The Buffalo Bills lost 47-3 to start the 2018 season. The focus will be on how to improve, but that doesn’t mean the game was without any positives.
This week there will be an excessive amount of discussion about the decision to start Nathan Peterman, usage of LeSean McCoy, offensive line struggles and third-down efficiency. It doesn’t take effort to find the faults during a 47-3 embarrassment performance against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Buffalo Bills can’t fix all those problems in four practices before their home opener vs. the Los Angeles Chargers (0-1). For the Bills, one way to achieve success will be to emphasize their strengths and build on what went right during Week 1.
So what did go right?
The defense got off to a slow start, but over the course of the game improved. While they struggled with getting off the field on third downs they did excel in areas of concern before the game.
They held the Ravens to 117 rushing yards, and an average of just 3.4 yards per rushing play. The Ravens for the most part attempted to attack the Bills on the edges, rather than test Kyle Williams and Star Lotulelei.
The Bills had one of the worst run defenses in 2017. The Ravens choose to attack the Bills through the passing game, rather than establish a running game. Bills linebackers ran freely on multiple plays with the improved play led by Lotulelei.
The Ravens attempted to surprise the Bills by using first-round pick Lamar Jackson in option plays to get rushing yards. The entire first half each of these plays netted minimal yardage or negative plays for Baltimore. The Bills run defense showed signs of improvement in Week 1, but they will need to keep that improvement going when they face a stronger test in Melvin Gordon in Week 2.
Another positive on the defensive side was that the Bills secondary prevented big pass plays. The Ravens largest pass play was for 29 yards. The Bills kept the ball in front of them, and forced the Ravens to drive down the field in order to score.
The flip side is that while they didn’t allow any major pass plays, they did allow five 20+ yard pass plays. The Bills made a strategic decision to make Vontae Davis inactive, and start Phillip Gaines. The move paid off overall, but Gaines had one breakdown on a 3rd and 26 that resulted in the 29-yard pass and a first down.
The negative will be that the Ravens scored 47 points, and the Bills defense couldn’t stop them on three consecutive plays. However, the game plan to force Flacco to make long drives did work, thanks to a strong showing by the Bills secondary. Something they can build upon when facing Keenan Allen next.
The last strength that is worth noting, the Bills scouting department found a punter. Why not discuss Corey Bojorquez? He made eight punts, put three inside the 20, and for the most part setup the punt coverage to limit return yards. The Ravens largest punt return was caused by three missed tackles at the point of the return catch.
The Bills scouting staff is operating with a limited budget. They have the most dead cap space by almost double the next closest team. Brandon Beane had a two-year plan to fix the Bills cap situation, and that means the scouting staff has to be creative to find contributors.
Corey Bojorquez is about as creating a finding as you can have if you are a scout. He’s an undrafted rookie from New Mexico. He was on the Patriots training camp roster, but never appeared in a preseason game. Then the Bills claimed him on waivers and cut former starter Colton Schmidt and ex-Seahawk Jon Ryan.
Bojorquez’s first NFL punt was in the regular season, in the rain. He was also the place holder for Steven Hauschka which may have lead to a missed field goal, but overall he showed he’s a capable asset the Bills ride with. He could have flopped, but instead he performed extremely well. His negative (because all Bills had them), was he struggled with a poor snap and fumbled one of his punting attempts.
The Bills Week 1 performance is something to forget. However, there was still the dimmest of lights during the game. The Bills will do better in their home opener, and part of that will be improving on their strengths from Week 1 (although I am fine if we don’t see Bojorquez punt and only hold kicks).