ReFo: Ravens @ Bills, Week 4
A game of highs and lows for both teams, the Buffalo Bills were able to hold on and, with some cheeky quarterback kneeling, run the clock out. It leaves both teams sitting at 2-2 but with hints of a shift going on between the two teams.
One is a franchise used to success in recent years that is struggling to replace veterans, and the other a team with a new energy desperate to put years of misery behind them with a new up-tempo attitude. It’s just a hint right now because the Bills will know in some respect they were fortunate to get a win here with a poor performance from Joe Flacco letting them off the hook as their only quarterback continued his woes.
Let’s get to that and more.
Ravens – Three Performances of Note
If ever there was a display that highlighted the concerns with Joe Flacco (-7.3) this was it – and then some. On every dropback he takes there’s potential for something fantastic to happen, but just as much of a chance it all goes horribly wrong. In short, on every pass he takes the snap, he has as high a ceiling as possible, and as low a floor as you can think of.
In this game, he dropped to the ground a lot more than he soared to the sky.
The five interceptions don’t paint a picture, and while it’s fair to say one of those was solely due to the butter fingers of Ed Dickson, you could also argue he was lucky to not get away with more picks as his accuracy deserted him. His first picks to Aaron Williams and Kiko Alonso were especially bad plays as he just misread defenders sitting in zones and gave them plays to make.
The frustrating thing is that among all the bad tape he’s left out there for us yesterday, there were some fantastic moments. His deep completions to Torrey Smith and especially Deonte Thompson (Q4, 5:43) highlighted just what he is capable of. Unfortunately that won’t be the lasting impression from this contest, instead it’s completing just 25 of 48 aimed passes with two drops. Poor numbers for a man earning as much as he is.
Two Safeties, Two Very Different Days
Let’s be honest, these first four games have been something of a struggle for the Ravens. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some bright spots. Take the play of James Ihedigbo (+3.2) who has bounced around a little with spells in New York and New England, never really catching on as an every-down defender you can trust in. Heck, with the team drafting Matt Elam (-2.2) and signing Michael Huff (nine snaps) it was hard to see him getting much more playing time than he managed in 2012 (295 snaps).
But the undrafted free agent from 2007 has proved the doubters (myself included) wrong and he did so again here. He was sure with his tackling (eight with zero missed) and showed good play diagnosis on his two defensive stops that saw him getting to the line of scrimmage quickly to make a play. He’s even handled himself well in coverage, previously a weak spot of his game and here he didn’t allow a single ball into his coverage to be complete.
On the flip side, Elam didn’t enjoy himself and nothing highlighted this quite like the three-play sequence that led to him missing a tackle on Fred Jackson that would go for a touchdown. He initially blew a coverage and was saved by an E.J. Manuel overthrow, and was then beat by Scott Chandler for a first down before the aforementioned missed tackle. Not a great day for the rookie.
When you’re in a contract year it never hurts to put forward some big performances. I was one of many lamenting the fact that Michael Oher (+1.8) had failed to do that so far, instead struggling to make a case for his contract figure rising. Here, though, he got back on track and largely shut down both Mario Williams and Manny Lawson whenever they went head-to-head with him. Neither man is the speediest of edge rushers and in a lot of ways that plays to the strength of Oher, but any day you’re in pass protection on 54 snaps and get beat for just two quarterback disruptions (granted, one was a slow-developing sack), you’ve done alright.
Bills – Three Performances of Note
It says something for how well Aaron Williams (+4.0) played that he earned such a high grade even though he was flagged for a horse-collar foul and gave up a big 74-yard completion. The former second-round pick has been seen as something of a bust but delivered a superb showing of close coverage and ball skills as he turned seven targets into his coverage into three receptions, two interceptions, and two pass breakups. He got his hands to the ball more than the intended receiver did which is always nice for a defensive back.
Better from Brown
One of the most noticeable things about the Bills this season has been the poor play of guard Colin Brown (-26.0 grade on the year heading in). So it will be refreshing that outside of a few plays here and there he held his own to earn a -1.2 grade with a positive mark in the passing game).
The best performance on the line came from Eric Wood (+3.5), particularly in the first half even if he did blot his copybook with a couple of penalties. He was pivotal in taking Daryl Smith out of the play to leave a wide-open lane for Fred Jackson to run through for a touchdown with 6:57 left in the first half. That Haloti Ngata had such a quiet game (again especially in the first half) owed some to the Bills getting two men on him, but an awful lot to the execution of Wood.
Too Much, Too Soon?
The good news is E.J. Manuel (-3.5) wasn’t as bad as he was last week. The bad news is he still wasn’t great. His worst moments didn’t necessarily come throwing the ball, but instead showing a lack of poise and composure that almost cost his team badly. In two instances he made his protection seem worse than it was, drifting out of a clean pocket and into the arms of a waiting defender. The second time, right at the start of the second quarter, he would end up fumbling after creating an angle for Chris Canty to attack him. Later on, he would bobble and fumble the ball on an option run as he very nearly put the Ravens in position to win it. He got away with it this week, but he won’t always be so lucky.
– The box score will tell you that Cordy Glenn didn’t give up a single pressure in this game. But he did get beat for two pressures (one by Pernell McPhee and another by Terrell Suggs) but because of penalties he gave up he doesn’t get officially charged them. Fortunately our grading system punished him for them both and he finished the day with a -1.2 grade.
– The rookie Robert Woods picked up 3.2 yards per route run. That even beat out Torrey Smith (3.07).
– Arthur Jones finished the day with five defensive stops in the run game. That comes out to one on 12.8% of all plays.
PFF Game Ball
It was a toss-up between Kiko Alonso who I may not have mentioned here but will do so in my Race for Rookie of the Year tomorrow, and Aaron Williams. In the end, Williams didn’t necessarily make the bigger plays, but there was a greater degree of difficulty in what he had to do, with his second pick being something to really capture my attention.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled