By Matthew Asher
Thanks to two key Buffalo Bills turnovers, both near the end of the game, Atlanta was able to score the game’s final 10 points and leave the Rogers Centre in Toronto with a rare win this season.
Late in the fourth quarter, cornerback Robert McClain knocked the ball out of wide receiver Stevie Johnson’s hands with just 20 seconds left in regulation, effectively sending the game into overtime. The second turnover was Buffalo’s second offensive play in OT. Safety WIlliam Moore punched the ball out of Bills tight end Scott Chandler’s hands. Atlanta was able to recover and return the fumble to the Bills 47-yard line, setting up Matt Bryant’s eventual game-winning field goal.
Overall, the Falcons offense finally looked like they did last season as they were able to pile up more than 400 yards against the Bills. Matt Ryan completed passes to 10 different receivers and didn’t throw an interception. Atlanta’s three running backs ran 29 times for an impressive 134 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Here’s how the rest of the team graded out against the Bills.
Atlanta’s running backs get an A+
Steven Jackson finally looked like the top free agent player of last season. He ran 23 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns, the second one tying the game late inside the fourth quarter at 31-31. Antone Smith only had one carry, but he made it count. Late in the second quarter Smith was able to pull off a 38-yard run untouched into the end zone to cut Atlanta’s deficit 17-14.
Atlanta’s receivers – especially Roddy White – get an A
It’s been a long time since Roddy White has done anything noteworthy for Atlanta on the field. Sunday, he was simply unstoppable against the Bills. Roddy was responsible for more than one third of Matt Ryan’s 28 completions as he pulled down 10 catches for 143 yards.
Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez also had good games. Douglas caught six passes for 73 yards and Gonzalez pulled down four grabs for 42 yards and one touchdown. While it wasn’t Matt Ryan’s best performance, he completed almost 60 percent of his throws for more than 300 yards.
Atlanta’s rushing defense gets a D
The Bills absolutely gutted the Falcons run defense. C.J. Spiller led the team with 15 carries going for 149 rushing yards and one touchdown. Fred Jackson added 11 more carries for 42 yards and a touchdown of his own. When the game was over, Buffalo ran 31 times for 195 yards and three rushing touchdowns, almost equaling their passing numbers of 210 yards for the game.
One other note about Spiller’s game: CJ’s first two rushes went for a total of 79 yards (one of them being a 77-yard touchdown run). This was only the third game of the season that Spiller finished with at least 79 yards on the ground
Atlanta’s pass protection gets an F
With whatever high draft pick the Falcons get, they need to use that first pick on an offensive lineman. Ryan was sacked a total of six times in the game. That’s simply an unacceptable number to allow in one game.
Atlanta stays on the road this week. This time they head to what will probably be the “frozen tundra” of Wisconsin as they take on the Green Bay Packers.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST.
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.