The Buffalo Bills and the Bills’ Mafia have officially put the NFL world on notice with a hard fought win and their defense led the way. Lamar Jackson looked unstoppable the last few weeks, but the Bills’ defense said not so fast. Combine that with an efficient offense that didn’t turn the ball over and delivered a key second half score, they overcame crazy conditions that made the life of both kickers miserable and punched their ticket to the AFC Championship.
The first half was defined by a defensive slugfest and the wind wreaking havoc on both field goal kickers. Buffalo’s defense was particularly impressive, holding Lamar Jackson to 7 rushes for 18 yards, sacked him twice and constantly brought pressure from everywhere. TE Mark Andrews, Jackson’s favorite target, was held to 2 catches for 13 yards and outside of 51 yards from Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the passing game was stuck in neutral most of the half.
This game marked the third time in four playoff starts that Baltimore’s offense was held out of the end zone in the first half with Jackson under center. Meanwhile, star kicker Justin Tucker doinked two kicks off each upright, before barely sneaking a 34 yard kick just before halftime to tie the game.
The Bills only managed one field goal after two quarters and even their kicker watched one of his kicks sail wide right. The wind which was blowing at least 10 MPH at one point, clearly was messing with the kicking game, but the Bills looked good at times moving the ball and their top two receivers were doing the damage. Stephon Diggs and John Brown caught 10 passes for 113 yards. The problem was the Bills only completed 33% of their third downs. The rushing game was also non-existent with just three rushes for 6 yards, but with how talented that receiving corps is for the Bills, it’s no surprise.
Great work by Don Martindale’s defense to keep their team in the game and after Jackson delivered a 8 play, 57 yard drive to end the half to pull even at 3-3, Josh Allen and the offense needed to improve those numbers fast. And more specifically, turnovers or near turnovers like the one below couldn’t happen.
Instead the Ravens began to self-destruct on both sides of the ball to start the 2nd half. First, their defense surrenders a 11 play, 66 yard touchdown drive on the opening play of the drive. Diggs caught Josh Allen’s first touchdown on the night, when Baltimore couldn’t line up correctly and allowed him to walk into the end zone for an easy 3 yard score. This was a 5 minute, 31 second drive and was a huge statement.
Lamar Jackson answered with a long drive of his own: 15 plays, 66 yards that lasted nearly 9 minutes. The difference is that the ending was the worst case scenario for the Ravens. Jackson was tricked into throwing an ill advised pass in the end zone and CB Taron Johnson raced 101 yards for a game changing pick-6. In a flash, the Bills lead 17-3 and everyone in Bills Mafia was going insane.
To add insult to injury, Lamar Jackson was placed in concussion protocol after exiting the game on the next drive after being sandwiched by two Buffalo defenders in his own end zone following a bad snap. He was ruled out for the rest of the game in the 4th quarter. I hope he’s okay and that the injury isn’t serious but when he left so did any chance of a miracle comeback. Backup QB Tyler Huntley put a valiant effort, combining for 92 total yards and had two great opportunities to cut the deficit to a one score game.
First, he missed Marquise Brown on 4th and 8 that would have resulted in a wide open 71 yard score but the ball was badly overthrown. After the wind forced Tyler Bass to miss his 2nd kick of the night on the next drive, Huntley drove his team 56 yards to the Buffalo 10 yard line before failing to convert on 4th and goal. To add even more insult to injury, a roughing the kicker penalty on the game’s final punt on their special teams officially put the game on ice.
The Bills won 17-3 and were officially on their way to their first AFC Championship appearance since the 1993 season. Bills’ Mafia is pumped. Their defense deserves all the credit in the world for this tremendous performance. Holding the Ravens to 3 points these days is unheard of but it was clear they had a plan from the start and were unafraid of shutting down Lamar Jackson. That pick-6 by Tranon Johnson in the 4th quarter was the icing on the cake. Combine that with 16 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown from Stefon Diggs and John Brown and the Bills have shown they are a team that nobody wants to face this time of year. The Chiefs and Browns are officially on notice.
The Ravens are now left scratching their heads heading home for the offseason. Clearly the game plan for shutting down Lamar Jackson is forcing him to throw the ball consistently. He was underdress all night long, being pressured on a career high 55% of his dropbacks, completing just 2 of 10 passes for 38 yards and 3 sacks during those dropbacks. He simply never looked comfortable. Nobody doubts this team’s ability to run the ball, but a combination of terrible pass protection, receivers not winning one on one matchups, drops and no rusher having more than 42 yards the entire game, sunk their Super Bowl dreams. Their top receiver was Marquise Brown, finished with 4 receptions for 87 yards, but you simply can’t win if only one other pass catcher had over 50 yards receiving.
The Bills didn’t fear their passing attack or pass protection and simply attacked these weaknesses all night. This offense needs another elite receiver to help Jackson out to keep the Ravens from relying too much on their running game. This will be a very interesting offseason for the Ravens and I wonder who they will target in either free agency or through the draft to address this glaring need.
What’s Next for Bills’ Mafia
With the Cheifs winning by the skin of their teeth against the Browns the Bills will head to Arrowhead Stadium in KC. A lot of questions surrounding the health of Patrick Mahomes. That game will kick off next Sunday, January 24th, at 6:40 pm on CBS. Congrats to Bills’ Mafia!
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By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com