Sun Dec 8 5:03pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott walks the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) carries the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) rolls out looking to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) is upend by Buffalo Bills cornerback Kevin Johnson (29) during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass under pressure by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and the Baltimore Ravens became the AFC's first team to clinch a playoff berth following a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Baltimore extended its franchise-best winning streak to nine straight and improved to 11-2, its best record through 13 games in team history. With the win, the Ravens can also clinch the AFC North title should the Pittsburgh Steelers lose or tie in their game at Arizona later in the day.
What began as a defensive struggle eventually lived up to its billing in a matchup of two of the NFL's up-and-coming quarterbacks.
Jackson finished 16 of 25 for 145 yards and appeared to blow open the game by putting the Ravens up 24-9 following a 4-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead with 9:49 left.
Buffalo's Josh Allen responded with a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive capped by his 3-yard pass to Cole Beasley, who dived inside the left pylon. The same two then hooked up on a 2-point conversion to make it a one-score game.
The outing wasn't decided until there were 63 seconds remaining. Facing fourth-and-8 at the Baltimore 16, Allen's pass over the middle intended for John Brown was broken up by Marcus Peters at the goal line.
Jackson upped his record to 17-3 since being selected with the final pick of the first round in the 2018 draft. Allen, drafted with the seventh pick overall, dropped to 14-10.
Buffalo (9-4) had a three-game winning streak snapped, and fell short 10 days since garnering national attention following a 26-15 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
Jackson bounced back from a first half in which the Ravens led 10-6 after being limited to 95 yards, and overcame the loss of starting tight end Mark Andrews who did not return after hurting his knee in the second quarter.
Jackson struck quickly by finding tight end Hayden Hurst for a 61-yard touchdown catch and run three plays into Baltimore's opening drive of the third quarter. Tight end Nick Boyle also scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jackson.
The Ravens' defense dominated in limiting the Bills to just 209 yards while sacking Allen six times.
Lack of discipline, however, was an issue, particularly on Buffalo's final drive.
Buffalo gained 30 yards on personal foul flags called against the Ravens for late hits. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce was flagged first after wrapping up running back Devin Singletary before slamming him to the turf. Two plays later, Linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was flagged to an unnecessary hit on Singletary.
The Ravens also provided Buffalo an extra set of downs when Marlon Humphrey slipped in coverage and fell into the back of Beasley and knocking the receiver down on fourth-and-16.
The game was played in balmy conditions for the second week of December in Buffalo, with temperatures in the mid-40s with winds gusting above 20 mph off nearby Lake Erie. It was much better conditions for the Ravens than last week, when Baltimore overcame rain and winds to eke out a 20-17 victory over San Francisco on Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal as time expired.
The Bills' defense stymied one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses by limiting the Ravens to 257 yards and forcing a season-high seven punts. Punter Sam Koch entered the day with just 24 punts in Baltimore's first 12 games.
Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka responded by hitting all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, during a week his job security was placed into question. Coach Sean McDermott said the Bills put in a waiver claim for Chase McLaughlin on Wednesday only to have him land in Indianapolis, which was higher in the claim order.
Hauschka was coming off a 26-15 win at Dallas in which he missed a field goal and extra-point attempt.
Former Bills quarterback Doug Flutie, wearing his familiar No. 7 jersey, led a rousing chant of ''Let's go Buffalo,'' just before kickoff. Flutie was on hand as Buffalo's honorary ''Legend of the Game.'' His appearance also coincided with the re-launch of ''Flutie Flakes,'' a breakfast cereal that debuted in 1998, during the quarterback's first season in Buffalo. Proceeds from each sale will go toward the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Ravens: Host New York Jets on Thursday night.
Bills: Play at Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 15 in Buffalo's first Sunday night appearance in 12 years.
Interview with a Champ
Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields announced on Twitter his intentions to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL draft. He is considered one of the nation's top prospects after leading the Buckeyes to the national championship game, where they fell to Alabama. Fields beat Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the semifinals by throwing six touchdowns despite suffering a hip pointer in the game. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder was 20-2 in his time as the Ohio State starter while completing 68.4 percent of his passes and a 63:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. Fields also ran for 867 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. Lawrence is projected to go to the Jaguars at No. 1 overall, but the Jets could snag Fields with the No. 2 pick this April.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff's recent inconsistent play has left his status as the starting quarterback for the 2021 season in the air and may lead the team to bring in someone who can push him, according to comments made by the NFL Network's Steve Wyche. 'The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and (head coach Sean) McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me. I think this is something that they're going to be able to work through, but there's got to be some healing and that's not just with Jared Goff's injured thumb,' Wyche said.
