CAPACCIO: Bills-Falcons: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

October 1, 2017

The Bills did the improbable and beat the defending NFC champions in their own, brand-spanking new stadium.  They officially won’t be flying under the radar anymore.  And neither will their Arrows from me, of course starting with the good, since it was a win.


17 points allowed

The Bills’ defense has been “bend-but-don’t-break” all season.  Going into the game it had allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL, and that stinginess was thoroughly on display Sunday in Atlanta.  They held one of the most high-powered offenses in the league to less than 20 points, despite giving up 391 yards and 25 first downs.

Turnovers For

In order to keep a team like Atlanta off the scoreboard, you almost have to get some takeaways to limit the amount of chances they have.  The Bills did that with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.  They also had a chance at two other fumbles they didn’t recover.

Turnovers against

The last - and only -  turnover the Bills committed this season was Tyrod Taylor’s interception thrown to the Jets in the first quarter of week one.  They’ve now gone fifteen consecutive quarters without a turnover, the longest streak in franchise history.

FB Patrick DiMarco

He only shows up in the stat sheet for one carry, but DiMarco was a beast as a lead blocker in the run game, especially in the second half and more specifically on the Bills’ 19-play, 82 yard drive that ate up over eleven minutes!

Third down offense

6-for-13 (46%).  That was a huge key in sustaining drives and keeping Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense off the field.

LB Jerry Hughes

Hughes started what became the most important play of the game when he whacked Matt Ryan’s arm, causing the ball to be dislodged for a fumble where Tre’Davious White scooped it up and ran for a touchdown.  That gave the Bills the lead, 17-10.  They never trailed after that.  Hughes finished with 3 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, 2 QB hurries, and the forced fumble.

S Micha Hyde

Hyde had a terrific game, collecting two interceptions.  But he also had another pair of pass breakups and finished second on the team with 7 total tackles, one for a loss.

TE Charles Clay

Clay continues to be a focal point and huge weapon in the Bills offense.  He finished with 5 catches for 112 yards, a 22.4 yard average per catch.  He was also responsible for the Bills’ two longest plays of the day, a 44-yard and 34-yard catch.  

K Stephen Hauschka 

Last week, Hauschka became the first Bills’ kicker to drill two field goals of 53-yards or longer in the same game.  In this one, he trumped that with 55 and 56-yard boots, both in the fourth quarter.  And the Bills needed each and every one of those points, forcing Atlanta to have to get a touchdown on their final drive when they came up short.

P Colton Schmidt

In what’s becoming a theme each week, Schmidt once again boomed several punts to help the offense get out of horrible field position.  He punted four times for an average of 47.3 yards, dropped one inside the 20 yard line, and booted one ball 60 yards.  Of the ten Falcons’ drive starts in the game, eight of them were from their own 25 or worse.

The breaks

To pull off an upset like this, you have to have a few breaks go your way.  The Bills did.  Both of the Falcons’ top receivers, including one of the best in the game in Julio Jones (along with Mohamed Sanu) left with injuries in the first half and did not return.  The Bills also had a couple reviews that could have been reversed but get held up - one fumble return for a touchdown and the other an interception  But that’s football.  That’s the NFL.


The isn’t about one specific call or moment.  There are always debatable calls and plays.  This arrow is simply for how well-prepared this Bills team was for the Falcons, especially given the circumstances of playing on the road, in only the second game ever played at their opponent’s stadium.  It’s for coming up with the right calls on offense and defense in critical situations, and for having players ready to step in when called upon and do their job without much drop-off, like rookie LB Matt Milano, who had to play most of the second half for Ramon Humber.  They were well-coached and prepared and it showed both in look and result.


First half running game

The Bills got things going a bit in the second half, but the running game was almost non-existent once again in the first half.  A total of six carries for 14 yards.

Kickoff coverage

After Hauschka nailed his 56-yard field goal to put the Bills up 20-17 with only 4:44 left, they almost let Atlanta take the lead on the ensuing kickoff after Andre Roberts raced 61 yards to the Bills 42.  

Covering RBs and TEs in the passing game

We knew the Falcons had a lot of weapons, but Matt Ryan continually found his tight ends and running backs out of the backfield for good gains.  The two positions combined for 15 catches for 167 yards.  Way too much.  Of course these players are better than most teams have, but other teams will take notice going forward.

Not finishing a 19-play drive with a TD

There will be debate about whether or not head coach Sean McDermott should have gone for it on fourth down or kicked the field goal as he did.  But in either case, the Bills needed to finish their 19-play, 82 yard drive off with a touchdown.  They took 11:20 off the clock and only got three points, which made it a little too close-for-comfort at the end.


The biggest road win for the franchise since when?  Clearly a case to be made for the entire 17-plus years of the drought.  The Bills went to Atlanta as an eight point underdog and found a way to get it done.  Many will call it a statement win for the team and organization.  If it does make a statement, it’s that this team will be in every game this season, with not only a chance to win, but maybe even favored to win more than they won’t be.  What was said by so many to be a “throwaway” season, looking ahead to 2018, has suddenly turned into a much more interesting one that could lead to places no one thought possible.  But that’s way down the road.  It’s only been four games.  One quarter of the season.  That first quarter was good to the Bills.  They’re 3-1, and a quick look around not only the division, but conference, shows they’re near the top of everything.  The Patriots lost.  The Dolphins lost.  The Bills sit atop the AFC East.  Alone.  They are one of only three teams with three wins, joining the Chiefs and Steelers, and go to Cincinnati next week to face a Bengals team that just got their own first win Sunday.  But before anyone thinks that’s a gimme, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The Bengals have scored 55 points over the last two weeks since changing offensive coordinators, and have some very talented skill position players.  The league will talk a lot about the Bills this week.  There will be a lot of attention on them from the national media.  Many will pick them to win and go 4-1 into their bye.  They can.  But now things have changed.  They aren’t the lovable underdogs anymore (although they are early 3-point dogs at Cincy).  McDermott can’t sell that to his players like he has been.  Now they’ll be the hunted, the team others will look to knock from their perch.  They’ve handled rising up to the challenge well.  Now we’ll find out how well can they respond to prosperity.  This season is already exciting.

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