» Grading the Bills
ATwo carries into the game, C.J. Spiller already had his third-best output of the year. His 77-yard run up the middle was the longest of his career. The Bills scored a pair of rushing TDs in the first quarter, although one was an EJ Manuel scramble. Fred Jackson trudged over the line with three Falcons on his back. Spiller ran one in from 36 yards in the fourth quarter. The Bills finished with 195 yards on the ground.
B-Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler lost costly fumbles late. Johnson’s squelched a chance to kick the winning field goal in the closing seconds of regulation. Chandler’s ended the first possession in overtime. Manuel was a modest 18 of 32 for 210 yards and one touchdown on a Jackson dump-off. But he wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw an interception. The Bills struggled to go deep, connecting just once to Robert Woods for 33 yards.
D The Bills gave up several big runs to the team that entered Week 13 ranked 31st in rushing yards per game and 22nd in average per carry. Steven Jackson ran for 84 yards and two TDs, one of them from 27 yards. Antone Smith had one carry for a 38-yard TD. The Bills surrendered 151 rushing yards, the eighth time this year they’ve yielded at least 120.
B-Buffalo recorded six sacks, matching a season-high. The defense set a tone – or should have – by sacking Matt Ryan on Atlanta’s first two third downs, forcing three-and-outs and helping stake Buffalo to a 14-0 lead. Jerry Hughes had two sacks. Buffalo was victimized late by a phantom Aaron Williams penalty, but Nickell Robey’s interference call gave Atlanta a first-and-goal from the 1 with 91 seconds to play.
C-Dan Carpenter was denied a chance to be the hero again. Brian Moorman had another inconsistent afternoon, netting 39.3 yards on seven punts. The Falcons burned the Bills with a 40-yard reverse on the opening kickoff. Meanwhile, the Bills continued to get virtually nothing from their return game.
D+Doug Marrone won his first NFL challenge after failing on his first four tries. The challenge resulted in Manuel’s 1-yard touchdown run 4:06 into the game. As Marrone said afterward, that was a rare highlight. The Bills led a losing team by 14-0 right away and 31-24 with 11:48 left in the fourth quarter. That’s a game the Bills must close out.
» Grading the Falcons
AAtlanta’s leading rusher entering Sunday was Jacquizz Rogers with a paltry 280 yards. A ground attack wasn’t expected to be germane. But Steven Jackson, a workhorse throughout his career, had at least 20 carries for the first time this year. He said it felt good to wear down a defense. He rushed for 84 yards, grinding out a 3.7-yard average.
B Atlanta surrendered six sacks for losses totaling 39 yards, but Ryan was effective when it mattered. He was 28 of 47 for 311 yards and a touchdown without an interception. Roddy White, invisible all season, exploded for 10 catches and 143 yards. Tony Gonzalez made a clutch TD reception on a third-and-goal play from the 11-yard line in the third quarter.
D The Falcons have one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, and it showed throughout the game. Spiller had runs of 77 yards and 36 yards for two of the Bills’ three biggest gains. Spiller averaged 9.9 yards a carry even though the Falcons managed to toss him for a few losses.
A-Falcons defensive backs Robert McClain & William Moore forced a pair of critical fumbles to win the game. The Falcons also denied the Bills on almost every deep throw. The only passing touchdown the Falcons allowed was a 21-yard Fred Jackson catch-and-run. Bills wide receivers combined for only seven catches and 94 yards. T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin were shut out.
AMatt Bryant won the game with a 36-yard field goal in overtime. He also made a 49-yarder as time expired in the first half to tie the game at 17. Atlanta entered the game with an NFL-low 11 kickoff returns for 267 yards but had four for 115 yards Sunday. Matt Bosher pinned Buffalo at its 3-, 13- and 10-yard lines in the second half.
B-The Falcons should’ve been expected to arrive flat. They’d failed to win what could have been considered their Super Bowl last week against the New Orleans Saints and had to travel to another country to play a non-conference opponent coming off a bye. Mike Smith made sure his players kept their composure after a shabby start.