BALTIMORE, M.D. – Uninspiring. That’s probably the best way to sum up the Bills (0-1) dismal offensive showing in Tyrod Taylor’s return to Baltimore on Sunday, as they dropped a very winnable game to the Ravens, 13-7. Taylor finished an efficient 15-for-22, but mustered up only 111 passing yards and was sacked twice. The offense as a whole, managed to produce just one scoring drive and a whopping 160 total yards of offense – their worst performance since netting 145 total yards against the Jets in 2006. That’s simply not going to cut it in any game.
Any concerns Bills fans had about their team in 2016, centered around the defense, which lost several key players like rookie Reggie Ragland and Shaq Lawson to injury. The offense on the other hand was healthy, led by a quarterback who bet on himself by signing a team friendly contract in the off-season, a cohesive offensive line that remained intact a season after leading the league in rushing, and stars at the skill positions like LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins.
All that glitz and glamour was nothing but fools gold on Sunday.
Buffalo would start the game with back to back three and outs, moving mostly backwards after the defense forced a punt and a fumble in their first two possessions out on the field, even setting the offense up at the Ravens 47 following the latter. The offense netted -9 yards on those two drives. Chalk it up as first game jitters.
After Justin Tucker would hit a 50-yard field goal to put Baltimore in front 3-0, the Bills would go out and pick up there first first down of the game on a 5-yard reception by Sammy Watkins, seconds into the second quarter. They’d still end up punting and the Ravens took advantage of perhaps the biggest defensive mistake of the afternoon when S Duke Williams got turned around in man-to-man coverage against Mike Wallace and blew by him for an easy 66-yard TD pass. Ryan took responsibility for the play afterwards admitting that they focused their double-team on the play on another receiver and left Williams out to dry.
Regardless, seeing the Ravens score seemed to inspire the Bills offense to answer down 10-0. That they did on a memorable 12 play drive, highlighted by a magical play by Taylor. Facing a third-and-13 at the Baltimore 37, the Bills QB spun out of the pocket away from the grasp of veteran LB Terrell Suggs and booted out to the left, keeping his eyes downfield. Suddenly TE Charles Clay emerged, cutting across the middle of the field and Taylor fired it to him for a 33-yard pickup and a first-and-goal. Four plays later on fourth down Ryan made the gutsy decision to go for it and it paid off, as LeSean McCoy punched it in for the first TD of the 2016 campaign.
They showed more promise on the first drive of the second half where they marched 44 yards to the Ravens 43 and set up Dan Carpenter to tie the game on a 50-yard field goal. Sadly, the most painful phrase in Bills franchise history came into play. Wide right. The score remained 10-7 Baltimore.
From there Buffalo would go three and out on three of their final four drives, punting the ball away with 4:43 remaining, only to never see it in their possession again. They finished a miserable 3-for-13 on third downs. Outside of converting two fourth-downs, the Bills deployed a mostly timid and safe offensive philosophy throughout the game, failing to challenge the Baltimore secondary with a single deep pass to Watkins. The third-year receiver would finish the day hauling in four passes for just 43 yards.
“It was hard. The safeties were playing very deep and they were giving us everything underneath,” Taylor said of the team’s reluctancy to throw it deep. “Basically, we were taking what they were giving us throughout the game.”
“I think we did lead the league in vertical passes last year, so we’re trying to do that, but you’ve got to have protection,” Ryan remarked. “A lot of times it starts and ends with protection. We have the ability on the outside. It’s tough. At times protection held up really well, but at times I thought they got outstanding push against us.”
It certain does start in the trenches and that offensive line that the Bills brass worked so hard to retain was a massive let down in Week 1, getting no push in the running game and allowing minimal time for Taylor to throw.
What’s most disappointing, this game was Buffalo’s for the taking in large part because the defense – which Ryan has vowed would be better in 2016 – got crucial stops and kept the Bills within striking distance . If there’s one silver lining from today’s loss, that’s it.
Outside of the long touchdown to Wallace the Bills defense kept the Ravens in check. They certainly did there part, but clearly it wasn’t enough.
Buffalo has next to no time to lament over today’s loss as they have just three days to prepare for an 0-1 New York Jets team on Thursday in their home opener at New Era Field.
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