A controversial fumble returned for a touchdown gave the Buffalo Bills the 23-17 margin of victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Former Vice President of NFL Officiating and current Rules Analyst on Fox Sports Mike Pereira took to his twitter page to add credence to the Falcons fans opinion that Matt Ryan’s fumble was indeed a pass. Ryan believed his arm was hit in the process of delivering a pass. ““I thought so, but it’s not my job to rule or officiate,” said the Falcons quarterback. “That’s just one of those bang-bang plays that are tough.”
In the confusion, Bills defensive back Tre’Davious White picked up the ball and raced 52 yards for a touchdown. “When the ball is on the ground, you scoop and score,” explained 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.”
Turnovers have plagued the Falcons signal caller the past two weeks. The Lions got him for three interceptions last week. His total now stands at five equal to the number of touchdown passes he’s thrown and two shy of his total number in 2016.
Atlanta played the entire second half without Ryan’s primary targets Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Sr. Jones walked off the field but did not return. An injury to the receivers hip was cited as the reason. Sanu left the field right before halftime after taking a direct snap and coming within inches of scoring a touchdown.
Devonta Freeman made sure the receiver’s effort was rewarded by punching through the eight-man defensive front for a 1-yard touchdown. Freeman’s ability to find space when there doesn’t appear to be any would have been useful with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
Freeman never got the chance. It was pass, pass, and pass some more. Buffalo couldn’t get off the field as Matty Ice’s pass to Nick Williams converted fourth and four. At that point, the Falcons seemed destined to win the game. Everything was going right. The stadium was rocking and the offense kept advancing.
Across midfield, Ryan’s pass to Freeman netted 13 yards and a first down inside the red zone.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn’s plan for the red zone was to get a first down inside the 10 and make their final assault with four fresh downs and nine or fewer yards to go. “The first thing was getting the first down and then get back on the ball, and then we would play again in hopes of getting the touchdown,” explained Quinn.
Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander gifted the Falcons offense with 5-yards for invading the neutral zone at the Buffalo 19. And then the good went left. An incomplete pass to Taylor Gabriel and a huge mistake by Austin Hooper stepping out of bounds a yard short of the sticks. With two plays to get the first and extend the drive, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called two more pass plays. Both passes wound up on the turf clinching the game for the Bills.
Atlanta has time to regroup and get healthy with the bye week in front of them. They will get an extra day of rest with the Dolphins coming to them in two weeks.
All photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports