The Baltimore Ravens were unable to capitalize on another big lead at home in Week 4, surrendering 20 straight points to the Buffalo Bills and losing by a field goal. A fast start gave way to a slow finish and the Ravens squandered an opportunity for an early-season win over a prime conference opponent.
With this in mind, let’s break down the good, bad, and ugly developments from yesterday’s action.
Points off turnovers
The Ravens got off to a blazing start in this game and forced turnovers were a main reason why. Marlon Humphrey intercepted Josh Allen on just the third play from scrimmage. Then, late in the first quarter, Odafe Oweh stripped Devin Singletary of the ball and the Ravens recovered.
Both takeaways occurred in Bills’ territory and most importantly, led to points on the other end. J.K. Dobbins found paydirt two plays following Humphrey’s interception and the Ravens got a field goal on the drive following Oweh’s forced fumble.
For all of their defensive issues through four weeks, if the Ravens continue to force turnovers at a high rate and capitalize with points afterwards, that alone will give them a chance to win a lot of games.
First down rushes
The Ravens had more first downs gained from running the ball in this game (13) than they did in Weeks 1-2 combined (9). They had eight last week, for perspective, so today’s output nearly doubled their season-long total. And while Lamar Jackson again led the team in rushing yards by a good margin, Justice Hill and Dobbins provided contributions.
Dobbins had three first down runs in the first half and another in the third quarter. He was bottled up in the second half but still ran pretty decisively between the tackles. Justice Hill looked explosive for a second straight week, ripping off three 10+ yard runs on the Ravens’ final drive of the game. He accounted for over a third of the team’s total yards on that possession which could have ended in a go-ahead touchdown or field goal.
Winning the time of possession battle
You wouldn’t know it from the final score, but the Ravens nearly doubled the Bills’ time of possession in this game. Buffalo possessed the ball for just under 22 minutes; the Ravens had it for over 38 minutes. The Bills are usually on the winning side of that battle, so the huge discrepancy favoring the Ravens is commendable.
The early forced turnovers and three-and-outs by the defense contributed to this. Of course, the Ravens didn’t do much with the ball in the second half. However, they still had two nine-minute drives and another that lasted over seven minutes, which is a good formula.
It’s no secret that catching in rainy, windy conditions is more difficult than usual. Both teams had passes slip through the hands of pass-catchers on Sunday. So, some level of slack should be cut. However, it was Rashod Bateman who was unable to corral three of his six targets, and all they all appeared to be fairly catchable.
The real crucial one was on the Ravens’ second drive of the third quarter, where Bateman failed to catch a slant pass on third down. Had he caught it, there was plenty of open grass in front of him — quite similar to his 75-yard touchdown in Week 2 on the same route.
Bateman dropped a few other passes through the first three games, so this unfortunately has been a bit of an early-season trend.
Offensive line and pre-snap penalties
The Ravens were flagged a season-high nine times in this game for 70 yards. A lot of these were ticky-tack, highly questionable calls (i.e., Brandon Stephens’ roughing the passer in the fourth quarter), but there were also some avoidable ones.
After doing a good job avoiding pre-snap penalties through Weeks 1-3, the Ravens committed several of them in this game. Tyler Linderbaum had multiple false starts and that, as well as a delay of game or two, did the Ravens no favors in getting first downs.
Daniel Faalele was flagged for being an illegible man downfield and Kevin Zeitler was called for holding in the fourth quarter. This played into the Ravens’ porous offensive performance overall in the latter half of the afternoon.
Baltimore’s defense held Josh Allen in check for nearly the entire first half, both as a thrower and runner. He only had a couple of rushes through two quarters and none for substantial gains. They could not replicate that after halftime, though, and it was a big reason for the Bills’ offensive turnaround.
Allen had a 20-yard scramble to open Buffalo’s first third quarter drive. Then, his 11-yard rush to the edge off a play fake resulted in a touchdown on their next possession. Oweh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Patrick Queen and company had a difficult time containing Allen on scrambles as well as designed rushes.
The Ravens’ two-high safety looks opened up the middle of the field late into plays and because they couldn’t sack him, Allen was able to break free for a number of intermediate gains. Those added up and took their toll.
A second half shutout
The Ravens came away with points on their first four offensive possessions of this game. Two touchdowns followed by two field goals afforded them a 17-point advantage. Then, their offense suddenly went lifeless. They went three-and-out on three straight drives before Jackson was then intercepted. That’s four possessions with nothing going at all.
They finally put together a long, clock-eating drive late in the fourth quarter but another interception on fourth-and-goal squandered a prime scoring opportunity. It’s not easy to win games when your offense goes as flat as the Ravens’ did for that second half stretch, especially against a dangerous scoring team like the Bills.
Fourth down debacle
Regardless of whether you’re on the “take the points” or “go for it” side of the fourth down debate, the Ravens opted for the latter. Had they converted and scored, they might have won and it wouldn’t be a discussion. They could have, too.
Before being rushed and forced into a desperation throw, Jackson appeared to not see an open Mike Davis on the left side of the field. Devin Duvernay was also wide open in the corner of the endzone before Jordan Poyer broke on the ball, as the pass was late. Running a straight drop back with no sort of movement was also a questionable call.
An interception was the worst-case scenario in that situation, too, as it resulted in the Bills starting the next drive on the 20 yard line instead of the at the two.