Falcons turnovers prove costly in loss to Buffalo

Written by Adrian Beecher

Atlanta, GA – Matt Ryan threw two interceptions, had a fumble returned the other way for a touchdown and both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Jr. left the game early due to injuries as Atlanta came up short against Buffalo in a 23-17 loss Sunday. Tyrod Taylor threw for 182 yards and a score, while LeSean McCoy ran for  76 yards in the Bills winning effort.  Here’s how it all went down in the ATL Sunday.

Atlanta was able to move the ball quickly early on, picking up two first downs on their first five plays. However, after getting to midfield, their drive would stall out, and they would punt. The punt was able to pin the Bills back at their 9-yard line, where they would start their opening possession.

The Bills drive started out much similar, with them picking up two quick first downs then began to stall after getting around midfield. However, Tyrod Taylor would connect with LeSean McCoy on a 3rd and 17 to pick up the first down. Shortly after picking up the big 1st down, the Bills drive would stall due to a 9-yard sack that forced Buffalo out of field goal range.

After back to back stalled drives from both Atlanta and Buffalo, the Falcons were able to get within striking distance on a drive that started at their own 46-yard line. Tevin Coleman would get things started with a 26-yard run to make it 1st and ten at the Bills 16-yard line. However, a penalty would force it back to the 26 and the Falcons would have to settle for a 28-yard Matt Bryant field goal to open the scoring.

Then it was the Bills turn to answer. On 1st and ten from their own 47-yard line, Tyrod Taylor would find time in the packet and throw a 44-yard rainbow into the breadbasket of tight end Charles Clay to make it 1st and goal Bills. Then on the next play, Taylor connected with Jordan Matthews crossing over the middle for a 9-yard TD pass to make it 7-3 Buffalo with 6:51 left in the 1st half.

As the first half drew to a close, the Falcons were able to strike back with a nine play 78-yard drive that was capped off by a 1 yard TD run up the middle from Devonta Freeman. This score gave the Falcons a 10-7 lead ahead of the half.

The Falcons defense got a great start to the 2nd half, forcing the bills to punt after a 3 and out with no yards gained. However, the Bills defense had a much better start to the second half. On 3rd and nine from their 47-yard line, Matt Ryan took a hit as he began to throw from Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, forcing a fumble. Then Tre’Davious White picked it up and ran it 52 yards for the score to make it 14-10 with Buffalo on top.

On the Falcons, next drive disaster would strike yet again, as Matt Ryan threw deep downfield looking for Taylor Gabriel. However, it was intercepted by Micah Hyde to set up the Bills at their 12-yard line. Then what ensued was nearly a quarter long possession worth of a drive for Buffalo.

It was a 19 play, 82-yard drive that ate 11:20 off the clock. However, it would only result in a field goal as Stephen Hauschka put through a 24 yarder to make it 17-10 Bills with 12 minutes left to play in regulation.

By forcing the field goal, it kept the Falcons within one score and a chance to tie up the game.  Matt Ryan was then able to lead the Falcons downfield for the game-tying score despite losses of wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Jr. due to injuries. It was a 10-play 75-yard drive that was capped off with a 3-yard TD pass from Ryan to Justin Hardy to tie the game up at 17 with just 6:54 left to play.

The Bills would then waste no time, quickly getting into field goal range after one 1st down. Stephen Hauschka would put through a 56 yarder to give Buffalo the 20-17 lead with just 4:35 left to play. The ensuing Atlanta possession started out with high expectations after a 61-yard return on the kickoff from Andre Roberts set up the Falcons at the Bills 42-yard line.

As the Falcons approached Field goal range, Micah Hyde of Buffalo would again pick off Matt Ryan, this time on a 3rd and 17 from the Buffalo 49-yard line and returned it to the Atlanta 37 with just 3:22 left to play. Unable to move the ball, the Bills would have to settle for another Hauschka field goal, this time from 55 yards out to make it 23-17 Buffalo with just 3:06 left to play.

Pressed with their backs against the wall and no timeouts left, Atlanta was forced to go for in on a 4th and four from their 31-yard line. Matt Ryan would connect with Nick Williams for the first down to keep the drive alive. Then after getting well into field goal range, but needing a touchdown to take the lead, the Falcons were again forced with a much-needed 4th down and one from the Buffalo 10-yard line. Ryan tried to find Taylor Gabriel for the first down, but was unable to connect, resulting in a turnover on downs.

After the game Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said there were two different plays they were looking to get on that 4th and one, “We had two plays called, one for a certain look, one for another. We thought heading in, it would give us a good opportunity on a third-and-one to go convert it and get right back on the ball and get rolling again. We’ll give them credit to have the play defended, and it was certainly a disappointing way for us to finish it.”

Two knees by the Bills would seal the deal and bring an end to the Falcons undefeated season. Buffalo and Atlanta leave with a 3-1 record on the season, with now only the Chiefs serving as the only undefeated team in the league.

Atlanta will have an off week before taking on the Dolphins on Sunday October 15th at Mercedez Benz Stadium.

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