The Ravens started out the 2016 season with a 13-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, and they did it through defensive domination and a balanced offense. They displayed a very different team than the squad last year that lost nine games by only one possession. This year’s team is ready to roll and prove it belongs in the post season yet again.
Baltimore showed both good and bad yesterday. Here are my main points.
What I Liked:
- The Defense. What wasn’t there to like about the Ravens’ new-look defense? Going into the season, Buffalo was counting on the offense to be electrifying and win them games while majority of their defense is either suspended or injured. It was the opposite at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore’s defense swarmed Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy all afternoon and held Buffalo’s offense to only 160 yards total.
- Mike Wallace. Joe Flacco connected deep with Mike Wallace for a 66-yard touchdown, who burned Buffalo Safety Aaron Williams on the play. Wallace ended with three catches for 91 yards. This pair is excited to show off their chemistry after only one offseason together.
- Return Of Injured Players. Seeing Flacco connect with tight end Dennis Pitta for the first time in two years was a great sight to see. Pitta caught three passes for 39 yards, and his 27-yard play down the middle of the field was a thing of beauty. Steve Smith Sr. played more snaps than any other Ravens receiver, and Breshad Perriman’s first NFL catch was one of Baltimore’s best moments on Sunday. Terrell Suggs sacked Tyrod Taylor and played the entire game, something he was robbed of last season. Most importantly, the Ravens made it out of the game with no injuries.
- Flacco Spread The Ball. Flacco completed passes to 10 different targets yesterday, getting everyone involved and throwing the ball anywhere on the field. The Ravens have a plethora of receivers, and Flacco used them all against the Bills, a recipe for success in my mind.
- Winning The Game. Last year, the Ravens probably would have lost this game. They couldn’t hold a fourth quarter lead to save their lives. The defense forced a key three-and-out late that allowed the offense to run down the clock and win the game. It was a pretty sight to see after watching them lose 11 games last year.
What I Didn’t Like
- The Offensive Line. Baltimore received a gift in Week One as the Bills’ front seven was completely depleted due to injuries and suspensions, yet they still couldn’t establish anything on the ground. With two rookies starting on the left of the line, this was supposed to be an easy debut to the NFL, but Rex Ryan applied pressure steadily throughout the game. The line has to build better chemistry and get better each week if they want more success on offense.
- Slow Start On Offense. Most of what I didn’t like by the Ravens yesterday had to do with the offense, although they did make enough plays to win the game, which is never something to complain about. The defense smothered the Bill’s offense early during the game and the offense wasn’t able to capitalize. Baltimore could have put the game away early, but lacked scoring plays to go with how steady the offense was moving.
- No Turnovers. Although they held Buffalo to a measly 160 yards, a turnover would have been nice to see considering they had a franchise low six interceptions last year. The secondary blanketed receivers all game and never gave up the big play, but were never able to pick off the ball.
- Only Two Sacks. While the Ravens pressured Taylor all game, they only sacked him twice. The elusive quarterback consistently broke away from sacks throughout the game, something the defense hopes they can fix sooner rather than later.
- Predictable Offense. It seemed that every time Flacco would hand the ball off to a running back, the entire Bills defense had already known it was going to be a run. If Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman can better disguise his offense and catch defenses off guard, it will lead to more points on the board.
- The Ravens won, and they played traditional, smash-mouth football that fans are used to seeing in Baltimore. If the defense can keep up the pressure all year it will lead to a successful season. The offense made plays that proved it can be explosive, but needs to be more consistent to fully take over games. The Bills were a good first test for this Ravens team, and they gave Baltimore something to be proud of.
Preview For Week Two
- Baltimore goes on the road next week to battle rival Cleveland, a stadium that Flacco has only lost in one time. The Ravens will look to prove their defensive performance in Week One was not an aberration, score more points on a weak Cleveland defense, and improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2009.