It wasn’t 100 degrees, but it was once again terrible weather greeting the Bills in Baltimore. Steady rain and some gusting winds hampered the much anticipated duel between Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson at least in the passing game, but both were effective extending plays with their legs.
The Bills overcame a horrible start, falling behind at one point 20-3 late in the first half, as the Ravens took advantage of an Allen interception and Devin Singletary fumble.
But this time, the Bills didn’t blink. Allen led a lengthy drive to cut the deficit in half with a short TD pass to Isaiah McKenzie in the final seconds of the first half and it was 20-10 going into the locker room to regroup. McKenzie would later leave the game with a possible concussion, a touchy subject around the NFL these days. Suffice to say the Bills will be extremely cautious before bringing McKenzie back.
They did regroup indeed by eventually kicking a walk off field goal to win it 23-20, improving their record to 3-1 to stay even with the Dolphins in the AFC East. The win also snapped a string of seven straight close game losses, which was a record starting to annoy Bills players who were constantly being asked about it.
Allen did win the statistical battle against Jackson, but Jackson was a handful. Maybe that inspired Allen to shake off the rusty start with his remarkable second half comeback effort. Allen had 283 total yards with two TD’s and the int, while Jackson totaled 217 yards with a touchdown but two costly interceptions, including the 4th quarter pick that totally changed the game when Ravens coach John Harbaugh surprisingly made a decision that backfired.
After controlling much of the game, the Ravens and Bills were tied as the Ravens put together a long drive to go for the lead. The Ravens looked to be in great shape with first and goal at the two and over 4 minutes left in the game. But after a couple stops to make it 4th and goal from the two, Harbaugh passed on the chip shot field goal to go for the 7. That is simply respect for Allen and the Bills offense.
On the play, Jackson was pressured right away and threw a high floater off balance to the end zone, where Jordan Poyer made his second of two int’s to keep the Ravens off the board and give Buffalo the ball at the 20.
While McDermott and the Bills have been criticized for clock management, or mismanagement in some cases, they played this one perfectly. The Bills did get a break on the ensuing drive when Allen did a bit of a Manchester United flop on a late hit and picked up the personal foul and 15 charity yards. But the Bills milked the time while moving downfield, and they easily could have punched in a TD with a minute or so to play. But they kneeled down inside the two and called a final timeout with :02 left. Tyler Bass, who surprisingly had never kicked a game ending field goal, split the uprights as time expired and the Bills had a gutsy 23-20 win in the bag.
Lots of Bills heroes besides Allen. Linebacker Matt Milano had 13 tackles and made difficult open field tackles on Jackson a couple times to stop possible big gains. Tremaine Edmunds had 9 tackles and was all over the field popping people.
Then there’s rookie WR Khalil Shaker, a 5th round pick out of Boise St who wasn’t even active until both Jamison Crowder and McKenzie were out. Shaker jumped into the slot role and played like a veteran with a couple catch and runs for first downs in the second half. Shaker’s not big but he’s really good.
Next up, the Bills host the Steelers, who’ll be a bitter bunch after losing at home to the Jets. The Bills can’t look ahead to the following week, but we can. At Kansas City.
Great teams don’t always blow people out. They also find ways to win when facing adversity, and that’s exactly what the Bills did in Baltimore. They now hope to get a bit healthier during the next week, because in the NFL it’s never easy.
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