ORCHARD PARK - Going into Sunday's game, the Buffalo Bills' success against the Baltimore Ravens depended, in large part, on how well their defense performed.
It's safe to say it did its job, as the Bills intercepted Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco five times and held running back Ray Rice to 24 yards on nine carries.
"We felt we could take advantage of (Buffalo's injuries to its secondary)," Flacco said. "But, like I said, you throw the ball to them five times, you don't keep yourself on the field and give yourself enough opportunities to take advantage."
Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (50) celebrates his interception against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of their game Sunday, in Orchard Park.
Aaron Williams, who the Bills turned to to replace Leodis McKelvin, came up with a pair of interceptions, as did rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso while Jim Leonhard had the other.
"I thought I played pretty good," Williams said. "I can't complain about two interceptions, but at the same time, I can't give up big plays like that toward the end. My defense really helped me out in that situation and Kiko (Alonso) did a great job getting that pick."
The interception Williams was referring to was Alonso's pick with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter at the Buffalo 36-yard line.
"You see a player that's getting a better feel each week, getting better each week," Bills' head coach Doug Marrone said. "He's playing very well, at a high level and I think what we have to do a very good job of, especially with all of our younger players - and when we get some of those young guys back, rookies - we have to do a good job of pushing them through, being a pro, getting them through the season, so we don't have the infamous label of them hitting 'the wall.'"
Alonso now has an interception in three straight games and a total of four on the season. He may be a rookie, but his experiences while playing at Oregon have prepared him for the fast pace of the NFL.
"Oregon had a ton of great players on the offensive side of the ball," Alonso said. "We had a lot of fast players, so it definitely helped."
The Bills' defense has showed signs of improvement over last year's efforts, but coming into the game, one of the hold-over problems was its inability to shut down opposing offenses on third down. Sunday, the Bills allowed the Ravens to convert just three of their 16 third-down chances.
"I thought we were able to get them off the spot, get some pressure," Marrone said. "Sometimes we were able to bring pressure to get them to release the ball early and I think that's what helped us on third down. (The defense) played well as a team."
Although the Bills allowed Flacco to throw for 347 yards, what it didn't allow Rice to do made up for it.
"They played a good football game," Rice said. "You can't take away anything from them. They played a good football game. I've said it all along, we're going to get everybody's best every week. So we've got to go out there and come ready to play every week. We can't start slow and we've got to execute. Everybody's got the Ravens marked on their calendar."
Sunday's win was exactly the kind of win that the Bills needed as they look to define themselves and create the culture of winning Marrone has spoken about since he took the job in January.
"I'm proud of this team," Marrone said. "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. Whether it be injuries, whether it be schematics, the coaching, trying to get people in the right spot. The players' communication is a big challenge. We're playing with a lot of players that haven't been together for a long period of time and I give a lot of credit to the players and I give a lot of credit to the coaches. To come through this first quarter and be 2-2, that's who we are."