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Spitballin’

Was that Football?

Tight ends Ed “Iron Hands” Dickson and Dallas “Dallas Clark is Still Alive?” Clark looked like they were bucking for a pair of Bills’ game checks.

Now that I’ve got a little distance, that I’ve had a spot of time to think about what went down in Buffalo on Sunday, I’m left with one thought. What the hell was that? I’m not sure they were even playing football. Actually, after watching a second time, the Ravens’ tight ends may have thought they were playing volleyball, and the offensive line looked like a squad of matadors. Ole!

Did you even know Buffalo still had a football team? Last I knew, they had some Harvard guy playing quarterback, then I heard they’d turned semi-pro or joined the witness-protection program and were living in Toronto with a new identity as the Argonauts. Is Buffalo even still a city? I thought New York had traded it to Belgium for $14 and a sack of frites after their attempt at purchasing Cleveland fell through. That game was ridiculous.

In all seriousness, have you ever seen two teams put more effort into not winning? Coming into the game, the Bills had a run defense with more holes than the Maginot Line. The Ravens ran the ball just nine times and only twice in the entire second half. When they did run, they had about as much luck as a Jesse Pinkman love interest. The offensive line couldn’t open any holes in the Buffalo D and might have been even worse in pass protection. When it came to getting after Joe Flacco, the Bills’ defense had more hits than the Beatles. Flacco threw a personal-worst five picks, granted, when he wasn’t getting drilled; his tight ends Ed “Iron Hands” Dickson and Dallas “Dallas Clark Is Still Alive?” Clark looked like they were bucking for a pair of Bills’ game checks, but Flacco earned at least a pair of those picks.

Sadly, the defense wasn’t any better. After two standout games at home, the D laid an ostrich egg in Buffalo. The Ravens defensive line leaked like it was built by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Bills rushed for 203 yards. The 32-year-old running back Fred Jackson led the charge with 87 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. In running-back years, 32 is older than Abe Vigoda’s underpants (which he inherited). The Ravens couldn’t get the Bills off the field, with Buffalo dominating the clock to the tune of a nearly 13-minute advantage in time of possession, but, like I said, the Bills tried nearly as hard to not win.

These are the Buffalo Bills, they don’t know how to win and kept trying to give the game to Baltimore. Bills rookie QB EJ Manuel threw a pair of picks and lost a fumble. The Bills had three drives inside the Ravens 10-yard line that ended in field goals. I’ve seen more killer instinct in a troop of Brownies. The Buffalo defense had some issues too. The secondary had those five interceptions, but they also allowed Flacco to throw for 347 yards. Just under six minutes into the third quarter, Flacco hit Torrey Smith for a 26-yard TD that capped a stunning four-play 80-yard drive, and it looked like the Ravens had woken up. They were clearly so much more talented than the Bills, they had to win. Then, the next Ravens drive, interception, and another Bills field goal. In the fourth, Flacco hit Smith again, this time with a 74-yard bomb that hit the blazing-fast receiver in stride. Smith was tripped up just yards shy of the end zone, setting up first and 10, but the remarkable play led only to a field goal. Bills 23, Ravens 17. After a quick Bills three-and-out, the Ravens started strong again with a 33-yard strike to Deonte Thompson capped off with a helmet-to-helmet hit that ended Thompson’s day with a concussion, but moved the ball to the Bills’ 11. Again, the Ravens settled for three. It seemed like the Bills kept gift-wrapping the game for Baltimore, but each time, the Ravens refused to take it.

The Ravens’ final drive was a nearly perfect summation of the offense’s play all day. Starting with solid field position at their own 37, 2:20 on the clock, and all three of their timeouts, the Ravens got it going with poor pass protection and a sack for an 8-yard loss, briefly titillated with another phenomenal catch, this time for 22 yards and a first down by Smith, then capping it off with a batted ball intended for Clark that ended in a game-killing Kiko Alonso interception.

Shockingly, there were actually a few bright spots. Flacco and Deonte Thompson looked like they were getting into a groove before Thompson left with the concussion, and another reliable deep threat would be huge for this team. Then there was Torrey Smith. Smith played like a superstar, snaring five balls for an otherworldly 166 yards with a touchdown and was a horse-collar tackle from a second. And Terrell Suggs was an absolute beast. He wracked up 17 tackles from outside linebacker, with a sack and three more quarterback hits. But those three bright spots couldn’t make up for a shockingly lackluster game for the defending champs.

It’s hard to know what to take away from a game like that one. One thing that has been a constant in the Harbaugh years is that this team has always come out prepared. This week, not so much. They played one of their worst games since last year’s shellacking by the Broncos at home, yet somehow their talent kept them in it. It’s hard to imagine a Harbaugh team coming out and laying another egg like this one, and the AFC North is not what it used to be, so the Ravens are tied for first place at 2-2. Hopefully they’ll learn from this one, and next time they abandon the run completely and they’ll figure out a way to keep Elvis Dumervil on the field against up-tempo offenses. (Probably better to have him out there against the run than to miss him against the pass.) We’re a quarter into the season, and the Ravens are still my pick to win the division, but if they don’t get untracked, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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