ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Eight months ago, Kiko Alonso was sitting in the living room of his Los Gatos, Calif. home watching Joe Flacco lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory.
On Sunday afternoon, Alonso was on the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium, making life miserable for the veteran quarterback. The rookie linebacker from the University of Oregon intercepted two of Flacco's passes, including one on a diving play with 57 seconds remaining to preserve the Buffalo Bills 23-20 upset of the defending champions.
Both the Bills and Ravens are 2-2.
"It's kind of weird to think about all that happening in such a short period of time," said Alonso, who is just the second rookie linebacker in franchise history to have four interceptions in a season.
The Ravens were driving for the apparent game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown when Alonso saved the day. Flacco threw a short pass over the middle to Dallas Clark at the Bills 36 that was tipped by safety Da'Norris Searcy. Alonso dived for the ball and came down with it. The play was challenged but upheld by the replay official, and the Bills ran out the clock.
"Every game is like a roller-coaster," Alonso said. "There's going to be ups and downs. We just got to keep fighting until the end every game."
Aaron Williams, who recently was switched from safety to cornerback, also had two picks, while safety Jim Leonhard had the other. The Bills were playing without three starters in the secondary against Flacco, who finished 25-for-50 for 347 yards and two scores.
Buffalo limited the Ravens to just 24 rushing yards on nine carries. Ray Rice, who returned to action after missing last week's game with a hip injury, managed just 17 yards on five carries. Torrey Smith was Flacco's favorite receiver, turning five targets into five receptions for 166 yards and one score – a 26-yarder midway through the third quarter that cut the Bills lead to 20-14. Baltimore converted just 19 percent (3-of-16) of their third downs.
"We've got to run the ball better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You saw the difference in the first half with (the Bills). They're running the ball for four, five yards at a time and putting themselves in manageable third downs, and we're not doing that. That's tough on everybody. That's tough on our passing game, on our quarterback."
Fred Jackson rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries, C.J. Spiller ran 23 times for 77 yards and rookie receiver Robert Woods had 80 yards on four receptions to lead the Bills. Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel was 10-for-22 for 167 yards and one touchdown. He also was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. The Bills rushed 203 yards on 55 carries, the seventh most rushing attempts in team history.
Buffalo became the first team to score a touchdown against the Ravens in three games.
The Bills took a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter with 6:11 left in the first quarter. Manuel completed passes of 14 yards to Scott Chandler and 26 yards to T.J. Graham during the scoring drive.
On Baltimore's next possession, cornerback Williams intercepted a pass intended for Tandon Doss and returned it six yards to the Ravens 25. The pick set up another 27-yard field goal by Carpenter with 3:03 remaining in the first to put the Bills up by six.
The Ravens capitalized on a Bills turnover to take a 7-6 lead 65 seconds into the second quarter. Defensive end Chris Canty stripped Manuel of the ball and tackle Brandon Williams recovered at the Bills 27. Three snaps later, Flacco hits Marlon Brown with a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The Bills regained the lead with 8:40 left in the half as Manuel threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Woods. It was the first touchdown Baltimore has given up in nine quarters.
Leonhard then intercepted a ball that went off tight end Ed Dickson's hands at the Ravens 28. Manuel hit a 14-yard pass on a third-and-12, then handed off to Jackson, who scored from 16 yards away to put the Bills up 20-7 with 6:52 to go in the second.
The Bills dominated the first half, outrushing the Ravens 116 yards to 15 and limiting them to just one third-down conversion in eight attempts. Buffalo's average drive started at its 44-yard line.
Baltimore cut the deficit to 20-14 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Torrey Smith. The key play before the score was a 22-yard connection to Smith, who drew a 15-yard horse collar penalty against Williams.
Buffalo extended its lead to 23-14 on Carpenter's 22-yard field goal with 1:56 left in the third. The kick came after officials overturned a 4-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Woods.
Justin Tucker's 35-yard field goal with 7:12 left in the game cut the gap to 23-17. The big play on the drive was a 74-yard pass from Flacco to Smith.
Tucker's 24-yard field goal with 4:04 to go pulled the Ravens to within three points.
The Bills then went three-and-out and were forced to punt, setting up the Ravens final drive that ended in Alonso's interception.
"I'm proud of this team," said Bills coach Doug Marrone. "Here we are after the first quarter and we're 2-2. We've had a lot of adversity throughout every part of the program. We're playing with a lot of players who haven't been together for a long period of time. I give a lot of credit to the players and a lot of credit to the coaches."
NOTES: The Ravens entered the game with a 14-5 September record under coach John Harbaugh. ... Brown started in place of injured wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Backup wideout Brandon Stokley also was inactive. ... Buffalo had four lineup changes: Williams at left cornerback for Leodis McKelvin; Rogers for Stephon Gilmore at right corner; Da'Norris Searcy for Jairus Byrd at free safety and Leonhard for (Williams). ... Jackson passed Joe Cribbs to move into third place on the Bills all-time rushing list with 4,487 yards. Thurman Thomas (11,938) is first and O.J. Simpson (10,183) second. ... Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson had one reception for minus-1 yards. . . The Ravens forced four fumbles, but recovered just one
By Scott Pitoniak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: September 29, 2013 07:00:07 PM
Rookie LB Alonso's big plays lead Bills past Ravens
|All Times Eastern|