The honeymoon is over. After ending their 17-year playoff drought in Buffalo, Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s first year with the team, and all optimism and excitement turned to angst and dread Sunday in the team’s first game of the 2018 NFL season. The Baltimore Ravens handily dominated the Bills for 60 minutes. Nathan Peterman started over rookie first-round draft pick Josh Allen, and the second-year passer was atrocious. Peterman completed just five of 18 passes for 24 yards, throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns. His offensive line didn’t do much to help his case against a relentless Baltimore pass rush that tallied six sacks and nine quarterback hits. However, for the second consecutive season, Peterman was unable to use momentum from an impressive preseason and apply it to a regular season game. Josh Allen replaced him less than four minutes into the second half.
Buffalo’s offense didn’t convert a first down with Peterman under center. Just three of Peterman’s 10 offensive drives lasted more than three plays, and only one resulted in more than three net yards (eight). Allen went three-and-out in his first series, and from a box score perspective, had a similar day to Peterman. The rookie completed six of 15 pass attempts for 74 yards. Like Nate, the No. 7 overall draft pick was constantly pressured (each was sacked three times) but a handful of big drops, most notably by Kelvin Benjamin, negated what would have resulted in a touchdown for the Wyoming product.
Buffalo Bills OL a concern
While quarterback play is scrutinized, the offensive line is certainly looking to be as big an issue as anticipated from the preseason. LeSean McCoy’s 22 rushing yards on seven carries trailed Josh Allen (four carries, 26 yards) and Marcus Murphy (six carries, 31 yards), as the Ravens stymied the Bills ground game. Vlad Ducasse, John Miller and Jordan Mills were straight up whipped by the Ravens’ deep and talented stable of pass rushers.
While Buffalo was forced to abandon the run when the game started getting out of hand, they weren’t generating much movement up front regardless. This will be something to keep an eye on moving forward because the Bills absolutely need to help out whichever quarterback is under center. If they can’t get into positive down-and-distance situations, the results will be ugly, as we saw today.
Defense inconsistent, but new faces impress
Buffalo didn’t fare much better defensively. Vontae Davis was inactive, pushing Phillip Gaines into the starting right cornerback role with rookie Taron Johnson seeing extended time in the slot. Both struggled in coverage, taking proper angles, and wrapping up ball-carriers. Joe Flacco was surgical, picking apart the Bills’ defense right from the jump, and completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns before Lamar Jackson took over to finish the day.
Aside from Kyle Williams, the defensive line simply couldn’t generate pressure, something that was a major issue last season. The team signed Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy to provide a boost in that department, but they didn’t help Sunday. Buffalo registered just one sack and four hits on Flacco and Jackson’s 26 combined dropbacks.
Against the run, the Bills investments seem to have paid off. It’s hard to find solace in a 44-point loss, but if any, the additions of Loutulelei and Tremaine Edmunds are quality. The rookie linebacker notched seven tackles, one sack, one interception, and two tackles for loss. The 6-foot-5, 252-pounder showed off his great instincts and athleticism on multiple occasions to blow up run plays before they developed.
Overall, the Bills have a lot to work on as they look ahead to their second game, which is against the Los Angeles Chargers, the team that demolished them last season and intercepted Nathan Peterman five times. The Chargers boast another ferocious pass rush, so Buffalo will need to find a quick fix for their offensive line woes, or the optimism that many had coming into this season will dissipate quickly.