Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan knows good defense. Ravens fans know that well.
So when asked about what went wrong with his offense after the Ravens' 13-7 win at M&T Bank Stadium, Ryan pointed to the other sideline.
"Number one, I think that's a pretty darn good defense over there," the Ravens' former defensive coordinator and 10-year coach said.
"Just looking at yourself sometimes, that isn't it. I'm probably one of the only coaches that will give credit to the opponent, and that defense played extremely well. They're well-coached, and they got after us."
Baltimore's defense came flying out of the gates in the regular-season opener, giving a preview of what could be in store this year.
The Ravens held Buffalo's talent-rich offense to just 160 total yards. Former Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor was held to just 111 yards passing and 11 yards rushing. Baltimore surrendered only 65 yards on the ground, including 58 to four-time Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy.
Baltimore shut the Bills out in the second half. Most importantly, the Ravens held Buffalo to just 10 yards in the fourth quarter and zero first downs, including a three-and-out with the game on the line.
Credit goes to many sources, from a faster overall unit that flocked to the ball, to a better orchestrated secondary and solid pass rush despite the absence of sack leader Elvis Dumervil.
But at the end of the game, players on both sides gave credit first to the scheme.
"[Defensive Coordinator] Dean Pees called one hell of a game," defensive leader Terrell Suggs said. "He called one hell of a game. It was all really, don't let Tyrod Taylor make an explosive play. Don't let him break the game open for them, and we did that. We did it collectively."
It wasn't by name, but the Bills sang Pees' praise too.
"They came after us," Taylor said. "They showed us things we hadn't seen before, on third down especially. They brought a lot of pressure and they were very effective."
"They had a number of third-down packages that surprised us, and they were structured very well," McCoy added.
The Ravens were flying to the football from the start. Buffalo went backwards in a three-and-out on its first drive and was held to just 2 yards in the first quarter.
Cornerback Shareece Wright had two tackles for loss on the Bills' first drive and added a key tackle on Taylor in the third quarter to halt what looked to be a promising Bills' run (and drive).
That was just one example of the Ravens' pursuit to the football. The Bills have a lot of speed with Taylor, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, McCoy and running back Reggie Bush. The Ravens defense contained Taylor and ran step-for-step with Buffalo's other weapons.
"Coaches have been talking about it, and we see it as a defense," said linebacker Zachary Orr, who has exhibited the team's improved speed since stepping in for departed veteran Daryl Smith.
"This is the fastest defense that has been here in a long time, and when you're playing guys like Tyrod, Shady McCoy and Reggie Bush, not everybody is going to make the 1-on-1 tackle. It's important to get all 11 hats to the football."
Another big change from last year was limiting the big play.
Taylor hardly attempted any throws down the field. His longest completion of 33 yards came on a busted play when linebacker Albert McClellan didn't bring him down for a sack. Other than that, the Bills didn't have any catches for 20 yards or more.
Head Coach John Harbaugh and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Wright pointed to improved communication from new safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb.
"One of our main goals was nothing over the top of us," Weddle said. "We're very conscious of what can beat us, and we're playing together. It's definitely a good building block for the start of the season going against the weapons they have."
The Ravens saw too many big plays last year, especially at the ends of games that turned into losses. Baltimore's defense talked about fourth-quarter, late-game stops all offseason. Orr said it was even emphasized during exit interviews from last year's 5-11 season.
"It's been a focus all offseason. What defense do we want to be?" Weddle asked.
"Do we want to be a defense that, when the game's on the line, we want to be out there to win the game? Or do you want to be a defense that sits on the sideline and hopes you're not out there? Every man, to a man, said we want to be out there to win the game."
When it came down to crunch time with the Bills needing just a touchdown to win and more than five minutes to get it, the Ravens stiffened. Smith broke up a first-down pass and Suggs sacked Taylor for a loss of 12 yards as the quarterback tried to escape the pocket, forcing a three-and-out.
The Ravens offense took over from there, running the ball just effectively enough to milk the clock and get into victory formation. While the offense took the final knee, it was the defense who largely claimed the victory.
"Every week is a challenge, and we're going to try to shut everybody out," said defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who also notched a sack. "It's starting to feel a lot like Raven football again, having fun again."