On the day the Ravens celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their Super Bowl team, middle linebacker Ray Lewis provided a timely flashback.
The only player remaining from that championship team, Lewis ripped the ball away from Buffalo rookie Shawn Nelson in overtime, setting up Billy Cundiff's game-winning 38-yard field goal in a 37-34 victory over the winless Bills and saving the Ravens from jaw-dropping embarrassment in front of the 35 members who returned from that 2000 Super Bowl team.
"To think he was as dominant back with the 2000 team as he is now, it's unbelievable," Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He's unbelievable."
The sellout crowd of 71,220 at M&T Bank Stadium couldn't believe how the Ravens' defense crumbled to the NFL's third-worst offense. Some probably wanted players from the record-setting Super Bowl defense to suit up.
The Ravens gave up 506 yards, their most in a decade. They surrendered 374 yards passing, the fourth-most in team history. And they made quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Peyton Manning, allowing him to throw for four touchdowns.
"We gave up a lot of plays, I don't know what for," said safety Ed Reed, who made two interceptions after spending the first six weeks of the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. "They probably should've won, but we've got a good team over here, too."
The Ravens (5-2) head into their bye just a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) in the AFC North. The Bills are the only winless team in the NFL, dropping to 0-6.
"I'm not going to stand up here and say that we played well," coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm disappointed in the yards. I'm disappointed with the points. I'm disappointed with the coverage. I'm disappointed with the pressure in some ways. We have to play better than that to be the team we want to be, but I'm proud of the win."
The Ravens can't be proud of surrendering a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter for the second straight week. Ahead 34-24, the Ravens couldn't stop the Bills from scoring on their final two drives, going 63 and 59 yards.
First, Bills wide receiver Lee Evans took a short pass and ran past a diving Fabian Washington for a 17-yard touchdown. Then, Fitzgerald completed 6 of 8 passes for 60 yards, which led Rian Lindell's game-tying 50-yard field goal with four seconds left.
But the defense dug in when it came to overtime. On the Bills' third play of the extra period, Lewis and defensive end Cory Redding stood up Nelson after he caught a short pass over the middle before the 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker stripped the ball away from the 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end at the Buffalo 29.
Four plays later, Cundiff sliced his sixth career game-winning field goal just inside the right upright.
"The whistle hadn't blown yet," said Lewis, who finished with 15 tackles, one forced fumble, one sack and one pass deflection. "It just so happened I locked arms and I snatched it out."
Some of the Bills don't believe it was a fumble. They thought the play should have whistled dead once a mob of players swarmed on Nelson and stopped his forward progress.
"I thought the play was over," said Fitzpatrick, who completed 29 of 43 passes for 374 yards. "I didn't hear a whistle. I don't know if there was one or not, but I thought the play was over. I'm surprised when they came rolling out with the ball, holding it up."
Buffalo, though, had plenty of chances to win its first road game since Dec. 13, 2009. The Bills rolled out to a 24-10 advantage in the second quarter on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Evans (who beat Washington), a 33-yarder to Steve Johnson (who beat Lardarius Webb) and a 20-yarder to Evans (who beat Washington).
The Ravens answered by scoring 17 points over a span of 64 seconds on the game clock to take a 27-24 lead early in the third quarter.
After Cundiff's 48-yard field goal, Flacco found Todd Heap for a 14-yard touchdown with 23 seconds before halftime, their second scoring connection of the game. After Ed Reed made an interception on the first play in the second half, Flacco hit a wide-open Anquan Boldin off a flea flicker for a 34-yard touchdown.
The interception from Reed was expected. He has the most picks in the NFL (48) since he entered the league in 2002. The Ravens are 9-0 when he has multiple interceptions.
"I had already assumed that when he came back, he was going to get a pick today," safety Dawan Landry said, "and he got two."
The flea flicker wasn't expected. It came one week after the Ravens offense was accused of being too conservative.
"I thought the flea flicker was a heck of a call," Harbaugh said. "When I first heard it, I kind of cringed a little bit. But when you think about it, that's what you do in that situation."
The Ravens increased their margin to 34-24 late in the third quarter by remaining aggressive.
Oct. 17, Harbaugh chose not to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Sunday, he decided to take the risk.
On fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 31, Flacco completed a 16-yard pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain off a play-action fake. That resulted in a celebratory fist bump between Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and eventually led to Willis McGahee's 2-yard touchdown.
The Ravens, though, had to sweat out the victory, which was their fourth in five weeks.
"I think a win's a win," said Flacco, who was 16 of 31 passing for 250 yards and three touchdowns. "We've got to be happy either way. But it's definitely good to go into your bye with a win to be able to relax and get everybody healthy."
The bye will serve as a time of reflection for some players. Washington was benched in favor of Josh Wilson after he gave up his third touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter.
"I can't lie … this one hurt bad," said Washington, who had never allowed that many touchdowns before. "It wasn't my day. The Bills had my number. I'll be back — believe that. I can promise you that."
The Ravens improved to 14-1 under Harbaugh against teams with losing records. As it stands now, only three of the Ravens' remaining nine opponents are sub .500.
"You have to smile at the team that we're building," Lewis said. "My heart is overwhelmed with the way we fight as a team."
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