Monday, September 30, 2013
Bills' report card vs. Ravens
By Mike Rodak
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Offering unit-by-unit grades following the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens:
Coaching: B-plus (Last week: B-minus) For another week, there wasn't a whole lot to scrutinize from a game management standpoint, and the Bills did not challenge any plays. The Bills were penalized 11 times for 99 yards, a sign of a continuing problem for the coaching staff. But they deserve credit for a winning game plan against the Ravens. Opting for a run-based offensive strategy against one of the NFL's best run defenses was a gamble and it paid off. It's also worth pointing out the work defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has done with a continually shifting secondary.
Run Offense: B-plus (Last week: D) The Bills averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, but that statistic was deceiving. From the beginning of the game, the Bills did an excellent job of establishing the running game against a physical defense. They didn't break many big runs -- Spiller's longest was his first (10 yards) and Jackson didn't gain more than 16 -- but it was a steady, consistent effort, even when injuries bit the backfield. The biggest negative here were the fumbles: Jackson and EJ Manuel both had two, with Manuel lucky that his fourth quarter fumble was recovered.
Pass Offense: C-minus (Last week: C-minus) Manuel followed up a rough outing in New York with perhaps his worst performance to date. His two interceptions were the most he's thrown in his first three games, and his 10-for-22 showing (45.5 percent) was only slightly better than last week (45.2 percent). He didn't get much help from Stevie Johnson and had at least one pass that was dropped. He had incompletions to Scott Chandler and Robert Woods (in the end zone) that were reviewed or challenged and could have gone either way. His 42-yard touchdown pass to Woods was a product of play action, something the Bills could work more into their offense. But Johnson making just one catch on six targets is a problem the Bills need to fix, and it falls on both Johnson and Manuel.
Run Defense: A-plus (Last week: C-plus) Hard to grade this any other way. The Ravens, who ran seven times in the first two quarters, almost completely abandoned the run in the second half. They finished with just nine carries for 24 yards. Baltimore did not even try to make this a factor in the game, so hey, what else is there to say?
Pass Defense: B-plus (Last week: C-minus) The Bills defense handed Joe Flacco one of the worst games of his career. It wasn't all of their doing -- some of his interceptions were tipped and caught -- but any defense that snags five interceptions is worthy of praise. Short-handed, the secondary came up big, and other than Aaron Williams allowing a 74-yard catch in the fourth quarter, the Bills were able to avoid giving up long passes, which plagued them last week. The pass rush was also strong, with Flacco sacked four times and hit 12 times. The defending Super Bowl MVP threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns, but those stats were dwarfed by a strong overall effort by this unit.
Special Teams: B-minus (Last week: B) Punter Shawn Powell struggled late in the game, the biggest knock against this unit. His 29-yard punt in the fourth quarter set the Ravens up at their own 44-yard line in a critical situation in the game. The Bills defense came up big to limit the Ravens to a field goal after that play, but more often than not, that's a mistake that ends up costing teams. Otherwise, Dan Carpenter was perfect on his three field goals, and the return units, which generally are becoming less of a factor in the NFL, weren't an issue for the Bills.