The Ravens weren’t supposed to struggle like that against the Bills. Super Bowl contenders having to go back and forth and win an overtime shootout against a contender for the No. 1 overall pick?
Whether this game was a mark of the parity in the NFL this year, the Ravens failing to execute properly with a eye on their bye week, or the Bills being better than their 0-6 mark remains to be seen. What’s for sure is that this was just another excellent game in what is proving to be an intriguing 2010 season.
Bills: Three performances of note
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (+5.7) was the star of this game, giving the Bills their first 300-yard passer since J.P. Losman threw for 340 in a 24-21 road win against the Texans in Week 11 of 2006. Fitzpatrick managed to get the big plays deep (two TD passes of 33 yards to Lee Evans and Steve Johnson) that opened up the intermediate passing game for the Bills. He was accurate and his receivers made the Ravens’ defensive backs look as inept in coverage as the media has painted them to be.
Cord Howard (-7.8) got his first career start, at right tackle, this Sunday and struggled with whoever he was blocking. Terrell Suggs, Cory Redding, Jarrett Johnson … they all got the better of him in run and pass games. Howard didn’t yield a sack but gave up two hits and six pressures on the Bills’ 47 pass plays and graded at -3.1 as a run-blocker. The Bills managed a meager 1.3 yards per carry on rushes off right tackle and right end. Howard looked outmatched, and though Cornell Green isn’t going to be making any Pro Bowl or All-Pro squads, he’s a big upgrade on Howard.
Andra Davis (-3.2) has taken the middle linebacker role with the Bills’ hasty shift to a 4-3 defense, and it is harming the Bills on two fronts. On the one hand, Davis is not a good coverage linebacker (-1.7 coverage grade in three starts at MLB this season) and on the other hand, it takes the top-quality MLB that the Bills had found (Paul Posluszny) out of that spot. Davis had a tremendous season as an inside linebacker attacking the line for the Broncos in 2009. But with the Bills shifting him to a 4-3, Davis is being put into a more balanced a role, one he failed to execute well in Cleveland prior to his stint in Denver. Buffalo is wasting Posluszny by taking him out of the heart of its defense.
Ravens: Three performances of note
Marshal Yanda (+2.3) continues to impress at right tackle, the position he played in his rookie season in 2007. In pass protection Yanda yielded only one pressure against Buffalo, only the second pressure he’s given up in the last four games. He gave up a pressure to Denver two weeks ago but was perfect in pass protection on the road against both New England and Pittsburgh. Yanda has struggled with his run blocking: Sunday’s showing (+0.9) was only his third positively graded game of the season as a run-blocker. He has been close to elite level at right guard, and it is impressive to see him playing so well so quickly back out at right tackle.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (+5.2) defies Father Time and logic with each passing week. Seemingly the more people suggest it’s inevitable that he’ll lose a step, the harder he works to maintain his All-Pro level, and his all-around showing Sunday showed that he’s still got it. Lewis graded positively as a run-defender (+2.5), in coverage (+1.7) and as a pass-rusher (+0.9, one sack, one hit, one pressure). He registered eight stops on his 11 tackles and in coverage yielded two catches for 7 yards on the three passes targeted to his coverage. Lewis has graded positively in every single game this season and after the bye week will look to propel the Ravens to another postseason berth and himself to yet another Pro Bowl.
Fabian Washington (-4.5) was terrible Sunday and was benched late in the game for Josh Wilson at right corner. Washington allowed eight catches on eight targets for 164 yards (20.5 yards per catch), three touchdowns (all to Evans), a long of 43 yards (to Steve Johnson) and 87 yards after the catch. Yielding both long and short catches, he gave up more yards than he’s allowed in a single game since the 193 he yielded in San Diego last September. Wilson was impressive last season for the Seahawks and if he gets his foot in the door, he may not let Washington back in the starting lineup.
Ed Dickson (+0.3) made his first career start with the Ravens opening up in a two-TE set. He was overthrown by Flacco on that first play but was solid as a run-blocker (+0.3). … Dennis Pitta (0.0) saw only three snaps in the game, with only one pass play in those. … Terrence Cody (+0.2) was in for 10 snaps in rotation at defensive tackle, five snaps apiece in pass rush and run defense, … Torell Troup (+0.1) played 36 snaps on defensive line that essentially started four defensive tackles. He was largely ineffective, registering only one pressure and one tackle. …. Antonio Coleman (+0.3) got two snaps as a situational pass-rusher, registering no pressure but chasing down a screen for a 1-yard gain. … Arthur Moats (+0.2) was one of three backup linebackers to see action, registering a sack and a pressure on nine9 pass rushes.
The seven total pressures (a hit, six pressures) Suggs recorded in this game was the most since he recorded eight (a sack, a hit, six pressures) in Week 14 of the 2008 season against the Washington Redskins.