Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Ravens | Week 4
After missing Buffalo's Week 3 game in Miami, Jordan Poyer was a sight for sore eyes returning to the lineup Sunday from a foot injury suffered in the Week 2 win over Tennessee. And if any Bills fans forgot how much they missed him, he was sure to remind them in crunch time.
Poyer made his third interception in three games when undrafted rookie DT Prince Emili tipped a Lamar Jackson pass in the air early in the fourth quarter.
"Our D-line, like they've been doing all year, just getting hands up and being able to get hands on the football," said Poyer. "It was kind of one of those balls that was in the air, it seemed like for 30 minutes. I was waiting for it to come down and was able to make a play for us to stop some (of their) momentum."
Unfortunately, Buffalo's offense was unable to capitalize as they went three-and-out following the turnover. But Poyer would be heard from again on the most critical defensive play of the game.
Facing a 4th-and-goal at their own two-yard line, Buffalo's defense was determined to keep it a tie game at 20 with 4:15 left. Late in the down without many options, Lamar Jackson spotted receiver Devin Duvernay heading to the right side of the end zone and lofted a pass in his direction. The problem was Poyer read Jackson's intentions and took off for Duvernay arriving in time to pull in his second interception of the game.
"He was wide open," said Poyer of Duvernay. "He was in the corner of the end zone and Lamar didn't see him at first. I peeked back at Lamar, and he was scrambling. And as soon as I peeked at (Duvernay), he was kind of raising his hands up like he wanted the ball. So, I just took off, and Lamar saw him open and he kind of floated one in the air and I just went to go make play on it."
The interception resulted in a touchback giving the offense the ball at their own 20 instead of the two-yard line on a turnover on downs.
Now with four interceptions in his first three games, Poyer became the first Bills player since Henry Jones in 1992 with four INTs in his first three games of a season. In fact, no other NFL player has had four interceptions in their first three games played of a season since Marcus Peters in 2016.
Poyer's two fourth-quarter interceptions also gave him the first multiple interception game of his career. It also reiterated why his teammates hold him in such high regard.
"Ballhawk! Ballhawk," said DT DaQuan Jones. "Once that ball is tipped in the air if it's anywhere in his area and he has a chance to make that play he's going to make it and he did that (Sunday). So having him on the field is actually a huge, huge, huge difference maker for us and we love having him out there."
"He's a game changer," said Greg Rousseau. "He's a first team All-Pro caliber player. Having him out there makes the biggest difference for us. I'm grateful that he was back out there."
The Bills first half performance left them in a 10-point hole against the Ravens in Baltimore, but Buffalo would rally right from the start of the second half. After the defense forced a three-and-out on the first Ravens' possession of the second half, the Bills sideline felt they had finally kicked things into gear.
"Early on in the game we were still trying to figure them out," said Jordan Poyer of the Ravens offense, which went against some of their own tendencies through the first three games. "But as we got through the game, and you started to see plays repeat themselves, we were able to kind of settle down and see the same plays over and over again. And we were able to make the plays when we had to."
Buffalo's offense built on their touchdown drive to end the first half, putting together a 10-play 51-yard field goal drive with all those yards coming on the ground to make it a one-score game 20-13.
"All you can do is just keep going, taking it play by play, and execution fuels the team," said Devin Singletary, who finished with 96 all-purpose yards to rebound from a fumble in the first half. "That brings energy, and it was able to get us going."
The Bills defense locked up the Ravens offense on the ensuing possession forcing them to punt after just five plays. Buffalo's offense answered with their longest drive of the game, a nine-play, 80-yard march culminating in an 11-yard touchdown run off a bootleg option by Josh Allen.
"I felt someone pretty close to me on my back," said Allen of the scoring play. "I had a line towards kind of the pylon, felt two guys there and just made a cut back. Originally, I thought I was down short. I know I inched in there barely. Again, just finding a way to make a play for our team."
Buffalo's defense closed with a flourish forcing a pair of interceptions by Poyer, the first on a tipped pass by DT Prince Emili and the second on a 4th-and-goal play at the Bills' two-yard line as they held the highest scoring team in the league scoreless over the final two quarters.
