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Buffalo Bills 29, Atlanta Falcons 15: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills’ running attack was unstoppable on Sunday

The Buffalo Bills, showing the most grit and determination we’ve seen from them this season, stood up after a string of ugly turnovers and trampled the Atlanta Falcons in the second half, winning 29-15. With Josh Allen having a career-worst day as a passer, the Bills could’ve folded after heading into halftime with a 15-14 deficit. Instead, they played angry, relied on Devin Singletary and Allen’s running abilities, and stomped all over the Falcons’ defense on their way to the win.

This game started with a rare sequence. Buffalo forced a punt, but Falcons defender Avery Williams popped the ball out of Marquez Stevenson’s arms. Jake Kumerow was able to dive onto it, but only after it rolled backward into the end zone. The Bills were called for a safety, and kicked back to the Falcons. Luckily, Buffalo’s defense stepped up to force a quick three and out, effectively treating the opening sequence like a field goal.

Through seven plays, all passes, the Bills made their way into the red zone. After a run for no gain, another pass gave the Bills 1st & GOAL. Buffalo then committed a penalty, gained six yards, then had four straight passes fall incomplete (aided by a defensive pass interference that extended the drive). Finally, Josh Allen channeled Thanos and ran it himself for a touchdown.

Two plays later, Gregory Rousseau came up with an awesome splash play, strip-sacking Matt Ryan at the Falcons’ 18, and Harrison Phillips recovered the ball. Gabriel Davis was able to make a toe-tapping sideline catch for a first down, and three plays later, Allen took a QB sweep in for his second rushing touchdown of the day.

With the Bills suddenly leading 14-2, it looked like the game was on its way to a blowout. But credit to Matt Ryan and his teammates, who had a ten-play, 65-yard drive in response. Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty, the Falcons drove into the red zone, where they kicked a field goal on 4th & 5 at the ten-yard line.

The Bills seemed to be on their way to another touchdown, with a 12-play, 67-yard drive down to the Atlanta ten-yard line. But Allen, rolling right to escape pressure, made an aggressive throw across his body, and the pass was tipped. The Falcons came away with an interception in the end zone. It only took five plays for Atlanta to score a touchdown, thanks to a 61-yard catch-and-run by Kyle Pitts. Suddenly it was 14-12.

With a minute before halftime, the Bills were hoping for a double-dip. But the opposite happened. Josh Allen threw an interception, and the Falcons were able to kick a field goal right before halftime. After the break, Allen threw ANOTHER interception. This time, the Bills’ defense stepped up. Ed Oliver was involved on a TFL, a sack, and an incomplete pass, all of which pushed the Falcons out of field goal range and forced a punt.

Buffalo’s offense changed philosophy at that point. They ran on ten of their next 11 plays, moving 80 yards and scoring a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass succeeded, putting the Bills back in the lead, 22-15.

The Bills forced another quick punt from the Falcons, aided by an illegal forward pass penalty, and Buffalo’s ground game went right back to work, on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that took up seven minutes of clock. Finishing with their touchdown, the score was now 29-15.

The Falcons made their best attempt to equalize the score. An 11-play, 59-yard drive looked like it ended with Matt Ryan diving for a touchdown on second down. But Ryan’s touchdown was overturned to “down at the one” after review, and the referees had also penalized him for taunting. With 15 more yards to go, the Falcons couldn’t break through Buffalo’s defense.

Buffalo closed out the game with another dominating ten-play drive that took up nearly six minutes of clock. They kneeled out the game with the 29-15 win.

Now 10-6, the Bills clinched a playoff spot with help from game results around the league. They have one game to go, and a chance to clinch the AFC East for the second consecutive year.

Injury report

  • Late in the fourth quarter, Stefon Diggs took a helmet-to-helmet hit on a tackle. He walked to the sideline and headed into the tent for a concussion evaluation. He was back out on the field a few minutes later, so no worries there.
  • Ryan “Rick” Bates went down on the field late in the game. The exact injury wasn’t clear. He’d started at left guard today, and was replaced by Jon Feliciano for the remainder of the afternoon.

Quick hits

  • Credit Ed Oliver with three points for the Bills’ defense today. After Josh Allen’s third interception, the Falcons were set up at the Buffalo 25 yard line. But Oliver was in on a tackle for a loss by Cordarelle Patterson, then sacked Matt Ryan, then helped force an incomplete pass on third down. Pushed too far back on a windy day, the Falcons had to punt instead of kicking a field goal.
  • It was a tough day for the returners in this game, with all the wind and snow. Both teams muffed their returns, and Marquez Stevenson also lost a fumble at the start of the game, leading to a safety.
  • Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called this game like I would call it if I were playing Madden. In other words, after Josh Allen threw his third interception, Daboll said “screw it, we’re running the ball every play.” And it worked. It completely changed the attitude for the Buffalo Bills.
  • The Bills, no surprise here, ran for a season-high number of rushing yards today.
  • This was the best game of Devin Singletary’s career. 23 carries, 110 yards, and two TDs. Career-high running yards, and the first multi-TD game of his career.
  • Josh Allen as a QB today: 11/26 for 120 yards, 4.6 per attempt, three interceptions.
  • Josh Allen as a RB today: 15 carries for 81 yards, 5.4 per attempt, two touchdowns.
  • Zack Moss also returned to form today. Five carries for 39 yards: gains of 3, 5, 8, 11, and 12.
  • The Bills pass rush came up in a huge way today. Not just Oliver, either. Harrison Phillips had his first sack of the season, and recovered a fumble.
  • Greg Rousseau had his fourth sack of the season, his first since Week 5. This was also his second forced turnover of the year (he had an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs).
  • Credit to the Bills’ offensive line for another excellent game. Josh Allen wasn’t sacked on 26 drop backs, and the team ran 44 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns.
  • The Bills didn’t punt* today. Technically, Matt Haack had to free kick after the early safety. Otherwise, the Bills didn’t need him outside of holding for Tyler Bass.
  • With the win, every one of Buffalo’s ten wins this season has been by more than 12 points.
  • The Bills have set a franchise record for scoring differential. The 1990 Bills finished their season 13-3 with a +165 scoring differential. These Bills have a scoring differential of +177 after 16 games played.

Next week

The Bills finish their season by hosting the New York Jets on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. The Jets nearly upset Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, but lost to a game-ending touchdown. With a 4-12 record, they head to Orchard Park hoping for revenge after their smackdown loss from earlier in the season.