Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bills give Ravens a scare

Billy Cundiff celebrates his game winning field goal in overtime over the Buffalo Bills.

It was one of those games where you ask yourself, "is this really happening"?

Coming off a tough loss to the New England Patriots a week before, the winless Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens everything they had -- and then some -- in the Ravens 37-34 overtime win.

The Bills were up 17-3 and 24-10 at one point and even came back from a 10 point deficit to tie the game in the 4th quarter and force overtime.

Their offensive stats are staggering: 506 total yards of offense. 4 passing touchdowns. 38 minutes of ball control. If not for Ray Lewis stripping Shawn Nelson of the football on a Bills drive in overtime, the Ravens probably would have lost. They were unable to stop the Bills on offense the entire day.

It was one of those games that cemented the truth for Ravens fans -- this isn't the dominant Ravens defense of year's past.

Maybe the Ravens were looking forward to their bye week. The Bills had just come off their bye. Maybe it was one of those perfect storm kind of games where a winless team can put the fear of God into a Super Bowl contender at home.

I'm chalking it up to "any given Sunday". But the game was not without many wake-up calls.

Thankfully, Joe Flacco was Joe Cool, even as the Ravens trailed by 14 points on two different occasions. He passed for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns to no interceptions. His completion rate was a lackluster 51.6%, however, and was sacked twice. But he made the throws when they needed to be made.

The receiving corps was lead by Todd Heap, who caught 3 balls for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns -- while Anquan Boldin caught 6 balls for 92 yards and 1 TD himself.

The ground game was workmanlike for the Ravens. Ray Rice gained 72 yards on 16 carries and Willis McGahee earned 64 on 11 carries with a touchdown. Both had good yard-per-carry averages on the day, but with the Ravens trailing by so much so early, they were forced to pass the ball.

The biggest problem on the day was on defense, where the Ravens failed to stop the Bills running game (132 total rushing yards) and exhibited atrocious tackling in the secondary. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did a good job getting his receivers the ball quickly, underneath the Ravens pass coverage, which allowed them to break some terrible attempts at tackling for big gains. It was a fundamental breakdown. If the Ravens could have tackled properly, the game would have never been as close as it was. Not to mention, Fabian Washington was torched on the day, and it was a performance that should ultimately cost him his job as a starting cornerback with Josh Wilson on the roster.

Thankfully, Bill Cundiff made all 3 of his field goals, including the 38-yard game winner. Cundiff has been pretty reliable on the season, but he isn't going to make Ravens fans forget about Matt Stover anytime soon. However, his kickoffs are routinely downed in the endzone. Any worries that Ravens fans had about the kicking game last year with the Steve Haushka debacle and then a shaky Cundiff taking over and ultimately winning the job again this year, should be put to rest. Cundiff is fine.

In the end, it will be a game remembered for the win, rather than the close call. Hopefully the Ravens head into the bye realizing they aren't invincible, and that even an 0-6 team can go toe to toe with anyone in the NFL.

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