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The Buffalo Bills are moving onto the AFC Championship game after a 17-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday in a game that featured two defenses who were on a mission. Not exactly the way many drew up this game at first.
The first half was a challenge for both offenses to move the ball. Baltimore had some success at the start of the game, gashing the Bills on the ground. However, the Ravens could not breakthrough Buffalo’s defense in the red zone. The Bills forced two Baltimore field goals, each of which hit the uprights. On their last possession of the half, the Ravens kicker Justin Tucker made a 34-yard field goal to get Baltimore on the board.
Buffalo could only muster three points during the half as well, as Tyler Bass made one of two field goals in the half. The teams entered the intermission tied, 3-3.
Buffalo’s offensive plan was obvious from the start. They attempted 22 passes compared to two rushes. Of those two rushes, one was a Josh Allen scramble. The quarterback went 13-of-22 for 120 passing yards in the first half. The Ravens did what many defense struggled to do against Buffalo: Limit explosive plays by the Bills’ playmakers.
Buffalo’s offensive game plan altered a little bit in the second half because of that. The Bills shifted to a passing attack that focused on shorter routes. They also got running back Devin Singletary involved in the mix, as he had four touches on the half’s opening drive. Finally, the Bills broke through, as Allen found Stefon Diggs on a wide receiver screen from three yards out to score what would be the game’s only offensive touchdown.
Baltimore responded with a long drive of their own, pushing the ball inside Buffalo’s 10 on a 15-play drive. However, the play of the game occurred when Bills cornerback Taron Johnson intercepted Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and returned the pick for a touchdown. The 101-yard return gave the Bills a 17-3 lead. With the way the defense was playing for Buffalo, the two-score deficit would be too much for Baltimore to overcome.
Things went from bad to worse for the Ravens on the next drive, as Jackson suffered a concussion. On the final play of the third quarter, the snap went over Jackson’s head. Jackson scurried to recover the ball and throw a pass out of bounds. The play, in which Jackson was flagged for intentional grounding, ended with Jackson taking a hard hit in the Bills’ end zone. This would be Jackson’s final play of the game.
Buffalo would force two turnover-on-downs situations from Baltimore for the remainder of the game. The Bills defense sealed the game away, sending the team off their first AFC Championship game since the 1993 season.
There are multiple occasions where unit was able to generate a strong pass rush with only the front four attacking Jackson. When they couldn’t get to the quarterback, thevBills worked to limit Jackson’s ability to break out with a big run. Baltimore did find some success with the ground game, but they could not breakthrough. The Bills defense made a concerted effort to not allow Jackson to get comfortable as a runner or in the pocket. When the Bills needed to bring some more pressure, they were successful with corner blitzes from Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson.
Leading the way, Jerry Hughes recorded two sacks, while Wallace and Mario Addison added one. The Ravens passing attack could not figure out Buffalo’s zone defense. The Bills allowed only 190 net passing yards in the game.
Buffalo’s passing attack was stalled out by the Ravens secondary. The Ravens forced the Bills into moving away from explosive plays, settling for shorter passes. Diggs had another great game, catching eight passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. John Brown looked more like himself this week, reeling in eight passes for 62 receiving yards.
It was an impressive effort for Buffalo’s defense. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier showed that the unit can adjust for their opponents and come out victorious.
Buffalo will take on the winner of the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns on Sunday in their next bout. If Kansas City wins, Buffalo will travel to Arrowhead Field next Sunday. If Cleveland wins, there will be one more game played at Bills Stadium.
No matter what, Buffalo is slated to kick off at 6:40 next Sunday.
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