After getting the playoff-win-monkey off their back, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens headed to Orchard Park, NY, to take on the Buffalo Bills on a near-freezing, windy night for an AFC Divisional Round matchup. The usual tension that would accompany the lead-up to a playoff game didn’t seem quite as palpable around the Ravens community this week and the lack of bad blood between the two teams was refreshing.
Still, this was a business trip, and the Ravens are in the business of winning playoff games. Let’s recap:
The Ravens got the ball first in this one, and the Gus Bus was running hot straight out of the gate, picking up 12 on the first play of the game and following it up with another 10 on the next play. JK Dobbins, never one to be showed up, joined in on the party with a nine yard run of his own, but was then brought down for a loss on the following play.
Five runs and two passes later, the drive stalled out at the Buffalo 24. One would expect this to be an instant three points for Baltimore, but Justin Tucker continued his troubling postseason and missed his second field goal thus far, keeping the score knotted at zero.
Buffalo got off to a quick start on offense, as Josh Allen hit Stefon Diggs for a gain of 11 right away. Two plays later, the Ravens baffling burned their second timeout of the half, leaving them with just one to last them the half’s remaining 21 minutes. Thankfully, a quick stop on third down eased the sting of the maybe-not-wasted timeout.
The Ravens’ second drive was a quick three-and-out, culminating in a panicky scramble drill by Lamar Jackson before he set his feet and delivered a dropped pass to Dobbins. Whatever hex was cast on the Ravens special teams unit clearly had not worn off, as Sam Koch went on to shank his first punt in who-knows-how-long, setting the potent Bills offense up in prime field position.
Once again the Bills went to Diggs and once again he moved the chains for them on the first play. On their next play, Allen was able to draw what was deemed a “roughing” the passer call on Justin Madubuike after being lightly guided towards the sideline after his release. Somehow, all of this resulted in a simple field goal try and the game was then 3-0 Bills.
Disaster nearly kept her grip on the Ravens on their first play of the next drive, but Matt Skura was able to recover a Gus Edwards fumble. Despite the good fortune, the drive still went three-and-out and the defense was forced back onto the field for a third time in the quarter.
The Bills unsurprisingly went to Diggs on the drive’s first play, but this one luckily floated five yards past the Maryland native. Former Raven, John Brown, was able to pick up 32 yards on the next two plays, but Buffalo was forced to kick after the Baltimore defense held strong yet again. Buffalo kicker, Tyler Bass, in a show of respect to his better in Justin Tucker, promptly pushed the ball wide right to keep the game at 3-0 Bills at the top of the second quarter.
Jackson led the offense out for a fourth time and made a miraculous pass to JK Dobbins down the sideline to pick up 31 yards.
On the next play, a worm-burner of a snap by Patrick Mekari nearly had Ravens fans tilting the bottle all the way to the ceiling before Lamar was able to scoop the ball and toss it out of bounds to save a gigantic loss of yardage. After a third down stop, Tucker collected his third missed postseason field goal of the year and second of the game to keep things 3-0 in favor of the Bills.
Another opening play for the Bills, another first down catch for Stefon Diggs. In a turn of good fortune for the Ravens, Matt Judon was able to strip the ball from Josh Allen to force a 12-yard loss on third down and a punt on fourth that went for a touchback.
The offense took the field once more looking no more in their sorts than they had all game, Lamar immediately taking a nine-yard loss on a sack. The next play was no better, as a near first down run by Jackson was wiped away by a holding penalty on Ben Powers. Figuring this was not enough adversity, Mark Andrews chipped in with a false start penalty of his own on the next play. Think that was enough? Not a chance. Bradley Bozeman promptly threw his hat in the ring and pushed the offense back further with another false start.
Facing a 28-yard deficit with their backs against the end zone, the offense finally felt comfortable with the challenge ahead. Pat Ricard picked up some yardage on a quick pass to the flats, and Marquise Brown followed it up with a huge 21-yard gain on 3rd & 18.
JK Dobbins then pounded through the defense for a 13-yard gain, but the drive was cut short a few plays later and the offense punted it away once again.
Despite a big 19-yard gain by Stefon Diggs, the defense held strong once more and forced the Bills to surrender a short punt that put the Ravens offense on their own 27 with 1:03 left in the half.
After a quick eight-yard gain by Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown showed up yet again with a 30-yard pickup deep down the middle of the field to put the Ravens in Buffalo territory.
A few plays later, Tucker stepped up to kick with the uprights swaying in the wind to a near comical degree and finally made good on a 34-yard attempt to bring the game even at three. The Ravens escaped an absolutely brutal first half without a point deficit.
The Bills came out of the gates with a nine-yard run by Devin Singletary. Another nine plays for the Bills would turn into a touchdown courtesy of Diggs, who at this point had amassed 82 yards and a score on six catches.
An extra point would push the Bills ahead 10-3.
A methodical few plays for the Ravens brought them to midfield before Lamar broke off a 15-yard scramble to convert a 3rd & 13.
The Ravens nickeled and dimed their way all the way down inside the Buffalo 10-yard line, thanks in no small part to some extremely tough plays out of Willie Snead IV. In devastating fashion, the drive would come to an end with Lamar Jackson’s first career red zone interception, which just so happened to go for the second longest pick-six in the history of the NFL playoffs. The score ballooned to 17-3 Bills.
The misery droned on when a Pat Mekari sent another snap sailing past Lamar, who then picked up an intentional grounding penalty. Backed up to their own two yard line on third down, Tyler Huntley entered the game and picked up 19 on a scramble. The team would punt and their starting QB would enter the concussion protocol.
The defense held strong yet again on their next drive, stopping the Bills for a punt after nine plays to give the ball back to Huntley. Jackson would stay in the locker room with a concussion diagnosis.
Huntley and the offense managed to pick up a first down and valiantly attempted a 4th & 8 that shimmied over the head of Marquise Brown before the defense had to strap up the helmets again.
Buffalo came and went with a missed field goal attempt before the Ravens offense made their way back out.
A truly admirable drive by Huntley and the offense took them down to the Buffalo 10 yard line, but a drop by JK Dobbins on third down followed with a contested drop by Andrews in the end zone on fourth sealed the game shut.
The road to this game was memorable and this loss will be for all the wrong reasons. Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman’s offense held off the doubters for one round of the playoffs, but reared the head in the biggest way possible in this game.
There’s no reason to expect any negative changes in the staff moving forward, but some positive additions are clearly needed if this team is ever going to compete for a championship. These thoroughly embarrassing affairs are surely weighing on the Ravens fan community at large and they will be looking for a serious championship run next season.
Whatever happens. it was one hell of a ride and the good times should not be forgotten just because of this dreadful eyesore of a game. Also, let’s not forget how courageously the defense fought this postseason.
I guess walking salt mine, Will Compton, can bust out the PhotoShop now. Congrats, bud.
Bills 17 Ravens 3. Three points.