The Buffalo Bills kept their divisional champion hopes alive with a 29-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Buffalo’s victory keeps the Bills (10-6) ahead of the New England Patriots in the AFC standings. The Bills hold the divisional tie-breaker. In addition, Buffalo clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
Buffalo’s performance against Atlanta (7-9) was a bit uneven, to say the least. The game started inauspiciously for the Bills, as Buffalo gave up a safety on special teams after the Falcons opening drive.
Returner Marquez Stevenson fumbled a punt return. The ensuing scramble pushed the ball into the end zone, which was recovered by Buffalo. Atlanta opened with a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Buffalo responded by scoring two touchdowns on the next two drives. The Bills aerial attack was inconsistent, so quarterback Josh Allen put the ball in his hands and rushed for the two touchdowns. With the Bills up, 14-2, by the conclusion of the first quarter, it seemed Buffalo would be moving easily throughout the game.
Instead, the Bills offense had some trouble keeping the ball in their hands and prolonging drives. Allen threw two interceptions in the first half. Atlanta scored 10 points off of the turnovers and entered halftime with an improbable 15-14 lead.
For the majority of the season, many wondered if Buffalo’s run game could support the offensive attack if the aerial game did not lead the way. The Bills running attack showed they could shoulder the load. After Allen threw his third interception of the day on the opening drive of the second quarter, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put an emphasis on the ground game.
Running back Devin Singletary pounded out 110 rushing yards on 23 carries. He added two touchdown scores in the second half. Zack Moss ran the ball five times for 39 yards. Moss saw the majority of his game action late in the game as the Bills ran the clock down in the fourth quarter, solidifying the win.
Allen, for his part, was effective on the ground, rushing 12 times (before kneel-downs) for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
It was relieving to see the run game work efficiently with the passing attack sputtering. Allen was 11-for-26 with 120 passing yards and three interceptions. However, the run game was dominant, racking up 233 rushing yards.
Buffalo’s offensive line won the battle in the trenches. In addition to the stellar run blocking, the unit allowed only one sack. Interestingly enough, that sack occurred when wide receiver Stefon Diggs attempted the pass on a flea flicker.
Buffalo’s defense played well, putting the most pressure on a quarterback that they’ve had all season. The Bills recorded five sacks on the game, with defenders Taron Johnson, Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver, Mario Addison, and Harrison Phillips bring down Ryan on the afternoon for sacks.
The defense limited the explosive Corderelle Patterson, the Falcons do-it-all running back-wide receiver. Patterson, the best option for Atlanta, gained 28 yards on nine rushes. He caught two passes for 24 yards. Standout tight end Kyle Pitts caught two passes for 69 receiving yards.
Matt Ryan was 13-of-23 with 197 passing yards. Ryan thought he scored late in the game, rushing for a touchdown. However, the touchdown was overturned as he was short of the goal line.
To make matters worse for the veteran quarterback. Ryan was called for taunting. Buffalo’s defense defended the fourth-down toss-up that Ryan threw, ultimately giving the ball to the Bills for good.
While Buffalo’s defense stood strong, it was the offense that required some in-game modifications to gain control of the game.
Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll attempted a couple of trick plays, both that fell short. A pass to offensive lineman Dion Dawkins failed in the red zone, and the flea flicker with Diggs as the thrower did not materialize. With the issues in the passing game, Daboll put the ball on the ground and it worked well.
Buffalo closes their season against the New York Jets (4-12) next Sunday at Hallmark Stadium.
A victory will give the Bills their second consecutive division title and place Buffalo no lower than fourth in the AFC standings entering the playoffs.