receiver at times to provide coverage. Mario Williams was pushing the pocket at times – and Flacco rolled away from him quite a bit during the afternoon – added a very important red zone sack of Flacco that aided in holding the Ravens to a field goal.
Offensively the Bills did all their talking in the first half. EJ Manuel was efficient and hit on a big play to Robert Woods to help stake the Bills to their second lead of the game. Manuel sputtered in the second half, losing some composure but managing the game well enough for the Bills to get the W.
After a week in which the offense seemed lost and unable to execute, Nate Hackett retooled and put the Bills in a situation to be successful against a strong defense. Buffalo’s power attack saw Frank Summers and Lee Smith play plenty of snaps, getting away from the fire drill pace from the first three weeks while adding some blocking support to a line that was manhandled by the Jets.
CJ Spiller had an effective outing. While he didn’t hit a homerun, he ran with purpose and there were tangible results for his efforts. While he was once again outshined by Fred Jackson – who picked up a few more snaps due to Spiller’s injury – Spiller proved that he will produce at a high level this season.
Jackson’s day was punctuated with a pretty touchdown run and I’d expect him to have another big day on Thursday if Spiller is unable to suit up.
What will be interesting to see is if the Bills ground and pound effort from yesterday is something they stick with as Manuel continues to mature, or if Hackett begins to work the fast-paced, no-huddle attack back into the game plan with each week.
So long as the result is another win I’d say few will care what he chooses to do.
It’s no secret that protecting your quarterback is a major key to success. EJ Manuel unraveled last week as he faced a boatload of pressure from the Jets front seven with a line that had no solutions in pass or run blocking. With a little extra help this week (Lee Smith), the Bills run blocking was on point and they were effective in pass protection. Manuel’s play reflected the time he had in the pocket and I expect that trend to continue.
Manuel’s second half was nothing to write home about and his overall play may not have been the type of bounce back effort fans were hoping for after week three. However, his play in the first half was that of a first round QB and it’s the type of play that needs to be nurtured by Hackett and Marrone. I’m confident that Manuel will go off passing one week soon, it’s just a matter of letting the pieces fall into place.
A quartet of interceptions are the icing on an impressive first month for Kiko Alonso. He’s a sideline-to-sideline force who has 32 (combined) tackles already on the year and has proven to be incredibly effective in pass coverage already. While four games is too early to anoint anyone, you’d have to expect Alonso is going to be a cornerstone to build around on the defensive side of the ball.
A thought on Mario
Last year you’d hear a lot of harping that Mario Williams needed to get his sacks against a real quarterback. This year he’s done just that. Four and a half against one of the league’s best running QBs two weeks ago and then a pivotal run down of Joe Flacco this week. While Williams was relatively quiet for most of the afternoon yesterday, his sack came at a big moment in the game and added to his total on the year.
Something that I thought of last year when he went on his post-surgery run was what constitutes a solid outing for the defensive end? If he gets just one sack per win in a 10-win season, that’s ten sacks. Does that mean if he gets a sack in a victory that he earned his pay for the week? What about all the plays in which the offense moves away from him, rolling the QB, double teaming him or just blatantly holding the star? I’m not saying that expectations are too high, but perhaps thinking that he’s supposed to be chasing down the QB each and every play is a little ridiculous.
Aaron Williams had a phenomenal game against the Ravens. He got toasted by one of the league’s fastest receivers on a play that looked as if his help over the top disappeared. What I wonder is if he played that well or if Justin Rogers is so bad that he basically has the reverse Revis effect on offenses.
Rather than avoiding the lockdown corner on one side of the field, Rogers is just so easy to beat that there’s no reason to throw elsewhere. That’s basically the logic I’m working with here. The larger point is that I find it inexcusable that Doug Whaley hasn’t been able to find a veteran corner to step in and fill a role on this team. I’m sure he’s worked out a fair share of candidates, but I’m not buying that there isn’t a better option on the free agent market than what Rogers currently brings to this defense.
It was over when: Terrell Suggs took a penalty that even Kyle Wilson would say was foolish. Next Week: A short week to prep for a surprising Browns squad. The backers and safeties will be busy with Jordan Cameron Thursday night.