But the offense still had to drive the length of the field to get in position for the game-winning points. The big plays on what wound up being a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive were a 20-yard pass play to Dawson Knox to convert a 3rd-and-2 and a pass to Singletary that covered another 16 to convert a 2nd-and-11 to get the Bills down to the Baltimore 11-yard line with 1:50 to play with the Ravens using their second of three timeouts.
From there Buffalo's constant repping of situational football in practice paid off as the offense expertly called a run play for Singletary who wisely went down at the three-yard line on purpose to burn clock and force the Ravens to use their final timeout.
After that Josh Allen took a quarterback sneak forward to gain the two yards necessary to gain a first down at the Baltimore one. The new set of downs allowed the Bills to kneel out the remaining clock until there were three seconds left for Tyler Bass to come on and kick the game-winning 21-yard field goal for the walk-off victory.
"We work that every week," said Singletary of situational football. "Every week we're working that. So that helps. When you work it a lot and it comes up, you've been there before, and that helped out a lot."
Overcoming Sunday's 17-point second-quarter deficit (20-3) to win marked Buffalo's largest comeback since Week 3 of the 2011 season when they trailed 21-0 to the New England Patriots and also won on a last-second field goal 34-31.
Jordan Poyer deservedly earned headlines for his clutch two-interception performance on Sunday to help put the Bills in position to come back from a 10-point deficit to win 23-20 in Baltimore, but it wouldn't have happened without the efforts of Buffalo's two rangy linebackers.
Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano often made it look like there were three linebackers on the field as they combined for 22 tackles, including four for loss and a quarterback hit.
"Those guys have been doing that all season," said Poyer. "They're such weapons for our defense. (Tremaine) being able to run sideline to sideline. Matt being able to just cover, tackle, playing the gaps and both of them playing downhill. They're both playing extremely fast too. You've got guys like that running sideline to sideline it makes our job on the back end a lot easier. We're don't have to come up and make 10 to 12 tackles game because those guys are cleaning up."
Though it was tough for Buffalo's defense to stop the Ravens' offense in the first half, Edmunds and Milano were crucial to the effort to keep Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's running game under wraps.
On the Ravens' first possession to open the second half, Edmunds was sent on a blitz and wrapped up Jackson's legs as he tried to scramble away from the Bills linebacker. He threw the ball away for an incomplete pass forcing Baltimore to punt.
Milano credited defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier with mixing up pressure looks with coverage calls to keep Jackson guessing.
"Yeah, it definitely affected him," said Milano. "You could see he wasn't as calm and cool, sitting back there looking around. It definitely got to him. It definitely worked."
On the next Ravens possession, Milano made three tackles in four plays including a tackle for loss putting Baltimore in a 3rd-and-8 situation that they couldn't convert to force another punt.
Edmunds would make three tackles for loss on Baltimore's final three possessions and Milano would contribute a pair of open field tackles on Jackson, who took off 11 times to scramble for yardage but had a long of just 18 yards.
"I was just hustling to the ball, trying to stay square, trying to get him down anything I can do to get him down," said Milano of his takedowns of Jackson. "I think the biggest thing for me, I wasn't thinking about it. I was just going. So, I'm just going out there playing fast. Taking a shot, whatever happens, happens."
"Those are tough tackles on Lamar Jackson in the open field," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I thought at times we tackled well, other times I think we could have tackled better. It's something we'll continue to work on, but I think we were more disciplined (in the second half). There's no magic to it. The guys executed, and we just settled in a bit more. And again, it's a unique offense, so it takes some time just to settle in a little bit. You just do your one-eleventh and just execute."
On Sunday, it felt like Edmunds and Milano had a larger hand in the overall play total in a game where the league's leader in passer rating (119) was held to a 63 rating.
"Tremaine and Matt the way they've played, the leadership they've given us in particular with Micah and Tre'Davious out has been important for us and needs to continue," McDermott said.