After giving up some big runs against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Ravens will face another good rushing attack Sunday when they visit the Buffalo Bills.
Averaging 137.9 yards per game, the Bills have the fifth-highest rushing average in the NFL led by two running backs who have almost identical production this season – Devin Singletary (553 yards) and Frank Gore (552 yards). Buffalo also has an athletic quarterback in Josh Allen (430 rushing yards) who is adept at making plays with his legs.
It’s the next challenge for a Baltimore defense that just faced the league’s No. 2 rushing attack Sunday during a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. While the 49ers didn’t do enough to win the game, they had success on the ground with Raheem Mostert (19 carries, 146 yards, one touchdown) leading a rushing attack that finished with 174 total yards.
“They ran the ball on us too much. We have to look at that and straighten that out,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “But it was outside stuff that we can clean some stuff up.”
Harbaugh said the Ravens used their base defense just 32 snaps through the first 11 games, but probably used it 32 times against San Francisco alone.
“There were a couple of things that we can look at and we can definitely build on and improve on,” Harbaugh said. “We have to go to work on that. There’s a chance we could see it from Buffalo. We’ll certainly see it before the season is over.”
Sunday marked the return of defensive tackle Michael Pierce to the lineup after a two-game absence with an ankle injury. The 49ers didn’t have much success between the tackles and Harbaugh praised the work done by defensive tackles Pierce, Brandon Williams, Domata Peko and Justin Ellis.
“He (Pierce) was very physical,” Harbaugh said. “Brandon was really physical. Peko and Jelly (Ellis) played really good. I think our inside tackles were excellent. Dominant.”
However, giving up 174 yards rushing to San Francisco got Williams’ attention, and he wants Baltimore’s run defense to improve against Buffalo.
“We have some things to work on and keep getting better,” Williams said. “We can learn from this game. Their offense did some good things, and they got real schemed up for us. We just have to look back at the tape, go over what we need to learn and keep moving forward.”
Special Teams Enjoyed Excellent Day vs. 49ers
Harbaugh cited three “game-changing” special teams plays as being instrumental in Sunday’s win.
Marlon Humphrey partially blocked a field goal attempt to end the first half, allowing Baltimore to preserve a 17-14 halftime lead. It was the first blocked field goal of Humphrey’s career and he was pumped about it.
Chris Moore made a superb hustle play to pin the 49ers at their own 1-yard line late in the third quarter. Moore slapped Sam Koch’s 62-yard punt ball back toward the field of play, allowing Anthony Levine Sr. to down the ball.
It was a great punt by Koch, who hasn’t been doing much punting lately due to Baltimore’s prolific offense. And it was Moore’s acrobatic play that made sure Koch’s punt didn’t trickle into the end zone for a touchback.
“Chris Moore, he was high-tailing it down there,” Harbaugh said. “He was really flying. He has great awareness. We had the partially-blocked field goal by Marlon. And then the game-winning field goal. Special teams I thought was a big part of the game.”
Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal at the buzzer sealed the win, but the Ravens’ special teams unit got the job done as a unit. Harbaugh said linebacker L.J. Fort also came very close to blocking a punt.
Hayden Hurst Delivers Clutch Catches
The stat line of tight end Hayden Hurst (three catches, 21 yards) doesn’t reflect the impact he had on Sunday’s game. Instead of stats, Hurst got a win and a game ball from Harbaugh.
One of Hurst’s catches came on fourth down, keeping a drive alive that led to Tucker’s first field goal. It wasn’t an easy catch on fourth-and-2, and Hurst had to fight through contact to get past the chains.
Hurst’s final reception came during Baltimore’s final drive, a 10-yard reception that was the final completion of the game, setting up Tucker’s game-winning kick.
“I think he had a great day, he had a game ball," Harbaugh said of Hurst. “He continues to improve as a player. He made two huge catches for us, blocked pretty well. ... To see Hayden step up like that and make the plays, he deserves that. And Lamar [Jackson] trusts him. You can see that, so that was great to see.”
Hurst, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle continue to give Baltimore the league’s deepest tight end group.
"I love our tight ends. I love the whole room," Harbaugh said. "They know they can get better.”
Onwuasor Leaves Game No Worse for Wear
Twice during Sunday’s game, Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor needed extra time to leave the field after staying down when the play ended.
But Onwuasor finished the game and Harbaugh said Onwuasor came out of the game with no setbacks. He missed two games this season with an ankle injury.
“Nothing serious,” Harbaugh said. “Yes, he's dealing with that ankle. He works through it, and it's painful. So I'm sure he'll keep healing. No setbacks that I'm aware of.”