Week 3 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 24, Buffalo Bills 16
What you need to know
The Falcons went into the game having lost their last five regular season road games. Michael Vick was injured last week and was an injury doubt leading up to the game, but he did not play like he was hurt. Vick led two touchdown drives for the Falcons in the first half and was effective on the ground when it was needed.
The Falcons’ passing game was good enough to stop the Bills from focusing on stopping the run. Finneran and Jenkins each had four catches, while Crumpler and Blakley also contributed from the tight end position. Jenkins and Blakley both caught touchdown passes in the first half.
Although the passing game was working, this game was won on the ground. After Tampa Bay showed that it was possible to move the ball on the ground against the Bills’ run defense, the Falcons took things a stage further and ran for 236 net rushing yards. Dunn, Duckett and Vick all had significant runs on the day. Each had a gain of over 20 yards, with Dunn’s 59 yard run setting up a field goal in the closing drive of the half. The Falcons were able to run more freely when Takeo Spikes left the game injured late in the second quarter.
The Falcons’ defense was able to limit the Bills to one touchdown. The pass rush was strong all day, and registered four sacks and an interception, and also recovered a fumble to effectively end the game in the last two minutes. Rod Coleman had two sacks, Chauncey Davis one, with Chad Lavalais and Patrick Kerney sharing the other. Brooking and Hartwell were the leading tacklers for the Falcons.
The main story of the game for the Bills was the poor play of quarterback J.P. Losman. After playing well in the Bills’ opening home game, Losman’s lack of experience was shown last week at Tampa Bay. Losman looked as though he had actually regressed since the opener, connecting on just ten of his 23 attempts for 75 yards, with an interception, and a fumble. Losman attempted several long passes but was not close to completing most of them. Right tackle, Mike Williams, was not able to play in the game, being replaced by Greg Jerman.
None of the Bills’ receivers distinguished themselves in this game. Josh Reed was again the leading receiver, but he only gained 24 yards on the day. Eric Moulds juggled a long pass and was waiting for an interference call that never came, but the play of Bills’ receivers was not the main reason that they lost the game, as the blame lies chiefly with Losman.
In total contrast to the passing game, the Bills’ running game looked to be particularly effective. Willis McGahee had the best day of his short career, carrying 27 times for 140 yards and a score. This was the first time that McGahee had run for 100 yards and failed to lift the Bills to victory. He was pulled on most third down plays in favor of Shaud Williams, but his touchdown run came on a rare occasion when he remained in the game on third down.
After beginning the season with hopes of winning games on the strength of their defense, the Bills will have to take a hard look at what is going wrong on that side of the ball. The Falcons were able to establish the run in the second quarter, and maintain it for the rest of the game. Takeo Spikes was injured towards the end of the first half and was assisted off the field and did not return. The Bills are saying that he has injured his Achilles tendon and he has been lost for the season. London Fletcher was able to play after nursing injury all week, and began the game strongly. He was the leading tackler in the game with eight solo tackles and three assists, but he faded as the game progressed. He was forced to stay on the field longer than intended due to the injury to Spikes.
Ryan Denney recovered a DeAngelo Hall fumble on a punt return but the Bills were unable to make anything happen with their next possession.
What you ought to know
|QB Michael Vick, Pass: 15 - 27 - 167 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 9 - 64 - 0|
After injuring his hamstring in last week’s game, Vick was questionable for most of the week before being cleared to play in the game. He removed some of the doubts on the opening drive by scrambling for 14 yards and a first down. He drew two penalties when the Bills were called for roughing the passer, and completed the drive with a touchdown pass to Dwayne Blakley. It was a similar story on the Falcons’ second drive as Vick scrambled to convert another third down before throwing a 12 yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins who was wide open on the play. Vick’s biggest mistake of the day came on the opening drive of the second half when he threw a poor pass and was intercepted by Chris Kelsay. Vick was able to maintain drives with several key passes to bring up first downs and he ran for 27 yards to set up Duckett’s rushing touchdown to stretch the Falcons’ lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. Vick did not look to be slowed by his hamstring injury.
|RB Warrick Dunn, Rush: 15 - 97 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)|
Dunn did not have much success early in the game, although he did convert one third down. His first big contribution came after Takeo Spikes left the game for the Bills. He broke through the line and gained 59 yards and looked to be on the way to the end zone until he was run down by Terrence McGee. Dunn had a 20 yard gain on the opening drive of the second half and ended the day with 97 yards on the ground and a five yard reception on his only target of the game.
Duckett was not used until the closing minutes of the first half when he gained 11 yards and a first down on his first touch of the game. He was used more in the second half to spell Warrick Dunn, gaining a first down on a 13 yard carry before running in a 12 yard touchdown on the Falcons’ third drive of the second half. His biggest gain of the day came when he ran outside to the right for 25 yards near the end of the game.
Griffith caught his only target of the day for 11 yards and a first down.
Finneran dropped the first ball that came his way but did better on the next drive by grabbing a 17 yard reception for a first down. He was targeted in the end zone but the ball was thrown high and went through his hands as he tried to reach it. He made another 17 yard catch to convert another third and long on the drive that ended in the Duckett touchdown. Finneran ended the day as the leading Falcons’ receiver with 57 yards.
Jenkins’ opening catch of the game went for 21 yards and a first down and came on a quick throw by Vick on the Falcons’ first drive. He was wide open on the next drive and was able to bring in a 15 yard touchdown catch. Jenkins gained two first downs and a touchdown from his four receptions.
