Baltimore Ravens Postgame Observations: Week 1 vs. Buffalo Bills
Despite only scoring 13 points, the Baltimore Ravens were able to end a three-year streak of losing on opening weekend. A large reason for their success was due to a dominant defensive performance that held their opponent the Buffalo Bills to just seven points and 160 total yards.
The Ravens had some offensive struggles of their own. The only touchdown they scored came courtesy of a 66-yard reception by Mike Wallace in the second quarter. Other than Wallace, no Ravens' receiver had over 40 receiving yards, though both Dennis Pitta and Breshad Perriman stepped up with timely catches. The run game was nearly non-existent with leading rusher Justin Forsett managing only 41 yards.
The only Bills' touchdown came due to LeSean McCoy running in a one-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. McCoy is easily one of the Bills' scariest offensive weapons, yet the Ravens held him in check for just 58 rushing yards and his longest run was a mere 16 yards.
For the Ravens, it has to be most encouraging to win a close game after they went 5-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer last season. This included a second half shutout of the Bills, as the Ravens added two Justin Tucker field goals to pad their lead. Even with the game being an ugly win, there's still both good and bad takeaways from this game.
Mike Wallace looks like the team's No. 1 receiving option.
There was a lot of hype over the offseason about how good Wallace looked in camp and that he could be one of Joe Flacco's top targets. That hype was pretty easily dismissed though as most Ravens fans figured that Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken would be ahead of Wallace on the depth chart. Possibly Perriman too if he could stay healthy.
Yet Wallace was named the starter alongside Smith in Week 1 and he easily put up the best receiving numbers for the Ravens this week. Smith actually struggled a bit with just five receptions for 19 yards. Known for being a deep threat receiver, Wallace scored his 11th touchdown catch of at least 50 yards. His speed and Flacco's strong arm could be an match that pays dividends for the Ravens this season.
Rookie offensive linemen struggle in debut.
The Ravens had two rookies starting on the left side, Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and Alex Lewis at left guard. Both players had pretty rough NFL debuts. Flacco ended up getting sacked four times for a loss of 33 yards. There were also several dumb penalties on the offensive line and a rushed snap that Flacco ended up fumbling.
It's concerning seeing Flacco take so many hits a year after suffering a torn ACL. The rookies are going to need to step up their protection of him in the coming weeks and hopefully cut down on the amount of sacks allowed.
Shareece Wright excels after being maligned in the offseason.
It's not all that common for a defensive back to lead the team in tackles. Shareece Wright did so on Sunday, when he totaled 11 tackles with three of them for loss. Him and Jimmy Smith helped to shut down the Bills' receivers and limited former Raven Tyrod Taylor to just 95 passing yards.
Some Ravens fans had criticized Wright, feeling like he could be the weak link in the passing defense. Though it's early, it's very encouraging to see a week where the secondary didn't let any Bills receivers get more than 40 receiving yards. With more performances like this, the Ravens have a decent chance on improving upon their ranking as the NFL's eighth best last season.
Dennis Pitta still a top target of Flacco's.
Though Crockett Gillmore was listed as the starter, Pitta ended up outperforming him. Pitta had only just returned to practice this summer when he suffered another injury with a broken finger sustained during a practice fight. It wasn't even certain he'd be ready for Week 1 or how large a role he would play.
Yet in his first NFL game since September 2014, Pitta picked up right where he left off. He totaled three catches for 39 yards, including a 27-yard reception that helped to set up a field goal. Gillmore meanwhile had just one catch for five yards. Perhaps when healthy, Pitta may still have what it takes to edge out Gillmore and Maxx Williams for the starting tight end job.
James Reagan is the lead writer for the Baltimore Ravens on Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @james__reagan.