OPINION: Arrow Up/Arrow Down: Ravens at Bills

The Bills are one win away from heading back to the Super Bowl
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The Buffalo Bills secured their biggest victory since 1993 by beating the Baltimore Ravens, 17-3, to advance to their sixth-ever AFC Championship Game next week.

The Bills are now one win away from returning to the Super Bowl.

As always, we start with the Arrows Up when they win, so here they are:

ARROW UP

Taron Johnson

I absolutely have to start with Johnson because he made, what will go down as, one of the biggest plays in franchise history when he intercepted Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown, putting the Bills up 17-3.

Prior to that play, the Ravens were knocking on the door of the Bills’ end zone and looking to tie the game at 10. It was, at least, a 10-point swing, and possibly a 14-point swing.

On top of that play, however, Johnson was terrific all night long. He finished with six tackles, one for a loss, a pass breakup, and the pick-six.

The third quarter

With the game tied 3-3 at halftime, there were a total of two drives in the third quarter, one by each team.

The Bills got the ball first, and went 66 yards in 11 plays and scored a touchdown.

Then the Ravens also marched 66 yards, in 15 plays, and ate up almost nine minutes on the clock, but it ended with the Johnson pick-six.

Two drives, one for each team, and two Bills touchdowns. From 3-3 to 17-3. On that offensive drive for the Bills, Josh Allen went 4-of-6 for 46 yards and the touchdown.

 The third quarter, and those two drives specifically, were the turning point of the game.

Tremaine Edmunds

Edmunds has certainly had his share of criticism this season, but there’s not much room for any of that on Saturday night. He was vital to the team’s containment of Jackson, and finished as the game’s leading tackler with nine total stops, plus two quarterback hurries, and a pass breakup.

Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott

I’ve said many times before that if you give McDermott and Frazier a week to prepare, they’ll come up with a great game plan against any opponent. It doesn’t guarantee success, but they’ll have their players in the right positions.

They certainly did in this one.

The Bills opened up the game in a base 4-3 personnel, using three linebackers to shut down the Ravens’ run game, something they usually play very little of. After the first drive, when the Ravens gained 46 yards, the Bills defense basically shut them down the rest of the game.

Baltimore came into the game as the league’s leading rushing unit, averaging almost 192 yards per-game. The Bills held them to more than 40 yards less than their average, with the Ravens totaling only 150 yards on the ground. Normally a good number for any team, but not one that relies so heavily on its run game.

The Bills defense was ready and prepared for what they were going to see.

Containment of Lamar Jackson

This goes hand-in-hand with the game plan designed by Frazier and McDermott, but the players on the field did an excellent job of executing that game plan and making sure Lamar Jackson did not get loose in the run game.

Then when they had to turn to throwing the ball, Jackson looked really uncomfortable all night long when he dropped back to pass. He finished the game with only 34 yards rushing and only 3.8 yards per-carry.

It was a great team effort from the coaches and players altogether.

Defense on Mark Andrews

Coming into the game, there was a lot of concern for Andrews in the Ravens passing game since the Bills have struggled with tight ends several times this season. He was tied as the team’s leader in receptions in the regular season.

However, the Bills did an excellent job defending him. Andrews was targeted 11 times, but only caught four passes for 28 yards.

Jerry Hughes

Hughes was a disruptive force all night, sacking Lamar Jackson twice, and adding another two tackles for loss, an also a pair of quarterback hurries.

Josh Allen in control

Allen didn't have terrific numbers, completing 23-of-37 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. But he was in control of the offense, didn't make mistakes, and made key throws in the second half when needed.

Stefon Diggs

As he’s done pretty much every single game this season, Diggs showed up big for the Bills offense, and they needed him to in this one.

Diggs ended the game with eight catches for 106 yards and the only offensive touchdown scored by either team. His yardage total represented over 51% of Josh Allen’s overall passing yardage for the entire game.

John Brown

Brown had several key catches to help the Bills offense, and finished the game tied with Diggs for the most grabs of any player, catching eight balls for 62 yards.

Red zone and goal-to-go defense

A big reason the Bills won the game was because the Ravens got inside the Buffalo 20-yard line three times, but came away with a total of three points.

No touchdowns. One field goal.

They had goal-to-go situations twice, and the Bills stopped them both times, including the pick-six from Johnson.

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ARROW DOWN

Finishing the game

The Bills had a great chance to go up three scores and put a final nail in the Ravens’ coffin when they took over at the Baltimore 29-yard line with 6:36 left in regulation and leading 17-3. However, they went three-and-out, only took 1:06 off the clock, and on fourth down, Tyler Bass missed a field goal keeping the score exactly as it was.

On the ensuing possession, they allowed the Ravens to go 56 yards in 12 plays, all the way down to their 10-yard line with still three minutes left. There was plenty of time for a score and to get the ball back. Luckily the Bills defense stiffened and stopped Baltimore on fourth down.

Buffalo had a chance to seal the victory much earlier than they did, but did not execute well enough to do it.

Lack of Cole Beasley

Beasley saw only two targets his way all night and did not catch a single pass in the game. The Ravens have a very good secondary and deserve credit for taking him away, but he could have been key for the Bills to pick up an extra third down or two they didn’t.

Third down offense

Beasley‘s lack of targets leads into the Bills’ struggles on third down on offense. They only converted 4-of-13 opportunities on the night, only 30.8%. They were 0-for-7 in the first half.

Missed chances

The Bills missed on free big-plays and other opportunities, including Diggs open down the sideline for, what would have been, a touchdown. Allen ended up overthrowing him.

Allen also didn’t see Beasley running wide-open for another huge play, and instead threw the ball to Brown. Bass also missed a pair of field goal.

These are the kinds of chances they may need to make count in order to win in next week’s game.

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