Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills
Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker analyzes the Ravens after their Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
2. Good luck finding signs of a rejuvenated running game.
With two productive backs, the NFL's best blocking fullback and an experienced offensive line, the Ravens certainly didn't expect to have one of the weakest running attacks in the league.
But four weeks into the season, that's reality.
According to the analytics website Football Outsiders, the offensive line ranked fifth worst in overall run blocking entering Sunday's game. The Ravens had been stuffed for runs of no gain or lost yardage more than every team but one.
Ray Rice was back in the lineup Sunday after missing a week with a thigh injury. But that hardly mattered. Neither he nor Bernard Pierce had any room to run in the first half. Even when Rice managed a nice gain in the second quarter, it was called back because of a holding penalty on Marshal Yanda.
The Ravens simply abandoned the run when they needed to rally in the second half.
If they needed a reminder of the value in establishing a running game, Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel delivered it with a beautiful 42-yard touchdown pass off a play-action fake in the second quarter. Manuel's fake worked as well as it did because it followed a succession of effective power runs.
At this point, why would a defense bite that hard on a Flacco fake?
No one on the Ravens offensive line is having an outstanding season, not even Yanda, who had been the best right guard in the league for several seasons. The Ravens' blockers have protected Flacco decently but have drawn too many penalties and failed to generate the requisite push on running downs.
This has become an alarming weakness for a team that figured to struggle more in the passing game, given the losses of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.