Carroll County Times

Ravens Notebook: Bills exploit Ravens' run defense

BALTIMORE - For as good as the Ravens' defense had been against the run during their first three games - and even dating back to training camp - Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills was reminiscent of Baltimore's game against the Kansas City Chiefs last season, when the Chiefs went to a run-heavy approach and consistently gashed the Ravens for large chunks of yards on the ground.
Baltimore's run defense does look to be significantly better than it was last year despite what happened Sunday, and the Ravens fared better against the run in the second half, but Sunday was the first time this season that Baltimore had looked any bit vulnerable against the run.
The Bills finished the game with 203 rushing yards, 116 of which came during the first half.
"They were able to make some plays," Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "We did some good things, but they had some creases, and that kind of hurt us early."
Buffalo Pro Bowl running back C.J. Spiller averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, but he and Fred Jackson combined for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson had 87 yards on just 16 carries.
Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled and completed less than 50 percent of his passes, but Buffalo needed him to throw just 22 passes with as much success as it was having on the ground.
The Bills ran the ball 55 times.
"They just ran the ball well on first down," Baltimore outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw said. "Like I said, the coaches put us in and teach us the right technique to play stuff that they showed us. We just have to go out and make plays and tackle."
BACK IN THE END ZONE: Not only did the Ravens struggle against the run Sunday, they also allowed their first two touchdowns since their season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos.
Baltimore held the Cleveland Browns without a touchdown in Week 2 and the Houston Texans without a touchdown last week, but the Bills scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Robert Woods during the second quarter and then later in the quarter on a 16-yard touchdown run from Jackson.
Buffalo's final numbers as an offense weren't anything special - 350 yards and just 5 of 18 on third down - but those two first half touchdowns proved big in what ended up being just a three-point win.
INJURIES: Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb left late in the first quarter with a thigh injury and didn't return to the game.
His replacement, Corey Graham, was beaten on that 42-yard touchdown pass to Woods.
Other Baltimore players injured Sunday include inside linebacker Albert McClellan (shoulder) and wide receivers Marlon Brown (thigh) and Deonte Thompson (concussion).
RICE STRUGGLES: Baltimore running back Ray Rice played Sunday despite the hip flexor strain he's been nursing the last two weeks, but he was a non-factor.
Rice finished with just 17 yards on five carries. Both he and Bernard Pierce had little room to run, enough so that the Ravens ran the ball just twice in the second half.
BIG GAME FOR SUGGS: For as much as some other Ravens may have struggled Sunday, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was consistently active and impactful throughout the game despite being matched up against one of the better left tackles in the AFC, Cordy Glenn.
Suggs finished with 17 tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits.
With his sack during the first quarter, Suggs now has a sack in each of Baltimore's first four games.
But aside from Suggs, the Ravens had just one sack and two quarterback hits Sunday.
Fellow outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil had a particularly quiet day. He had three tackles, but he didn't have any sacks or any quarterback hits.
SMITH A BRIGHT SPOT: Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith was limited to just one catch during the first half, but he made several plays during the second.
He had a 26-yard touchdown catch during the third quarter to cut the Ravens' deficit to 20-14. He had a 22-yard catch to set up the score.
Later, he beat Bills cornerback Aaron Williams for a 74-yard gain that put Baltimore in position for a Justin Tucker field goal.
Smith finished with 166 yards and a touchdown on five catches. The 166 receiving yards are the third-most in a single game in Ravens history.
ACTIVE AND ÇONTIBUTING: Playing in his first game since spraining his foot during the Ravens' preseason opener, wide receiver Deonte Thompson took over as Baltimore's primary kick returner and saw playing time on offense as well.
He suffered a concussion during the fourth quarter and didn't return to the game, but he finished with four catches for 50 yards.
The catch he was hurt on, a 33-yarder down the right sideline, helped up a Tucker field goal that trimmed Buffalo's lead to 23-20.
Rookie defensive lineman Brandon Williams was also active for the first time this season and saw a decent amount of playing time at nose tackle with Terrence Cody sidelined by a knee injury.
Williams didn't have any tackles, but he recovered a fumble during the second quarter.