Four words: Playing in Toronto (ahem) stinks! Honestly, it’s one thing to not even sell out a 45,000 seat venue, but to have half the fans not caring clearly means that the Bills Toronto venture is an absurd waste of time for both sides. That being said, the Bills played a decent, but disappointing game after losing to the Atlanta Falcons 34-31 in OT. Mistakes were made across the board from the offense, to the defense and especially the officiating. But more on that below…
Rushing Offense: A
Welcome back C.J. Spiller. Spiller had his best outing yet with 149 yards on 15 carries including runs of 77 yards and a 36 yard score. Fred Jackson meanwhile ran 11 times for 42 yards and a grinding 4 yard plunge for a TD. E.J. Manuel ran a few times converting a 3rd down with a sneak and a 1 yard TD that just hit the pylon. The offensive line looked much improved, but should have dominated a struggling Falcon run defense.
Passing Offense: C+
E.J. Manuel had another good outing finishing 18/32 for 210 yards and a nice 21 yard screen pass TD to Fred Jackson. The O-Line also gave up 0 sacks. However, 2 incredibly costly fumbles after receptions by Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler doomed the Bills on what could have been game winning drives (at least with Stevie).
Run Defense: F
The Bills defense has shown energy all year and improvement in the run game, but they still give up huge plays. Yesterday was no exception and all the worse, it was against a 30th ranked Falcon run game. They surrendered two TDs to Steven Jackson including a 27 yard TD (how could you not have put a hand on him Jim Leonhard!). Then they also gave up several other big runs including a similar 38 yard TD to Antone Smith. Kiko continues to do well with a fumble recovery and 13 tackles while Dareus had 8 tackles.
Pass Defense: B-
First off a solid A to the Bills pass rush for landing 6 sacks and multiple hits on Matt Ryan. Dareus, Lawson, Bryant and Mario all got a sack while Jerry Hughes has continued his hot streak with 2 more on Sunday. Gilmore meanwhile has been struggling this year since his return. McKelvin meanwhile had an OK outing notching 3 passes broken-up and 10 tackles, but between the two of them, Roddy White had a great game with 10 grabs for 143 yards. Matt Ryan, despite the pressure, was able to complete 28/47 passes for 311 yards and a TD.
Special Teams: C-
I really miss Bobby April and kickoffs from the 30 yard line. Coverage units were OK with exception to the 40 yard lateral on the opening kickoff. The Bills returners had a few nice runs, but nothing spectacular. Carpenter nailed his only attempt from 29 yards. Brian Moorman continues to be decent, but lacks the consistency he had in the past.
Marrone finally challenged successfully for the Manuel TD dive. But bad mistakes hurt the Bills all day. For what it’s worth, the Bills should have come away with a win despite those errors but really got screwed by some bad calls. I do love the emotion and the energy Marrone has. Consistency and ball security will definitely be focused on this week in practice before the Bills can work on their tan with 2 games in Florida.
So we always have the poor penalty call (or non-call) here and there, but several took the cake in this game. Here’s my big 4 (and I hope Brian/Matt can do a post on this): First with the Kiko Alonso fumble recovery, where was the Falcon player??? that made contact with him that denied a potential FR TD. They also had the missed offensive pass interference when Roddy White pushed off of McKelvin to make a 29 yard reception. You have the questionable defensive interference against Robey in the final minute that set up the Falcons on the 1 yard line. Most egregious of all was the "phantom" illegal contact call on Aaron Williams. Look I understand why the NFL give the refs support and most of the time it’s warranted. But still, teams need to be able to challenge a call and refs need to be more consistent.