The Falcons’ slim playoff hopes were dashed with the loss
The Atlanta Falcons came to Orchard Park needing a win over the Buffalo Bills to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. Instead, the Bills dealt them a 29-15 loss, ending their season. The Falcons actually led at halftime, taking a 15-14 lead into the locker room thanks to a pair of Josh Allen interceptions. However, the Bills buckled down and prevailed in the second half.
Our players to watch all played a part in the game for Atlanta, and one player in particular was a huge factor when he left due to injury. Here’s how our players to watch performed this week.
QB Matt Ryan
The wily veteran was harassed and harried right from the jump in this one, as Buffalo managed eight quarterback hits and five sacks. Ryan showed off the wheels a little bit, baiting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds into leaving Mike Davis open in the middle of the field by sprinting for the line, and he also tossed a dump-off to Cordarrelle Patterson in the third quarter that gained 24 yards. Unfortunately for Ryan, he had already passed the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass, so it nullified the big play. In the fourth quarter, Ryan then ran for a touchdown and was so pleased with himself that he taunted Jordan Poyer, earning a 15-yard penalty. After reviewing the play, the referees correctly ruled Ryan down at the goal line, so that touchdown went away and became 3rd & GOAL from the 16 yard line. It’s not every day that you see a game where the quarterback commits the two costliest penalties in a game, but let’s just say that I’m extra excited to read Skare’s penalty recap this week. Ryan was a pedestrian 13-for-23 on the day for 197 yards. He also lost a fumble on a Greg Rousseau strip-sack in the first quarter.
RB Cordarrelle Patterson
The versatile veteran totaled 75 yards on 12 touches in the game. He ran the ball nine times for just 28 yards. He caught two passes that counted for a total of 24 yards. He added one kickoff return that went for a 23-yard gain. Buffalo did a nice job keying in on the explosive Patterson, who is on a lot of Bills fans’ free-agent wish lists this year. While I think he could be a nice piece for this offense, give me a guy like Chase Edmonds from the Arizona Cardinals, who is younger, a phenomenal receiver out of the backfield, and a tough runner as a complement to Devin Singletary (who is in the midst of the finest stretch of his career, as well).
TE Kyle Pitts
The rookie had a nice day, finishing with 69 receiving yards on two catches. It certainly could have been worse for the Bills, as Pitts injured his hamstring after taking a crossing pattern for a 61-yard gain in the second quarter. As I expected, the Falcons moved Pitts outside so they could match him up against Dane Jackson and Levi Wallace. Pitts saw four targets, and Jackson was able to break up the pass on one of them—a deep shot that ended Atlanta’s first possession. However, it was Jackson whom Pitts absolutely smoked in one-on-one coverage on the 61-yard catch-and-run that made him just the second tight end to gain over 1,000 yards as a rookie in NFL history. Mike Ditka is the other, doing so for the Chicago Bears all the way back in 1961.
LB Foyesade Oluokun
Atlanta’s middle linebacker showed off his great athleticism throughout the game, as he was all over the field. Oluokun made a game-high 13 tackles, seven of which were solo tackles. While he didn’t have any tackles for a loss, he did manage two pass breakups and an interception (Josh Allen’s third of the game) early in the third quarter. Oluokun caught a deflected ball, the second tipped-ball interception Allen threw in the game.
CB A.J. Terrell
Terrell had an up-and-down day, as he was able to secure the second of Allen’s three interceptions, which gave the Falcons an extra drive that allowed them to take a 15-14 lead at halftime. He also committed a pass-interference penalty where he needlessly leveled Stefon Diggs on 4th & GOAL on Buffalo’s first drive. That penalty gave the Bills another chance, and Allen converted that chance with a rushing touchdown. Terrell added seven tackles, including Atlanta’s only sack, to that interception.