Bills hard at work figuring out how to slow Ravens' ground game

Baltimore brings the NFL's top-ranked running game, led by QB Lamar Jackson, to Buffalo for Saturday night's divisional round playoff game
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By now, everyone knows Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has never played football in the snow. But with the forecast for Saturday night in Orchard Park calling for no more than an inch, the Bills know they'll need a lot more of Lake Erie to make it to Bills Stadium to make a difference in their divisional playoff game.

And even then, it might work in someone like Jackson's favor anyway as he changes direction faster than anyone else and has acceleration that can't be matched in practice. 

Bottom line: The Bills will be tested by the Ravens' advanced running game from beginning to end. And they had better stand up to it more effectively than they did against the Indianapolis Colts, who averaged 5.4 yards on 30 carries in last Saturday's playoff game, which the Bills were fortunate to win after being outplayed. 

"They're still the No. 1 [rushing] offense in the NFL," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of the Ravens. 

Until we're able to stop their running attack, they're going to be running the ball all game long," safety Jordan Poyer added. "We're going to have to come in and prove that we can stop that running attack."

Jackson, who for a second straight season ran for more than 1,000 yards, and led the NFL with 6.3 yards per carry, is just one the reasons.

Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, who shared the bulk of the load with Gus Edwards, gained 805 yards on just 134 attempts (6.0 average), including nine TDs. Edwards added 723 yards and six TDs while averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

"They're a good team," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "They just beat a team [Tennessee] that had beaten them twice [in the regular season this year and in the playoffs last season] and, to me, they're one of the more complete teams in the playoffs, well-coached, extremely talented. So we've got to play our best game."

McDermott said the same thing leading up to last week's game, which turned out to be decidedly less than the Bills' best. They won anyway.

But this week, you get the feeling it really has to happen this time for the Bills to keep their season going. You could tell by the way McDermott kept checking his watch, as if to say they're running out of time to figure this out, and speaking to a bunch of reporters on a Zoom call is not helping that process.

But before he ended it, McDermott did take more time to praise the Ravens and Jackson and address the reason why dual-threat quarterbacks are taking over as franchise players after decades of being considered for mostly just emergency duty.

"I think it's somewhat a result of the college systems that we're seeing," he said. "More and more of these quarterbacks are mobile coming out of college, and so I do think there's an added dimension to their game when they are mobile.

"The defenses have gotten so fast, but at the same time, they've had to counter what the offenses are doing with these mobile quarterbacks. So it's a continual cat and mouse game, I guess, in terms of developing and having the right roster."

Where the Bills think they can match up with Jackson's athleticism is with linebackers like Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.

"They're extremely important," Frazier said. "They're both very athletic guys with a lot of range and the ability to be able to tackle in space, which is what you have to be able to do against Lamar. I mean, it's hard. ... He can make anybody miss in space. You saw the 48-yard run in the Titans game. He's a terrific player.

" But to have athletes like Tremaine and Matt on the field, you know, gives you some comfort. But you do know that Lamar is a special guy, especially in space."

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.