Bills clinch third straight playoff berth in 29-15 win over Falcons

01/02/2022
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The Buffalo Bills have clinched their third straight playoff appearance with their 29-15 win against the Atlanta Falcons. This game took a couple of turns along a scenic route before ending up about where everyone expected this game to end. The Bills took an early lead after surrendering a safety, but multiple turnovers had the Bills trailing at halftime. The Bills managed to punch back, retake the lead, and hold tough against a very tough, if not overly talented, Falcons team. 

Below we’ll take a look at the most inspiring parts of the game, the player who left some questions on the field, the player who requires a better performance, and the most irksome part of the game. 

Inspire: Ed, Harry, and the RBs

After Josh Allen’s third INT, the Bills defense was put in a bad spot, and had to make a stop to force a Falcons FG. Ed Oliver wanted absolutely none of that, forcing a TFL on first down, sacking Matt Ryan on second down, and then forcing an incompletion. Atlanta, inexplicably, then decided to punt from the Bills’ 37 after taking a delay of game, the punt hits the end zone for a touchback, netting 17 total yards. Ed Oliver has been having a phenomenal year that hasn’t shown up in the box score, but today he didn’t just show up in the box score, but utterly dominated an entire drive in a potentially critical moment of the game. Ed Oliver has had an up and down start to his career, but his 2021 has been phenomenal, and he deserves to be talked about as a top-tier 3-tech in this league. Harrison Phillips, who has been having a good couple of weeks in a row, continued his strong play today in both the run and pass games. 

Offensively, Devin Singletary had some excellent runs, breaking tackles and following good blocks along the OL, and even Zack Moss had some solid runs and strong pass pro reps, which is good to see after having a very disappointing season thus far. Singletary in particular has shown excellent toughness, balance, and ball security ever since the Thanksgiving game win against the Saints. The Bills are starting to figure out an effective run game at the perfect time as the Bills move closer to the playoffs.  

Inquire: Dane Jackson

Jackson had a very good play in coverage against Kyle Pitts early in the game that forced a punt. After that, it was very up and down for Jackson. The Falcons clearly planned to attack Jackson in coverage, and given the caliber of receiver that Jackson was going against, it seemed to be a relatively fair fight. Jackson had some good reps, but definitely lost some against WRs that are not all that talented. As the Bills get into the playoffs, and subsequently, go against better WRs, one would imagine that other teams will be targeting Jackson consistently as Atlanta did today. How he performs in those situations will be extremely important for the Bills’ playoff success this season.

Require: Josh Allen

Josh Allen did not have quite as bad a game as his box score suggests. Two of his INT’s were tipped and he put together several good drives early on, and his arm strength was on full display in the wintery conditions. However, it was clear that after some things didn’t go his way, he was struggling to find his proper headspace and get locked back into the game. The run game ultimately made up some ground while Allen settled back into the rhythm of the game, but again, when it comes playoff time, the Bills will face their toughest opponents, and will get their best punches for 60 minutes. Allen is the heartbeat of the team, and they go where he goes; if he’s down, they’re down, and he has to be on top of things moving forward. He’s more than justified the Bills’ faith in him throughout this season, but in the playoffs, separate the great teams from the paper tigers. Allen has to be on, focused, and locked in for 60 minutes moving forward.

Irk: The Return Game

Fans were concerned when Andre Roberts left in free agency, and rightfully so. Roberts was a Pro Bowl-level returner, and the Bills had no one proven on their roster who could bring that same level of consistency in the 2021 season. Those fears have been realized all throughout the season, as both Isaiah McKenzie and rookie Marquez Stevenson have flashed potential with solid returns, but struggle with fumbles and judging when to take the ball on a return, and when to take a fair catch. Today Stevenson fumbled his first punt return on a ball that seems like he should have just let go or called a fair catch. The fumble turned into a safety, and later in the game Stevenson muffed a punt, recovered it, and managed to get a reasonable return on the play. This is all to say that this has been a problem all season, and in the playoffs will be exploited by a team with good special teams coverage units in some form or another. 

Overall, a good win against a scrappy Falcons team, while simultaneously clinching a third straight playoff berth is a great day for the Bills. The Bills will take on a spicy Jets team in their season finale, with a win clinching the AFC East for the secnd straight season. This team is playing high-level football at the right time, and are looking like a dangerous team to play against in the playoffs, which is exactly where they want to be.

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