-The Bills came into the game determined to run the football, and that's what they did. It didn't matter that the Ravens were the NFL's 4th ranked run defense before the game. Buffalo hammered away on the ground.
On first downs, the Bills ran the ball 26-times during the course of the game, and passed only 6 times. In the first half, especially, they were able to get significant first down yardage. C.J. Spiller's first six runs on first down produced gains of 10-yards, 5-yards, 6-yards, 2-yards, 5-yards and 6-yards. Fred Jackson's first four runs on first downs gained 8-yards, 16-yards (2nd quarter touchdown), 5-yards, and 10-yards. There were good gains on the ground by Tashard Choice and even WR T.J. Graham on an end around on first down plays also.
-One of the elements of Buffalo's successful running attack was the inclusion of fullback Frank Summers in the offense. He was in on 42 offensive plays for the Bills, after not seeing any action on offense in the Jets game. Summers was a key element in an old fashioned I-Formation by the Buffalo backfield, and he did his job.
The Bills started the game in the I-Formation, and Summers set the tone with a huge block of Baltimore inside linebacker Daryl Smith, a block that allowed Spiller to pick up ten yards. On Fred Jackson's 2nd quarter touchdown, Summers burst out of his fullback slot and buried Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes with a crushing block. He almost blocked Bynes right out of his shoes.
When I talked to Summers about his big day, he said he plays an important role not just in blocking, but in communicating the no-huddle play calls to his teammates in the offensive backfield.
"It's being able to communicate and help them with the play calls," Summers said. "We're a no huddle offense, I communicate from EJ to them, so they understand what's going on, and to help them see what I see. I'm kind of like their eyes as far as linebackers go, letting them know what's going on and how they're playing certain runs or things like that."
I asked Summers if the straight I-formation the Bills employed Sunday would become a staple of the Buffalo offense.
"I'm not a coach," he said. "When my number's called I go out there and do my best to compete and go out and have fun. If the coaches think they can use me more, I'm all for it. If they think maybe one week there's a game plan where we might need to do something else, then, hey, I'm a team player and I just want to win."
-The Bills strong running game led directly to the 2nd quarter touchdown strike from EJ Manuel to Robert Woods. The Bills ran the ball on eight straight plays prior to the play action touchdown pass, a streak stretching over two offensive series. By the time they got to 1st and 10 at the Baltimore 42, the Ravens were waiting for another run. Backup safety Michael Huff took three steps in at the snap of the ball figuring another run was coming, and Manuel's solid play action fake drew him in even further. Baltimore corner Corey Graham had no chance staying with Woods downfield.
-I'm wondering if Joe Flacco's five interceptions may have been partly caused by the Bills extensive use of zone defense in the backfield. On Jim Leonhard's second quarter pick, he, Kiko Alonso, and Manny Lawson were all dropping back to cover intermediate zones. Ravens TE Ed Dickson tipped the pass and Leonhard was standing close by to come up with the pick. Typically, zone defenses produce more defenders around the ball, and this interception was a textbook example of that.
Aaron Williams 1st quarter interception also seemed to be the result of Williams dropping out of his short zone to cover Baltimore's third WR, Tavon Doss. The Bills were forced to employ more zone coverages in this game, mainly because of their inexperience and lack of depth in the secondary. We may see more zone moving forward.
-Mike Pettine's defensive play calling was outstanding all day, no more so than a 3rd quarter sequence after an EJ Manuel interception. The Ravens took over on the Bills 18-yard line, down by 13 and trying to get back into the game. Pettine drew up a series of different defensive looks that stymied Joe Flacco and the Ravens. On 2nd-and-3 from the Bills 11, linebacker Manny Lawson came in unblocked on a new pressure the Bills drew up and sacked Flacco for a loss of 8. On the next play, Pettine send CB Nickel Robey and DE Jerry Hughes from opposite sides, forcing Flacco to hurry his throw. The pass into the end zone was intercepted by Aaron Williams. So instead of giving up a touchdown after an interception deep in their own territory, the Bills defense dialed up some pressure the Ravens hadn't seen before, and got the ball back without giving up a point. Outstanding coaching.
-Finally, the Bills toughness and grit were revealed in the close win over the Ravens. With a roster hit hard by injuries, Buffalo suffered several more injuries during the course of the game. But the injured Bills refused to stay out of the lineup.
Aaron Williams landed hard on his right shoulder making a play in the second quarter and clearly was in pain. He missed one play and returned to the lineup. Guard Kraig Urbik had his left leg rolled up on late in the 2nd quarter. He went to the locker room, but returned for the next series and finished the game. C.J. Spiller rolled his ankle in the third quarter, but returned after a few minutes. And Fred Jackson injured his knee late in the 3rd, but he was able to return.
The determination to fight through injuries was not lost on offensive captain Eric Wood.
"We are banged up at certain positions," Wood said in the locker room Sunday. "Credit those guys for making plays and really stepping it up. At this point, it looks like we're only going to get healthier as we go, but great job by the guys fighting through injuries."