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Instant analysis: Ravens win ninth straight, clinch playoff berth with 24-17 victory over Bills

Led by a stout defense and a resurgent Lamar Jackson, the Ravens held off the Buffalo Bills, 24-17, to extend their franchise-record winning streak and clinch a playoff berth.

The ninth straight victory strengthened the Ravens’ hold on the AFC North entering Thursday night’s matchup with the New York Jets and dealt the Bills (9-4) their first defeat since Week 10 and their first loss at New Era Stadium since Week 8.

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The Ravens (11-2) outgained Buffalo 257-209, finished with six sacks and saved their biggest stop for the Bills’ final play. On fourth-and-8 from the Ravens’ 18-yard line with just over a minute remaining, Josh Allen targeted wide receiver John Brown. But cornerback Marcus Peters batted the pass away easily, and the Ravens could take a knee.

In a battle of second-year quarterbacks, Jackson (16-for-25 for 145 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) largely outplayed Buffalo’s Allen (17-for-39 for 146 yards and a touchdown). After a forgettable first half — his biggest highlight might’ve been crossing the 1,000-yard mark for rushing this season — Jackson stared down pressure to find tight end Hayden Hurst for a 61-yard catch-and-run score early in the third quarter, Hurst’s career-long reception. A 4-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Willie Snead IV extended the Ravens’ lead to 24-9 five minutes into the fourth quarter.

As chants of “M-V-P” bounced around the stadium, the Ravens defense started to wobble. A seven-play, 77-yard Bills drive ended with Allen finding wide receiver Cole Beasley in the end zone on a third-and-3 pick play. A successful 2-point conversion cut the Ravens’ lead to 24-17 with seven minutes remaining.

After a three-and-out, the Ravens’ sixth of the game, Buffalo took over at its 28-yard line. The Bills offense didn’t move the ball so much as Ravens penalties did: two 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalties and a 26-yard pass-interference penalty on cornerback Marlon Humprey on fourth-and-16. But when the defense needed to hold it did.

It was not a pretty game for the injury report or the broadcast audience. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (knee) and special teams regulars Anthony Levine Sr. (ankle) and Chris Board (concussion protocol) suffered first-half injuries and did not return.

The first-half offense was about as pleasant as the near-freezing weather. The running game was almost nonexistent. Jackson was 5-for-10 for 30 yards, a touchdown to tight end Nick Boyle and an interception after an unlucky deflection by wide receiver Willie Snead IV. It was Jackson’s first pick since Week 5.

Allen was just as bad: 8-for-17 for 39 yards, and under constant pressure. The Bills had one drive of longer than 20 yards, but that ended with a field goal for kicker Stephen Hauschka (3-for-3). Buffalo entered halftime trailing 10-6 and averaging less than 2 yards per play.

Jackson finished with 11 carries for 40 yards, giving him 1,017 rushing yards for the season, just 22 from tying the all-time record for a quarterback set by Michael Vick in 2006. The Ravens had 33 carries for 118 yards, an average of 3.6 yards per attempt.

Instant analysis

Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: The streak lives on. The Ravens didn’t look sharp on either side of the ball but they did enough, courtesy of a Marcus Peters deflection on fourth down, to win their ninth-straight game and remain the AFC No. 1 seed. With a Thursday night game against the New York Jets in four days awaiting, injury news regarding Mark Andrews and Anthony Levine Sr. will be important. It wasn’t pretty, but not a lot of games are once you get into December.

Jonas Shaffer, reporter: While the Ravens offense tries to figure out what’s fixable and what’s not, John Harbaugh can take comfort in the fact that he has a defense that can still play like it did last year. The Bills had been on a roll recently, and Josh Allen had looked darn good through it. Today, the defense turned him into a punching bag. The growing injury list is a concern, as is the Ravens’ recently muted rushing attack. But December football tests teams in new ways, and the Ravens continue to do enough.

Peter Schmuck, columnist: The Ravens had their hands full for the second straight week, which will probably be spun as a good thing with their place in the postseason assured. Not certain that is really the case, since it was another game in which Lamar Jackson’s accuracy was clearly affected by the elements — this time a stiff breeze. Nevertheless, he threw three touchdown passes and made a few first downs with his legs on the way to a victory over another quality opponent. The Bills offense struggled mightily in the face of another strong performance by the Ravens defense, but made a couple of big plays late to build suspense and got some help from the officials to get into a game-threatening position at the end. The unimposing Jets arrive in a few days for a “Thursday Night Football” matchup at M&T Bank Stadium and, no, it will not be a trap game.

Childs Walker, reporter: Again, the Ravens beat a very good team when many things did not go their way. This time, the game ball has to go to a defense that hit Bills quarterback Josh Allen 12 times and made seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Ravens had to make a defensive stand to win the game, and they did despite being whistled for three penalties of 15 yards or more (all of them questionable). The Bills held the Ravens to a season-low 118 rushing yards, containing Lamar Jackson as well as any opponent has all season. But Jackson deserves credit for moving the ball through the air in the second half, even though he was without his favorite target, Mark Andrews. The Ravens will badly miss Andrews if they’re without him for any significant amount of time. In his absence, they converted just three of 10 third-down attempts, well below their league-best season average. This was an important step in the Ravens’ quest for home-field advantage, so they won’t spend a lot of time lamenting the difficulty of it.

Jets@Ravens

Thursday, 8:20 p.m.

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TV: Chs. 45, 5; NFL Network

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

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