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Run Defense Surprisingly Run Over

Posted Sep 30, 2013

Baltimore eventually stiffened, but not before the Bills rumbled for 203 yards.

The Ravens run defense shut down Trent Richardson when he was with Cleveland. It handcuffed the Houston Texans’ Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

It entered Sunday’s game in Buffalo as the fourth best run defense in the NFL, allowing an average of just 74.7 yards per game.

So what happened in Buffalo?

Baltimore surrendered 203 rushing yards to the Bills, just 24 yards short of the franchise record set last season versus the Cowboys (227 yards).

Buffalo’s Fred Jackson finished with 16 carries for 87 yards (5.4 average) and a touchdown. The explosive C.J. Spiller had 77 yards on 23 rushes (3.3 average).

The Bills ran the ball 55 times overall, a staggering amount. They finished with an average of just 3.7 per carry, which is about average. Still, Ravens defenders didn't like the final number.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to play better,” defensive tackle Marcus Spears said.

“I think it boils down to that. A lot of this game is technique, a lot of this game is scheme, but guys have to make adjustments on the run and we didn’t do that well enough today.”

The Ravens had trouble from the very start. Spiller burst up the middle for a 10-yard gain on Buffalo’s first play of the game. From there, the Bills kept pounding the rock on first and second down.

The Bills had success picking up consistent gains of five or six yards on first down to set up rookie quarterback EJ Manuel in manageable third-down situations.

“They had some creases and they kind of hurt us early,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said.

Spears said the Ravens were creating gaps themselves instead of staying uniform along the defensive line to create a wall. If one player gets too much penetration or another is blown back, it creates different levels of defenders, and holes for running backs.

Inside linebackers Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes got negative grades from Pro Football Focus. That’s despite Smith making 12 tackles and one interception and Bynes finishing with nine stops.

“We weren’t good enough early enough to pick it up or stop it,” Spears said. “Once we got settled in and figured out what was happening to us, we got control of the run game. But you can’t let it linger that long.”

Jackson ripped off a 16-yard touchdown run right up the middle, in which he made safety Matt Elam miss in space, to give Buffalo a 20-7 lead in the second quarter. Buffalo had 116 rushing yards in the first half.

Baltimore started to figure out things late in the game when the Bills were trying to milk the clock. On the Bills’ first drive of the fourth quarter, Jackson started with only a 1-yard gain. On their next drive, he got just two yards on first down.

Those run stops forced Buffalo to pass in third-and-long situations, which were all unsuccessful and stopped the clock. Baltimore’s defense gave the ball back to the offense, and thus extended an opportunity to win.

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw wasn’t concerned about a lingering problem.

“Coaches are teaching us the right technique to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “[The Bills] just ran the ball well. It’s the NFL and that’s what they do sometimes.”

Terrell Suggs was a bright spot on defense. He finished with a game-high 17 tackles and a sack, and continues to have a big season.

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