The Baltimore Ravens head into their Bye week now and while the team sits at 5-2, it almost looked like the team's defense took their "Bye" yesterday by the embarrassing way they played in the Ravens 37-34 overtime victory. Previously ranked among the top five defensive units in the NFL up until now, the Ravens defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense to Buffalo, including 374 yards of passing offense and four TD passes by journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Ravens cornerbacks helped Fitzpatrick look like the second coming of John Elway, as he threw and ran all over the defense, making tough throws in critical times, both short, accurate bullets and long, soft-touch bombs. He finished 29 for 43 for those 374 yards and four TD's, three to wide receiver Lee Evans, whose day consisted of six catches for 105 yards in addition to those three scoring receptions. However, Evans wasn't nearly the most productive receiver of the day in terms of receptions and yardage, with Steve Johnson grabbing eight balls for 158 receiving yards and a 43-yard score.
While it was great to see Ravens safety Ed Reed finally get back onto the field after starting the season on the PUP List due to hip surgery, his contribution of two interceptions should not overlook the team's inability to stop or even slow down the Bills offense.
Reed played the great "centerfield" that makes hm one of the best ever to play the free safety position. However, he looked slow to compensate for the poor play of the cornerbacks in getting over to provide deep coverage help on those TD passes. Even when it because frustratingly obvious that the Bills were targeting CB Fabian Washington, Reed and Dawan Landry never seemed to be able to adjust for that problem, looking slow and out of position time and time again.
The tackling was disastrous, as the Bills runner, receivers and even Fitzpatrick himself broke through arm tackles to extend runs for additional yardage. On one scramble, Fitzpatrick even broke through an arm tackle of Ray Lewis to stretch for the first down. Fabian Washington, among his so many defensive lapses, seemed to actually dive out of the way of an approaching runner, rather than throw his body at them to stop or just even slow them down.
The pass rush was once again virtually non-existent, and when they did put pressure on Fitzpatrick, he either got rid of the ball or scrambled for critical first downs to keep drives alive. The Bills were 11 of 17 (64%) on third downs, proving their abilities to make the plays when they need to extend drives all day. Gaining first downs through the air 21 times, Buffalo gashed the Ravens secondary passing and pushed the defensive front seven back enough to run the ball for over 130 yards as well.
Some people may say the Ravens overlooked the Bills but there is no way the coaching staff would ever allow that. Once the Ravens scored the last ten points of the first half in the final minute of the second quarter and then began the third with another TD to put the team up by ten points, many thought this game was over, just as they did when the Ravens went up by ten points over the New England Patriots a week ago.
The final nail was about to be driven into the Bills' coffin when Ed Reed made his second interception but then Willis McGahee fumbled Joe Flacco's handoff deep inside of the Bills' Red Zone. Buffalo scored the final ten points of regulation to tie the game and send it into overtime, where the Ravens were lucky to escape with the win after a questionable turnover while the Bills were looking to move the ball into scoring position themselves.
A win is a win and the Ravens now are "rewarded" with a week of rest, although I doubt the coaches will have any relaxation as they try to figure out what went wrong in a game that was supposed to be a blowout and most fans were hoping it would be over by halftime and they could coast the rest of the way to victory. A week off could prove very beneficial, as the Ravens open the remainder of their season with another home game, this one hosting the Miami Dolphins, who should have won yesterday in their last minute 23-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on another questionable call that made the difference in the game.
At 5-2, the Ravens are still one of the top ten teams in the league, but will need to address their defensive shortcomings that were exposed yesterday by what was thought to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, but certainly looked pretty good for sixty-plus minutes on Sunday.