ATLANTA – Eric Wood isn’t into ranking the importance of Buffalo Bills victories. And Kyle Williams? Don’t even try to talk to him about whether Sunday’s 23-17 upset of the Atlanta Falcons at shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was some kind of statement win.
All the two longest-tenured Bills know is that, as Wood said, “That’s a really good win for us. A really good team at their place, I don’t know where it ranks up there on the road, but that’s a really big win.”
Did the Bills make a statement, though? Did they prove that, rather than being a team some thought at the start of the year was tanking for a better draft pick, they’re actually a legitimate contender that will remain in the playoff hunt for the long haul?
“It’s a great win, but there’s no statement wins in Week 4 of the NFL season,” the always even-keeled Williams said. “We’ve got a long way to go and we’re just going to continue to work and get better. We’ll take them as they come.”
I usually always care what my old friend, Kyle says, but not this time. That was a statement win, plain and simple. You don’t go down to Atlanta and beat the defending NFC champions and not crow a little about it.
I understand why Williams isn’t getting too high because he’s seen more than his share of moments like these where you think the Bills are about to take off, and then they crash to the earth in a spectacular fireball of failure. But there’s something that feels a little different about this. We’ll see in Cincinnati next week.
Looks like the Bills picked a winner
When I watched it live, and then watched the replay, I thought for sure that Matt Ryan’s arm was going forward and the play that was ruled a fumble early in the third quarter would be reversed to an incomplete pass. Luckily for the Bills, cornerback Tre’Davious White didn’t share my skepticism. He pounced on the bounding ball when the Falcons seemed to stop playing, and ran 52 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
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“That’s what we are coached to do every play; when the ball is on the ground, you scoop and score,” said White. “That’s what we do every day at practice. I sort of ran and started jogging at first, but I didn’t hear the whistle so I just ran full speed.”
The first-round pick continues to impress with his ability to step into key spots, such as his tight coverage on the final play of the game that made it impossible for Taylor Gabriel to try to catch Ryan’s fourth-down pass at the 10-yard-line, the play that ended the game. White is off to a great start in Buffalo, and he’s going to make us all forget Stephon Gilmore very quickly.
The big uglies did their thing
This was particularly evident on Buffalo’s 19-play drive in the second half as the Bills ran 13 times on their way to a Stephen Hauschka field goal. “That was huge,” said Incognito. “I didn’t realize it was 19 plays until we got in here, but that’s what we’re built for. Coach McDermott preached last night for the offensive line to take over this game and that’s it right there. Coach challenged us and we stepped up to the task.”
As I said, it wasn’t perfect by any means as the Bills actually only averaged 3.3 yards per rush, but there was progress, and the run game helped keep Atlanta’s high-powered offense on the sideline.
One thing I didn’t like was the decision McDermott made at the end of that drive to kick the field goal after Buffalo was stopped at the 1 and faced fourth-and-goal. I would like McDermott to be different than Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone and all the rest and show some faith in a situation like that.
I wanted the Bills to go for the touchdown, which would have meant a 20-10 lead. Instead, McDermott took the three. My thought was that as well as the defense was playing, if the Bills didn’t score, they had the Falcons pinned at their goal line with no Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu available because both were done for the day due to injuries.
Taylor came to the line, and ended up taking a delay of game penalty which helped Hauschka’s angle. He said if the A-gap was open for a QB sneak, he would have taken the snap and tried to score, but the look wasn’t there so the Bills settled for the three. I would have gone for it. Had the Bills lost, that decision would have been run through the ringer.
Charles Clay looked like Gronk
The Buffalo tight end had a big game as he caught five passes for 112 yards, two of the receptions going for 34 and 44 yards as he was sent deep and made two excellent, contested catches, just like some of the ones Rob Gronkowski makes for the Patriots, the second-place Patriots, by the way.
I said it all week, I thought the Bills were going to need to throw the ball downfield to beat this team, and they did. Taylor heaved a couple other deep balls that fell incomplete – one was a bad drop by Zay Jones, another was an overthrow to Jones – and those plays helped soften Atlanta’s run defense just a bit.
► Play of the game: Tre’Davious White’s 52-yard touchdown return of a Matt Ryan fumble early in the third quarter. To just about everyone, it looked like that was just an incomplete pass because it appeared that Ryan’s arm was going forward. But White stuck with the play when he didn’t hear a whistle, picked up the ball and scooted to the end zone, and instant replay upheld the original fumble call. It gave the Bills a 14-10 lead and turned the game around.
► Player of the game: Stephen Hauschka. Remember when many were wondering about him after a shaky first two games? Since then he’s made five field goals from 49 yards and beyond, and two of his three Sunday were from 55 and 56 yards, both in the fourth quarter with some definite pressure on. That’s looking like a great free agent signing.
► Unsung hero: Dion Dawkins. The rookie second-round pick stepped in for left tackle Cordy Glenn once again and I hardly noticed him, which is always a good thing for an offensive lineman. It would be nice to have Glenn back, but only because then, the Bills could put Jordan Mills on the bench where he belongs and start Dawkins at right tackle.
► Key stat: 11:20 – That’s how long the Bills held the ball on their epic 19-play, 82-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Unfortunately, they were stopped at the 1-yard-line and didn’t score a touchdown, settling for a chip shot Hauschka field goal, but that drive was vitally impressive, not to mention it kept Ryan off the field for a long, long time.
► Injuries: LT Cordy Glenn was inactive due to an ankle injury, and DE Shaq Lawson did not play due to a groin injury. During the game, the Bills had their first bit of injury trouble as they lost several players. LB Ramon Humber missed some time with a thumb injury, CB E.J. Gaines hurt his groin, and special teamer Colt Anderson hurt his arm in the first quarter and never returned.
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