Well, how’s that for a statement win? The Buffalo Bills went to Atlanta, into a new 1.6 billion dollar stadium against the defending NFC Champions, against a team that hadn’t trailed all year…and won. The Bills won. The Bills are off to their best start in 6 years, led by rookie head coach Sean McDermott. After a season defining win, it is hard to analyze through the euphoria, but I’ll give it a shot. Here are my ups and downs from the Bills 23-17 win over the Falcons.
Determined to prove his doubters wrong, Taylor delivered for a second straight week. Although his stat line looks rather pedestrian (12/20 for 182 yds and a TD), it was the throws that Taylor made at key moments that earned him an up from me this week. None were more impressive than two perfectly placed throws to Charles Clay in the second and fourth quarters. Both throws were instrumental in getting points on the two respective drives. Taylor went through his progressions and made smart and quick choices with the football today.
After a few years of fans begging for the Bills to properly utilize Clay, we are finally getting the desired result this year. The Taylor-Clay connection is legit, and it is dangerous. Today, Clay had 5 catches for 112 yards. He was impressive continuing to gain yards after being hit, and on his huge 44 yard reception in the second quarter Clay quickly realized Taylor was scrambling and moved his route towards the endzone, giving Taylor an option downfield.
If the first quarter of the season is any indication, the defensive rookie of the month may be adding more awards that include “defensive” and “rookie” in their title to his name in the coming months. An incredible showing today by the Bills 27th pick in the draft. White finished with just one pass deflection on the stat sheet, but what will not show up until we review the All 22 game film is his play and positioning in coverage, which limited Matt Ryan’s options all day. Of course, White’s alertness resulted in his first career touchdown, a 52 yard fumble recovery thanks to a Jerry Hughes strip.
The recipe for success in any big time win is turnovers. Micah Hyde ensured that the Bills had a couple of those today, coming down with 2 interceptions. Both interceptions were impressive both in the time of the game that they happened and with the skill it took to secure both balls. Hyde was able to out-jump a Falcons receiver on the first interception, and then was able to make an athletic play, diving and securing a key interception in the final minutes of the 4th quarter.
How can I not list him here? The guy is a weapon. He was dead center on two long, late game field goals in a hostile environment. It may be time to surrender the original “Money” nickname from Dan Carpenter to $tephen “Money” Hau$chka.
Mills had another rough day at the office, getting beat on a few occasions which led to both sacks of Tyrod Taylor and McCoy getting crushed in the backfield. For impressive as the Bills have been this year, parts of the offensive line have not. Seantrel Henderson has 1 game remaining on his 10 game suspension, which means the Bills will have plenty of time going into their bye week to get Henderson ready to go at the RT position.
Penalties did not end up costly today, but there were a few occasions where Bills drives either stalled due to penalties or were virtually finished before they got started thanks to a 1st & 20 situation. LeSean McCoy had a few decent runs today that we negated by holding calls on the offensive line. Penalties were controlled for the most part through the first 3 games of the season, and the Bills will want to keep them in check moving forward this year to ensure that excellent team performances like today are not wasted in the future.
I might have some people disagree with me on this one, but right from the start, Lorenzo Alexander looked a step behind today. I believe that the Falcons had a plan to go after the 34-year old linebacker, and they did. Ryan found favorable matchups in the passing game and exposed Alexander in the passing game on a few occasions today.
4th& 1 FG
Although the Bills prevailed, I disagree with Sean McDermott’s decision to kick a FG from the half yard line leading 14-10 with 12 minutes left in the game. In my opinion, if you have a chance for a killshot against a great team (or any team, really) then you have to take it. A 21-10 deficit with 12 minutes left while missing your top 2 WR’s would have been insurmountable for the Falcons, considering how well the Bills defense and offense were playing at the time. Instead, the conservative call forced kept it at a one score game, and although the Bills ultimately prevailed, I think McDermott needs to fine tune his killer instinct for future games.
The Bills won. Can you believe it yet? There has been a special feeling in the air since McDermott took over, and today that feeling is at an all-time high. Both last week against Denver and this week against Atlanta are games that previous regimes would have lost. These are season defining wins, and we are witness to the culture change that Buffalo so badly needs. This defense appears as legit as the 2014 squad, and the offense seems to be finding its niche. For as nice as this win is for the Bills, they have another HUGE AFC game next week at Cincinnati. The game is very winnable if the Bills don’t let this week go to their heads and overlook the Bengals. Something tells me with Sean McDermott always keeping this team grounded, they will be ready to play next week. But for now, let’s enjoy this Bills fans. When your friends and colleagues jump on the Bills bandwagon this week, know that you were on long before it even got started.
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