There was a sense of accomplishment in the Ravens locker room yesterday, but there was also some concern about the offense. The Ravens had 327 yards of total offense in a 19-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, but this wasn't a convincing offensive performance.
The Ravens got 144 yards after taking a 16-7 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter, which was basically the Bills' submission point. It was time to go home. But the Ravens had very little rhythm. The running game was off, and the mid- to long-range passing game was virtually nonexistent except for a few passes to tight end Todd Heap over the middle.
Matt Stover's four field goals and cornerback Chris McAlister's interception return for a 31-yard touchdown bailed out the Ravens' offense. If this sounds all too familiar, it wasn't supposed to be this way anymore.
And the Ravens know that if it happens again in two weeks, they might not last long in the playoffs.
"We definitely have to play better than we did today," Ravens fullback Ovie Mughelli said. "Buffalo is a decent team, but once we get into the playoffs, we'll be playing elite teams. If we make the same mistakes, we'll be out. I'm not concerned because we've got time to correct some things."
What happened to the Ravens?
Buffalo played a lot of cover-2 or two-deep in the secondary to take away the long pass. The Bills wanted to make the Ravens have 13- or 14-play drives. The Bills also came up with a couple of new formations, which makes sense because they had nothing to lose in this game.
But what happened to the Ravens' adjustments? Offensively, the Ravens have a tough time adjusting when it isn't part of the script.
"I think it has to evolve every game," Heap said of the offense. "I mean, the way this game went, and the way they played their defense tonight, was a little bit different from what we were expecting, and we had to make some adjustment to account for that. That's what the NFL is about -- game-time adjustments."
Hut, hut ...
The Ravens cut down on their penalties this week, dropping from 12 for 89 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers to five for 24 yards vs. Buffalo. But four of the penalties were for illegal procedure.
It will be hard for any of the Ravens to come up with an explanation, but it must be the 12th man that team officials talk about at home games. The fans yell so loud that even the home team can't hear the cadence, or maybe some of the Ravens can't count past three.
It's apparent that Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle hasn't been watching film of fellow cornerback McAlister. Rolle tried to get a bump, and then jump a short route by Bills receiver Lee Evans, but Evans gave Rolle a double move and then blew by Rolle down the left sideline to catch a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Evans would have never gotten by McAlister. If McAlister would have missed a jam, he would have grabbed Evans' jersey, helmet, body slammed him and then handcuffed Evans to the Gatorade bucket.
Losman, meet Boller
Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce was on target last week when he said Bills quarterback J.P. Losman reminded him of teammate and quarterback Kyle Boller.
Both stare down their primary targets. On Losman's two interceptions yesterday, he locked on his receiver from the snap and the Ravens read his eyes and jumped the short routes. It looked like Boller was wearing a Bills jersey.
Rolle had an interception on a quick slant pass attempt to Evans in the end zone with 2:15 left in the game.
Rolle might have received some extra motivation from defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. After he gave up the touchdown to Evans in the third quarter, Rolle exchanged a few words with Ryan on the sideline before secondary coach Dennis Thurman stepped in. Before Thurman arrived, the conversation appeared to be pretty spicy.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex Award goes to Ravens rookie receiver Demetrius Williams, who short-armed Steve McNair's pass across the middle late in the second quarter that would have given the Ravens a first down deep in Bills territory. Instead, the Ravens settled for a 37-yard field goal.
Speaking of receivers, after complaining about not getting enough touches last week, veteran Derrick Mason had five catches for 30 yards. Mason had all five catches on the Ravens' first possession of the game in a clear attempt to pacify him.
The only problem was that on a third-and-five from the Bills' 24, McNair threw to Mason for 8 yards and a first down, but Heap appeared to be wide-open streaking to the end zone.
Moral of this story: Egos should not come before business in the NFL.
The Bills came to Baltimore with a 7-8 record and no chance of making the playoffs, yet they played conservatively. Trailing 6-0 with 36 seconds left in the half, Buffalo punted from the Ravens' 40 on fourth-and-11. Then with 9:56 left in the game and trailing 16-7, the Bills ran a running play for 3 yards on third-and-nine from their 5-yard line.
We're assuming that Buffalo coach Dick Jauron's strategy was to keep the loss under 30 points. Otherwise, we don't know why the Bills made the trip.
Read Mike Preston's Ravens Central blog at www.baltimoresun.com/ravenscentral.