Monday Morning Breakdown

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Eric Wood | How the Bills can learn from the Ravens loss and look ahead to the Steelers

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Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens, December 8, 2019 at New Era Field. Photo by Bill Wippert

1. No moral victories at this point of the McDermott era

In a 24-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens there can't be any moral victories. Head coach Sean McDermott said it himself. I think Buffalo can be realists about the situation. They just played the best team in the NFL who has a nine-game win streak now and have the best offense in the league. If you look at all those factors, you can take a lot of positives away from the game. 

This is not a moral victory. If you are a player, coach or fan, you are not waking up celebrating today. The Bills are built for long-term success and they can go toe-to-toe with anyone even on an off-day offensively. After three years of being together, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott expect to win games like this.

2. Missed opportunities on offense

The Ravens pressured Josh Allen a ton. We expected this coming into the game as Allen is the third-most blitzed quarterback and Baltimore blitzes on 48% of opposing quarterback drop backs which is the most in the NFL. Allen was blitzed a total of 30 times yesterday, a lot of those being cover zero blitzes. The way I look at it is if the Bills would have completed one of those deep balls down the field and take the top off, that game probably goes to overtime. If you complete two of the deep balls, you likely win the game. Connecting on one of those early would have changed the dynamic of the game because defensive coordinators will throw cover zeros at you until they get burned. It's also tough to run the ball against cover zero, it was not an easy day of sledding for the offense yesterday.

We likely will not see a ton of cover zero blitzes from the Steelers next week solely based upon the fact that the Ravens were successful doing it yesterday. Pittsburgh has an excellent corner in Joe Haden and a converted corner at safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick, a former first-rounder from Alabama. The Steelers are confident in their pass rush, they've been able to generate a ton of pressure this year. Pittsburgh leads the NFL with 48 total sacks, three players have at least eight sacks on their roster.

3. Defense proves they can play with anyone

Buffalo's defense came in and played very disciplined football yesterday. One key to staying in this game was holding the Ravens in the first quarter because they have a plus-75 point differential in the first quarter, the best in the league. They held Baltimore to just a field goal in the first quarter. The defense set the tone early.

A lot of the credit goes to McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier who dialed up a game plan to hold Baltimore's rushing attack without changing their defensive scheme too much. Lamar Jackson averages 81.4 rushing yards per game and he had only 40 rushing yards against Buffalo. Going into this game, the Ravens had 19 straight games of at least 125 total rushing yards, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Bills held Baltimore to just 118 rushing yards which broke that streak. Shaq Lawson brought great pressure the entire game and was a huge catalyst for the rest of the defense. Jerry Hughes had a sack that helped energize the team and Lorenzo Alexander had a big tackle for loss. Collectively, they held Baltimore to converting only three of 11 third downs. The Ravens are second in the NFL converting 49 percent of their third downs and Buffalo held them to 27 percent. The defense showed they can compete with anyone in this game.

4. Looking ahead: Buffalo at Pittsburgh in Week 15

You have to be encouraged that the Bills won their other national TV game of the season on Thanksgiving against Dallas, likely their best performance yet. This team rises to the occasion. Josh Allen knows how to rise to the occasion, playing his best ball in crunch time situations. If you have a quarterback that rises to the occasion like that, you like your chances in a primetime game like this. We are in the midst of December football and it will be a very intense matchup. Heinz field will be rocking, the Steelers are 12-3 in their last 15 primetime games at home.

When the Bills have suffered a loss this season, they have been great about bouncing back. The Cleveland loss was valuable because of how they learned from it, you never want to lose a game, but the next three games the Bills were on fire. This team doesn't have back-to-back losses yet this season and I think that says a lot from a consistency standpoint.

5. Around the NFL: AFC playoff picture

In order for Buffalo to have clinched a playoff spot yesterday, Indianapolis and Oakland needed to lose or tie. Houston also had to suffer a loss. Most importantly, the Bills had to beat the Ravens. All of this played out except for a Buffalo win. Even though the Bills didn't clinch yesterday, these results still help them moving forward.

It's a lot of fun being in December and in the playoff picture with a strong hold on a wild card spot. Over the next few weeks the Bills need to keep racking up wins, then we can play the game of where will Buffalo end up in the playoffs. The Patriots lost yesterday, so with a win we could have had a shot to run the table and win the AFC East. Then, host a playoff game and potentially get a bye. The Bills can't let a loss tank their season, they must keep moving forward because there's a lot to look forward to.

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