Fantasy Spin: Goff was very good in McVay's first two seasons (2017 and 2018), but it would seem that once opponents figured out how to slow down Todd Gurley late during the second half of the 2018 campaign, Goff started to get exposed. It's also possible that the defections of Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks have given defenses less to worry about vertically or that he is feeling the pressure of playing under his four-year, $134 million contract that he signed in September of 2019. Whatever the reason(s), fantasy owners should expect him to compete for his job in camp this summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Deone Bucannon, DB Javon Hagan and OG Ted Larsen were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Green Bay Packers DT Brian Price and DB KeiVarae Russell were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, Chicago Bears safeties coach Sean Desai and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris are most likely candidates to replace Brandon Staley as the Rams' defensive coordinator, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Rodrigue is reporting a decision to fill the vacancy could happen as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 19.
New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
New York Giants CB James Bradberry has forced a league-high 42 incompletions since 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) will return to practice this week, and the team hopes he will be available for the NFC Championship game.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (foot) underwent surgery last week and showed his right foot in a cast after the surgery.
Denver Broncos impending free-agent S Justin Simmons is a player that head coach Vic Fangio wants to return next season.
The Baltimore Ravens will release veteran running back Mark Ingram II on Tuesday, according to league sources. The move will save the Ravens $5 million against the 2021 salary cap and will allow Ingram to get an early jump on free agency. Ingram was a healthy scratch in five of the team's final six games to close out the season, but he insists that he's healthy and has plenty to offer a team in 2021. The 31-year-old was a first-round pick out of Alabama back in 2011, but he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup if he lands with another team on the open market this offseason. J.K. Dobbins took over as Baltimore's lead back in the second half of the 2020 season, and Gus Edwards should continue spelling him next season. Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, had 72 carries for 299 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns in 11 games (nine starts) in his second year in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram has been informed that he will be released Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Ingram may not be able to find a starting job this offseason but can be part of a running back committee for a team. Fantasy players can monitor the situation because Ingram can have fantasy value depending on his situation.
Free-agent CB Davontae Harris (Ravens) may re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
The Baltimore Ravens waived quarterback Robert Griffin III, defensive back Davontae Harris, wide receiver De'Anthony Harris and defensive back Tramon Williams on Monday. Griffin played in four games in his third season with the Ravens and made a start in place of Lamar Jackson after he contracted COVID-19 in the Week 12 loss to the Steelers. RG3 went just 7-for-12 for 33 yards and an interception in that start, also running the ball seven times for an additional 20 yards. The No. 2 overall pick might've played in his last NFL game, but he could also return to the Ravens if he goes unclaimed on waiver. The 30-year-old started just two games in three years for Baltimore and declined after he was named a Pro Bowler in his rookie season with Washington.
Seattle Seahawks practice squad LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, OG Alex Boone, RB Alex Collins, RB Bo Scarbrough and TE Stephen Sullivan had their contracts expire Monday, Jan. 18.
Chicago Bears practice squad LB Devante Bond, QB Tyler Bray, OG Eric Kush, CB Sojourn Shelton, LB Manti Te'o and RB Spencer Ware had their contracts expire Monday, Jan. 18.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Joe Haden was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 on Monday, Jan. 18.
Baltimore Ravens QB Robert Griffin III, DB Davontae Harris, WR De'Anthony Thomas and CB Tramon Williams were waived Monday, Jan. 18.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that the team will be careful with rookie running back A.J. Dillon (undisclosed), but he is hopeful that Dillon can play on Sunday against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Dillon left the fourth quarter of the win over the Rams in the Divisional Round on Saturday with an undisclosed injury. The 22-year-old ran the ball six times for 27 yards in the win over the Rams. Keep a close eye on his practice status throughout the week. If he's inactive against Tampa Bay, Jamaal Williams would be a much more attractive DFS sleeper behind Aaron Jones. Dillon dealt with injury and was on the COVID-19 list in his rookie season, but he could have a substantial role in Green Bay's backfield in 2021 if Jones leaves in free agency.