Well, we can finally get around to our game recap now that the swelling has subsided from banging our heads against the wall along with the rest of you Ravens fans on Sunday. The Ravens shot themselves in the foot again and again and again in Buffalo on their way to falling to 4-3 on the season. Eleven penalties, along with sub-par offensive line play and a dash of ridiculously bone-headed offensive playcalls all added up to another game that was ugly to watch and is even uglier to write about.
Lets start with the penalties. After a few series in this one, the Nest was reminded of that debacle in Detroit in ’05. The flags were a-flyin’, and the mental mistakes proved costly. On their first field goal drive, the Bills had faced a 2nd-and-6 from their own 36 before Jarrett Johnson jumped offside to make it 2nd-and-1. On their next drive, which netted another 3 points, it was 3rd-and-6 at midfield when Haloti Ngata came across the line early and made it 3rd-and-1 instead. Devard Darling would then be called for holding on the ensuing kickoff. No matter though, as Quinn Sypnewski fumbled just two plays later, setting up the Bills for their 3rd field goal of the first half. Still scoreless, the Ravens then proceeded to march to the Buffalo 38, and faced 3rd-and-3. A harbinger of things to come, Brian Billick opted to throw on 3rd down, which resulted in an incompletion, before being a total wuss and punting. Yes, punting – from just outside of field goal range, trailing 9-0, on the road. Bravo, Brian, Bravo. The Nest asks why, oh WHY, not run the ball twice on 3rd-and-3, and get the first down? Again, this proved to be a bit of foreshadowing.
On their first drive of the 2nd half, the Ravens managed to overcome consecutive false start penalties on Jared Gaither and Ben Grubbs before Willis McGahee busted out the long TD run that we had been asking for in last week’s game preview. Rumbling 46 juking, stiff-arming yards to paydirt, McGahee pulled the purple-and-black right back into the game. He failed to deliver on the celebration he had promised us, which was a bit disappointing, but after a 46 yard touchdown, we aren’t about to complain. And even if we were, Willis wouldn’t have heard us, since he was promptly taken back to the locker room for an IV. Is Willis out of shape? Its a question that has to be asked, in light of the Ravens reluctance to let him carry the offense on his shoulders this year, and now this. Hopefully he will spend the bye week getting into better game shape, but keep an eye on this Ravens fans.
The Bills would answer however, with another Rian Lindell field goal followed quickly by a Marshawn Lynch 1 yard TD run. On the touchdown drive, the Bills picked on Corey Ivy, who was forced to make the start for the injured Chris McAlister. Ivy was burnt by Lee Evans for 54 yards, and four plays later was called for pass interference in the back of the end zone, setting up the Lynch run. As we feared, Nestgoers, the loss of Chris McAlister tangibly hurt this team on Sunday. Keep your fingers crossed, rabbits feet in hand, black cats away, four-leaf clovers clutched…whatever it is you do for good luck – and hope that C-Mac returns after the bye.
Now trailing 19-7, the Ravens would fight back on the strength of a Samari Rolle interception at the Buffalo 14, converting on 4th-and-11 when Kyle Boller found Derrick Mason with a dart in the middle of the end zone. Say what you will about Kyle Boller, but the kid made a throw on this particular play that a lot of NFL quarterbacks just could not have made. It doesn’t completely make up for his happy feet or lack of accuracy over the rest of the game, of course, but it was a big play in a critical situation. Boller should also be commended for not turning the ball over, again. He has now not committed a turnover in 2 of his 3 starts this season (Steve McNair, by comparison, has 5 turnovers in 4 starts).
Now trailing 19-14….we entered the twilight zone. Or is it the deja’ vu zone? Or do you just get deja’ vu when you’re in the twilight zo….nevermind. Buffalo played right into the Ravens’ hands, going into a shut-down mode of their own after their rookie QB had turned the ball over deep in his own territory. A few run, run, run, punt series by Buffalo later, the Ravens were looking at a 2nd-and-1 from midfield with just under 2 minutes remaining, trailing 19-14. Every Buffalo fan watching was getting nauseous as visions of another late blown lead danced through their heads.
Never fear, Bills fans, Brian Billick is here!
Our resident offensive guru decided that the best course of action, facing a 2nd-and-1 at the end of the game in obvious 4 down territory….was to pass, pass, and pass again. Three incompletions later, the Bills were kneeling for the victory. In an inexplicable brain-fart of a sequence that has been scrutinized endlessly since, not only locally but nationally as well, Coach Billick put us through almost the same exact scenario we saw in Cincinnati in week 1. If you remember, in the final minute of that game the Ravens ran 6 plays inside the 3 yard line, 4 of which were passes. Sunday, ONE YARD was all that was needed to continue the drive. ONE YARD!!! Three quarterback sneaks will net 1 yard 99 times out of 100! Why Brian refuses to run the ball in these situations, we certainly do not claim to know. But it is obvious that it has now cost the Ravens at least 1, if not 2 games this year. To reiterate: we LIKE Brian Billick here at the Nest. That, as they say however, was strike 2.
beware the Guru Monster…coming to kill a win near you….