AFC East: 2013 Week 4 BAL at BUF

Battered Bills secondary comes up big

September, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' secondary has been ravaged by injuries early this season, with their top two cornerbacks and top safety inactive for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Expectations for Buffalo weren't high: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the defending Super Bowl MVP, was supposed to have a field day.

But apparently the Bills' cast of back-end replacements didn't get that memo. Flacco threw five interceptions, was sacked four times, and Baltimore's offense was 3-for-16 on third downs as the Bills defeated the Ravens, 23-20.

Leading the charge was Aaron Williams, who has been tossed around in the Bills' defense. Drafted as a cornerback in 2011, Williams struggled in his first two seasons and was converted to safety this offseason. But McKelvin's injury last week forced Williams back to cornerback, where he started Sunday.

Williams intercepted Flacco twice despite himself being hobbled by an early-game shoulder injury and, later, a lower back contusion. He did not finish the game and said he is unsure of his status for Thursday's game in Cleveland.

"Last year, I wasn't really aggressive about getting the ball," he said. "If you really want to be great, you need to go get that ball."

Williams was flagged for a horse-collar tackle that set up a Ravens touchdown in the third quarter, and also was beaten on a 74-yard completion in the fourth quarter. But the Bills have to be pleased with Williams' overall performance, switching positions in a pinch.

"I can't complain about two interceptions, but at the same time, I can't give up the big plays like that toward the end," Williams said.

Head coach Doug Marrone said the Bills would like to have Williams return to safety, but they also want him to settle in at one position instead of worrying about when McKelvin or Byrd may return.

"We made a commitment saying we're going to put him at corner and then we'll take care of the safety positions," Marrone said.

Safety Jim Leonhard, who has become a full-time player when Williams returned to cornerback, also had an interception, but was quick to praise Williams after the game.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "There are not many guys in this league that can go back from safety to corner and play the way he did and gut it out. He's nowhere near 100-percent right now, but to go out there and play the way he did, you have to give him a lot of credit. I think he's earned a lot of respect."

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

September, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

Explaining late-game tension: With 57 seconds remaining, the Bills opted to take a knee three times to burn Baltimore's three timeouts. Ravens defenders, still playing with an edge, broke through the line and tried to disrupt the kneel-downs, resulting in a Courtney Upshaw penalty on the third play. Bills coach Doug Marrone said EJ Manuel was trying to take extra time off the clock by not kneeling right away, something that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said should have been done more quickly. Harbaugh said he was disappointed that Terrell Suggs didn't cause a fumble and that he "did the right thing." Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who was on the sideline for the series, said that Manuel was "clearly" taking a knee and that he should be treated as a defenseless player.

Spiller, Jackson hobbled: The status of both members of the Bills' two-headed rushing attack may be up in the air for Thursday in Cleveland. C.J. Spiller, who only ran twice after returning from an ankle injury, was limping around the locker room after the game. He said X-rays revealed no structural damage to his ankle and that he believes it is just a sprain. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson said he sprained his MCL, the same injury he had last season, but that it is "less significant" and he expects to play Thursday.

Easley limping: The Bills can't afford more injuries, but receiver Marcus Easley also was limping around the locker room after the game. Like the pair of running backs, Easley came back into the game after being hurt, but on a limited basis. The short week may put his status against the Browns in jeopardy. Easley has emerged as a special-teams presence and has filled in at kick returner in Marquise Goodwin's absence.

Rapid Reaction: Bills 23, Ravens 20

September, 29, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

What it means for Bills: Another nail-biter for Buffalo at home, but they were able to come away with a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bills intercepted Joe Flacco five times, but came away with only 13 points off the turnovers. However, Flacco's last interception was his biggest. In a three-point game with less than a minute remaining, linebacker Kiko Alonso came up with his second interception of the game, sealing Buffalo's victory. The Bills gained only 147 yards on offense, limited by a 10-for-22 performance by rookie EJ Manuel, who threw two interceptions. But with the Ravens' turnovers, it was enough to win.

Stock watch: Rising -- Aaron Williams. The former second-round pick came up big for the Bills, intercepting Flacco twice. With Leodis McKelvin not active due to injury, Williams started at cornerback Sunday after beginning the season as a safety. Williams briefly left with a shoulder injury in the first half, but later returned to the game and had a strong performance when the Bills needed it. He later departed with a lower back injury in the fourth quarter.

Spiller, Jackson hobbled: The Bills had a pair of injury scares in their backfield. C.J. Spiller left briefly with an ankle injury before returning, and Fred Jackson also left with a leg injury but returned. Buffalo leaned heavily on its running game Sunday, and it paid off. Spiller and Jackson combined for 39 carries for 164 yards.

Third-down defense improves: Buffalo has struggled on third downs both offensively and defensively this season, but the Ravens' third-down performance will help the Bills' defensive ranking. Flacco and the Ravens' offense were just 3-for-16 on third downs, and 1-for-4 in the red zone. Doug Marrone stressed the importance of these stats earlier in the week, and they were part of the difference Sunday.

What's next: The Bills (2-2) have a short week coming up. They'll travel to face the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, their lone prime-time game of the season.