Although White was rumored to be given more playing time, he was only targeted twice in the game and failed to catch a pass.
Crumpler had a quiet day catching just three passes, but they each brought up a first down. The longest was for 21 yards on the Falcons’ second scoring drive. Crumpler was the intended target when Vick threw his only interception of the day.
Blakley only caught two passes in the game, but the first was for nine yards and the opening touchdown when he found himself open for the score.
Peterson was perfect in the game, converting all three extra point attempts and a 27 yard field goal. Peterson only had one kickoff, almost kicking it out of the end zone. Punter Michael Koenen handled the other kickoff’s also managing excellent depth on the kicks.
The Bills were able to move the ball well on the ground. Keith Brooking and Edgerton Hartwell did their best to limit the damage, combining for 11 solo tackles and six assists. The defense allowed the Bills to convert on a quarterback sneak on fourth down with 10 minutes remaining, but stopped a similar play on the Bills’ final possession. The Falcons appeared to recover a Losman fumble when he rushed up the middle, but the play was challenged by the Bills and overturned and he was ruled down by contact. The Bills were able to gain 172 yards net rushing and this was the only big negative for the Falcons on the day.
The Falcons’ pass defense was excellent all day, giving up just two plays over 10 yards and restricting the Bills to 36 net passing yards. The pass rush pressured Losman and sacked him four times in the game. Rod Coleman had two of the sacks, Chauncey Davis had one, while Chad Lavalais and Patrick Kerney shared the other. The Bills were still in with a chance after the two minute warning before Lavalais and Kerney combined for the sack, and Kerney recovered the resulting fumble to end any chance the Bills had. DeAngelo Hall had the Falcons’ only interception of the day when he wrestled the ball away from Lee Evans.
|QB J.P. Losman, Pass: 10 - 23 - 75 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 5 - 20 - 0|
After a promising start in the Bills’ opening home game, Losman has looked bad. He attempted several long passes in this game to try and spark the Bills’ stuttering passing game, but most of his throws were well wide of his intended target. He even missed simple short passes and only had two throws that went for gains of over 10 yards. Losman did not attempt any screen passes, and did not involve the tight ends in the passing game. His misery was complete when Lee Evans had the ball wrestled away by DeAngelo Hall for an interception. Losman is mobile and showed his rushing ability yet again. He converted a fourth down on a quarterback sneak with ten minutes left in the game, but turned the ball over on downs after slipping while trying to match the achievement late in the game. Losman only completed ten of his 23 passes for a total of 75 yards.
McGahee ran for 140 yards and a career high, but could not compensate for the Bills’ poor passing attack. McGahee had several long runs and was responsible for most of the Bills’ rushing first downs. He was often pulled on third down and replaced by Shaud Williams, but significantly, stayed in on third down to convert the Bills’ only touchdown of the game. It was also the first rushing touchdown of the year for both McGahee and the Bills. He was targeted once in the passing game but dropped the pass. He got up limping on the Bills’ third drive, but stayed in the game and immediately carried for 21 yards and 13 yards proving that he was fine.
Williams replaced McGahee in several third down situations but strangely was not targeted in the passing game. He carried the ball on the Bills’ penultimate possession with under four minutes left in the game, and was stopped inches short after appearing to make a poor decision by cutting back into coverage. The ball may well have been spotted badly and the Bills could have challenged, but they chose to try a Losman sneak on fourth down and then challenged that play.
Shelton caught Losman’s first completed pass of the game for eight yards and spent the rest of the game blocking for McGahee.
Moulds was Losman’s favorite target but the quality of the passes only allowed him to catch three balls. He dropped a high pass on the opening drive and only gained 18 yards on the day.
Reed is becoming Losman’s safety valve but he only had three targets on the day, catching two for a total of 24 yards. He converted on third and six for 17 yards; the Bills’ longest passing play of the day.
Evans had a bad day, catching just two of his six targets. Some of the passes were uncatchable although he looked to have caught the ball that was wrestled away by DeAngelo Hall for the interception.
Aiken caught his only target of the game, gaining 12 yards and a first down.
Campbell was targeted twice early in the game. One was overthrown and the other nearly intercepted. Campbell was not targeted after that.
Lindell was perfect on the day, converting field goals from 36, 41 and 30 yards and making his extra point attempt. Lindell has been responsible for 29 of the Bills’ 41 points this year as the offense keeps stalling.
The Bills were able to stop Warrick Dunn for most of the first half, but gave up some yardage as Vick scrambled out of the pocket. Takeo Spikes injured his Achilles tendon towards the end of the half and Dunn immediately broke a 59 yard run leading to a field goal for the Falcons. Angelo Crowell tried to take over Spikes’ duties shadowing Vick, meaning the less than healthy London Fletcher had to play the whole game. As the game wore on, the Falcons exposed the Bills’ run defense more and more with Vick, Dunn and Duckett all having plays of over 20 yards on the ground. Fletcher led the team with eight solo tackles and three assists, but faded after a strong start to the game.
The Bills’ pass defense managed to pressure Vick at times, but could not follow through on the plays, leaving Vick to evade the rush or scramble away. They allowed 167 net passing yards and two touchdowns through the air with both receivers being wide open. The Bills didn’t record a sack in the game. Aaron Schobel looked to have forced Vick to intentionally ground the ball but the call never came. Chris Kelsay intercepted Vick on what proved to be his only mistake of the day, leading to a field goal for the Bills.