Bills 23 Falcons 17
October 1, 2017
Cover Photo & Article by Allison Smith
I love our offense, I really do, but they were not firing on all cylinders Sunday while hosting the Buffalo Bills. Granted Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu only played the first half, but overall, the offense was just not that explosive. We put up 17 points, which is obviously only 2 touchdowns, a Devonta Freeman rushing touchdown and a dark horse, Justin Hardy 3-yard catch.
For the second week in a row, receivers were missing balls, tipping balls for interceptions, and this week, Matt Ryan had several wayward passes. Taylor Gabriel was on the field for 60 of the 75 offensive snaps and was targeted 5 times and had no actual catches. That just isn’t right.
The Falcons received the ball to start the game, and we all assumed they would march down the field and score the opening score of the game. Instead, 8 plays in to the game, Matt Bosher was on the field to punt. Damontae Kazee got his first start with Ricardo Allen out under concussion protocol this week and performed well. He’s no Rico, but combined for the second tackle of the day, then followed up with a single tackle a play later. Overall, Kazee had a good day finishing with 8 tackles and a forced fumble. On this same drive, Keanu Neal had one of his patented big hits, Derrick Shelby had a sack on Tyrod Taylor for a 9-yard loss, and Brooks Reed continued to be disruptive. The defense forced a punt, after allowing the Bills to move to the Atlanta 38….and started their second drive of the game at their own one. Thank you and welcome back to Atlanta, Patrick DiMarco. We love you, but downing the punt on the 1 was unnecessary.
The teams traded punts back and forth the entire first quarter and finally, with just over 10 minutes left in the half, the Falcons were on the board with a Matt Bryant 28 yard field goal. Problems in the red zone anyone? Once again, we had a big Tevin Coleman gain of 29 yards, which everyone thought was going to the end zone, but alas, it did not and Coleman was stopped at the Buffalo 16. Ryan did spread the ball around similar to the previous season, including a pass to Hardy, then a short pass to Sanu that he, literally, snatched over the defenders’ head. Unfortunately, this was only to the 10-yard line with a 4th and 4 and the successful Bryant kick.
The Bills then answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews in a quick 8 play drive.
Another punt for each team, catching the boring theme here, led to the Falcons final drive of the first half. Coleman, quickly becoming a highlight reel, caught a 39-yard pass, got both feet and a knee down before falling out of bounds. This call was challenged, and the play upheld. Nick Williams was active and caught a 14-yard pass. Finally, down to the 5-yard line, we pulled out the 12 Gauge with a direct snap to Mohamed Sanu. Typically, this is called the Wild Cat, but the Falcons and Sanu clearly had to have their own name. I submitted “BeanCat,” but Dan Quinn landed on “12 Gauge.” Ryan went out left, tripping himself on his shoe strings, rolled back up and was ready to block. Sanu received the snap, ran the ball himself for the 5-yard touchdown. Which was reversed, so again, we did not get a good touchdown dance. The next play, Freeman ran the ball in from the 1 and immediately headed to the sideline and gave the ball to Sanu.
The half ended not long after with the Falcons leading 10 to 7, Julio leaving slightly earlier, then he and Sanu not returning in the second half. Jack Crawford was also injured and did not play the rest of the game.
The second half, Bosher booms another one into the end zone and the Bills start at their own 25. Suddenly, Brooks Reed met Taylor in the backfield for a 9-yard sack, lighting up the crowd. Two plays later, the Bills were punting. The Falcons take over on their own 20 and after a couple of passes and hand offs, at 3rd and 9, Ryan drops back to pass and fumbles the ball, which is returned by Tre’Davious White 52 yards for a touchdown. The play was reviewed and determined to be a fumble, not a forward pass (which not only fans, but the announcers believed) so the touchdown stood and suddenly, the Falcons are trailing.
