Falcons Pound Subdued Bills, 31-3

Posted on December 27, 2009 by Patrick Moran

Fans of the Buffalo Bills closed the book on the 2009 NFL season weeks ago.  On Sunday it looked the players officially joined them.  The Bills looked like a conquered team from the game’s first snap, and the Atlanta Falcons made certain it stayed that way in a 31-3 pummeling.

At least the annual march towards 7-9 has concluded.  With the loss, the 5-10 Bills won’t go 7-9 for the fourth straight year and are guaranteed double digit losses for the fourth time this decade.

If it’s even possible, the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.  From the time Atlanta scored on their first offensive play until taking a merciful knee in the game’s final minute after getting inside the Buffalo 10, the Falcons completely obliterated a team looking like they’re eager for the season to finally end.

Atlanta outgained Buffalo, 391-178 including a 157-40 advantage on the ground.  Matt Ryan threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns and the Falcons forced three Buffalo turnovers. Atlanta had 24 first downs to Buffalo’s 11, largely because the Bills were 2-for-10 in third downs.

Brian Brohm got his first career start at quarterback for the Bills and is most likely hoping to forget it.  Thrown prematurely into action following ankle injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards last week, Brohm went from scout team quarterback to learning the offense in just four days.  It showed both in the Bills’ game plan and his performance.  Brohm completed 17-of-29 passes for 146 yards but with a pair of interceptions and sacks.

He wasn’t exactly in the best position to succeed and surely wasn’t helped by a running game that could only muster 40 yards the entire game as the Bills rushed for a first down just twice. Fred Jackson was held to just 39 yards on 13 carries while Marshawn Lynch gained all of three yards on an equal amount of carries.

To make matters worse, left tackle Jonathan Scott was forced out of the game early with an ankle injury, leaving the Bills only Andre Ramsey to take his place.

It didn’t Atlanta long to stake themselves out to a 7-0 lead.  After a three-and-out by Buffalo to start the game, the Falcons got the ball in great field position at the Bills 42.  On their first offensive play Ryan heaved a long pass downfield to Roddy White, who beat Reggie Corner for a 42-yard touchdown.

The Falcons tacked on a field goal 36 seconds into the second quarter when Matt Bryant hit from 51 yards to go up 10-0.  Atlanta actually had the ball inside the Bills’ seven before a pair of penalties and an Aaron Schobel half drove them back.

Schobel finished with three sacks and now has 10 for the year. It’s the first time he’s had double digit sacks since 2006.  He also forced a pair of fumbles; not bad for a guy who’s mulling over retirement.

The Bills’ best chance to score in the opening 30 minutes came on the outrageous last play of the first half.  After Spencer Johnson blocked a 60-yard Bryant field goal attempt, Justin Jenkins picked up the loose ball and tossed a lateral to Corner, who rumbled around and tried to lateral the ball to George Wilson.  Wilson ended up getting into the end zone before getting tackled, but officials ruled Corner was down before he got rid of the ball, and instant replay confirmed the call.

The Falcons blew the game open midway through the third.  After Eric Weems returned a punt 20 yards to the Buffalo 27, Atlanta faced a fourth and nine from the 29 after Schobel’s third sack.  The Falcons went for it and Ryan hit White, who beat Ashton Youboty for 15 yards and the first down.

Three plays later Marty Booker beat Corner inside and Ryan hit him for a 12-yard touchdown and the 17-0 lead.

Corner, starting for an injured Terrence McGee struggled all game long. He was thrown at early and often and his play was symbolic of how much Buffalo misses its slew of injured starters.

The slaughter was officially on about a minute later when Lawrence Sidbury ripped the ball from Jackson and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown.

Buffalo got their only points of the game with 2:03 left in the third quarter when Rian Lindell hit a 42-yard field goal after the Bills drove 58 yards in nine plays.  Sadly it was their offensive highlight of the day.

The Falcons rubbed salt in the Bills’ wounds when Ryan hit White for a five yard touchdown with 5:22 to go and the final margin of 31-3.

White had 8 catches for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

At least a pair of Bills’ receivers accomplished personal milestones.  Terrell Owens had four catches for 39 yards and in the process became the sixth player in NFL history to have over 1,000 receptions.  Lee Evans had a team-best five receptions (43 yards) and is now third all-time on the Bills receiving yards list with 5,301.

Not only did the Bills get blown out, they didn’t receive any help in their quest to move up the 2010 draft board.  Both Oakland and Seattle, tied with the Bills with five wins, were also losers Sundays.  The other five-win team (Chicago) will host Minnesota on Monday night.  If the draft happened tomorrow the Bills would be picking ninth, the same as when they entered the game.

Thankfully fans will only be subjected to 60 more minutes of Buffalo Bills football in 2009.  They close the season at home next Sunday against Indianapolis, a team that comes in 15-1 after losing against the Jets after resting numerous starters in the second half.  They’re certain to do it again against Buffalo.

Maybe it will level the playing field.

(Photos courtesy Associated Press)

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