The Buffalo Bills secured a playoff spot on Sunday, and while it wasn’t perfect, the Bills still won by a lot. Here are our takeaways from the big win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Running the ball settled down the offense
The Bills took it to the Falcons on their third-quarter drive to take the lead. It was ten runs and one pass. Devin Singletary had a legit angry run to gain a chunk, Josh Allen tucked it and ran several times, and Singletary capped the drive with a TD run. On the next drive, Allen inexplicably threw as far as he could on a prayer, showing he was still feeling a bit unsettled. On the next play, Zack Moss picked up 13 for a first down. Two straight runs (Allen and Singletary) and then another first down. Sense a trend here? The Bills ultimately scored a touchdown on a running play. To end the game, they ran on 14 straight plays (that counted).
After 110 yards from Singletary, 81 from Allen, 39 from Moss, and three from McKenzie, the Bills finished with 233 yards on 44 carries for an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Both Allen and Singletary had two touchdown runs and Allen passed the ball only six times in the second half.
Judge the decision, not the result
Marquez Stevenson shouldn’t have fielded the punt at the five. Not because he fumbled, but because it’s likely a touchback. Head coach Sean McDermott should have gone for it on 4th and GOAL. Not because they scored but because more often than not, it leads to more points. Josh Allen throwing it into the end zone against his body on a broken play to Stefon Diggs is why he’s special. Most of the time he makes that throw but this time it was tipped and picked. When you’re up five after scoring a touchdown in the second half, going for two is the right call. Not because Cole Beasley was able to score on a two-point conversion, but because the difference between a five-point and a six-point lead is minimal. When the Bills had the ball at the 19 up seven points with 12 minutes left, I thought a field goal to make it a two-possession game was the right call. Instead they converted on 4th and INCHES and eventually took it in for the touchdown.
Mitch Morse needs some love
Morse has led the offensive line unit all season, playing virtually every snap, while everything around him has been shaken and stirred up. He’s played next to five different guards, for crying out loud. The reason I bring him up today is at least twice in the first half, Morse popped out after the snap and picked up a blitzing defensive back to give Josh Allen time in the pocket. To make it better, he did it on both sides of the line, going to the left the first time and to the right the second time.
Harrison Phillips appreciation post
We asked the question on December 23: Is it time to talk about an extension for Harrison Phillips? He’s been great since he’s now healthy from his ACL tear. He had a Johnny-on-the-spot fumble recovery in the first half that led to a score and in the second half, sacked Matt Ryan.
Defense is going to like the tape
This defense is so unheralded. No Pro Bowl players on the defensive side of the ball, but they play really well every week. Atlanta was 1-of-7 on third down, 0-for-1 on fourth down, and Buffalo finished with five sacks. The Bills had a 12-minute edge in time of possession. It was another day with a big play, as Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts took one 61 yards, but they stepped up on a day the offense had four turnovers.
Hope is a dangerous thing
There was a time in this game that the Atlanta Falcons thought they could win. They went into halftime with a lead and Josh Allen was all over the place, throwing picks on three of four passing attempts. You can’t let teams think they can win, but self-imposed mistakes were the reason. A fumble from Stevenson, a red-zone INT from Josh Allen took points off the board, Beasley was held up in his route by (illegal) contact leading to a pick, and a tipped pass was another turnover. That gave the Falcons hope they held onto even
when Matt Ryan scored a touchdown when the Falcons were knocking on the door in the fourth quarter.
No punts... again
The Falcons punted from Buffalo’s 32-yard-line, gaining 12 yards after a touchback. Fail. The Bills on the other hand didn’t punt for the second consecutive week. (Matt Haack’s free kick after the safety doesn’t count.) Good for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Sean McDermott, and the Bills' offense. I don’t even remember a possible scenario where the Bills were stopped on third down and it wasn’t in field goal range. It’s the first time since 2004 a team hasn’t punted in consecutive weeks (Pittsburgh Steelers).