So you are clear, this game was going downhill, on the ensuing kickoff, Andre Roberts fumbled, which was recovered by Ben Garland, but 5 plays later a Gabriel tipped pass fell into the hands of Micah Hyde anyway, giving the Bills the ball back at the Buffalo 12. On the positive, it was a bomb, so they were deep in their own territory.
During this next long drive, Kazee forced a fumble, nearly everyone had a tackle on the 19 play drive and the defense stood up and stopped the Bills at the 1-yard line. On fourth and one, the fans about busted the roof off the Benz Nest, causing a delay of game and forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal.
During the next drive, we cheered almost that loudly for a review confirming that Justin Hardy did NOT make a catch, as it was originally called a catch and fumble. After some reliable Freeman running and Coleman catching, Ryan found, that’s right, Hardy in the end zone for a touchdown. It is all tied up with 7 minutes to go and the Benz was feeling good, or at least hopeful again. This is our kind of game…..the kind we pull out and win.
Sadly, that did not happen. The defense, once again, stopped the Bills, causing a 56-yard field goal. Three plays later, another tipped Ryan pass, this time by Williams, and another Bills interception. This is when Grady and I took over. I was screaming, literally,
my lungs out. Grady Jarrett met LeSean McCoy 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then 2 yards past the line, then met Taylor at the line for his third tackle in a row. NOW, is when you knew we were going to win. Stephen Hauschka now makes a 55-yard field goal, with Ricardo Allen coming quickly on the left side.
The Falcons get the ball back with just over 3 minutes left in the game. MORE than enough time for a Falcons team to do anything. All we need is a touchdown. There are incompletions, short passes, Ryan scrambling, a sack. Finally, the Falcons are 1st and 5 at the 14, over throw Gabriel twice, a short successful pass to Austin Hooper. Then, on 4th down, the final chance, another overthrow to Gabriel and the game is over. The final salt in the wound, during that last play, Buffalo only had 10 defenders on the field. Apparently none of the Falcons realized this to take advantage, so the Bills kneeled twice and the game, and the suffering was officially over.
And think we can all agree with Dan Quinn this week…..”Missed opportunities….first thing is ‘the ball’.”
Some notable stats, Tevin Coleman led the team in receiving and rushing with 65 and 79 yards respectively. Freeman had 58 rushing yards, a long of 16. Ryan completed passes to 9 receivers, Hooper had 5 for 50, Julio 3 for 30.
Takk McKinley had good pressure on Taylor, and while he did not register a tackle, he was disruptive and pursing. Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett were both being double teamed much of the day, as big and strong as they are, that is all you can do to stop these guys. Yet, still, Poe had 5 tackles and Jarrett ended with 7. Deion Jones led the team with 8 tackles and a sack, Kazee also had 8 tackles and a forced fumble, De’Vondre Campbell followed with a solid 5.
Good news, it is the bye week, which originally seemed early, but possibly came at the perfect time, providing rest for the injured and reflection time for all. I don’t think we should be in full panic mode, but definitely need to get some stuff cleaned up and even more definitely need people healthy. We were stacked at offensive weapons and defensive depth. Now our top 2 receivers are injured, defensive line is down from 12 to 8, with 3 away games, including New England coming quick. Defense has been keeping us in 3 of the 4 games, but that depth is depleting quickly.
Injury Report: From Buffalo game: Julio Jones – hip flexor, not expected to miss the Miami game. Mohamed Sanu – hamstring, expected to be out 2 to 3 weeks. Jack Crawford – IR with bicep injury. Lingering injuries: Vic Beasley, Jr – hamstring, still to be determined based on practice next week. Ricardo Allen & Ryan Schraeder – still under concussion protocol. Courtney Upshaw – ankle, tbd. Terron Ward – neck, tbd.
Iron Falcon Award: I think we all know, Grady Jarrett is getting this one. Through the game, Jarrett was double teamed, still disruptive, managed 7 tackles, 3 of which were back to back to back to single handedly force a 55-yard field goal attempt late in the game.