The Atlanta Falcons prepare for their final game of inter-conference play, this week against the Buffalo Bills. Due to playing in different conferences, these teams have rarely met in their respective histories.
The Falcons lead the overall series 7-5, in a matchup of win streaks. It started with two straight wins for Buffalo in the ‘70s, was followed with three straight wins for the Birds in the ‘80s. In the ‘90s it was Buffalo’s turn to win two straight, before Atlanta owned the 2000s with another three wins in a row. The teams split the 2010s with one win each.
Outside of the 2010s, one of these teams went undefeated against the other in each previous decade.
Since Matt Ryan was drafted in 2008, the Falcons are 2-1 against Buffalo. One of those wins was a very decisive 31-3 blowout victory, which is the most lopsided win by either team in this series.
The Falcons felt good about themselves going into the Week 4 meeting against the Bills, in 2017. They were coming off of a Super Bowl appearance and had started the year off 3-0. This wasn’t the dominant Bills team we’re now getting accustomed to in the Josh Allen era. This Bills team was in the middle of a 17-year playoff drought, and they weren’t favored to make it in 2017, either.
Despite being so favored, this game turned into a dogfight quickly. Neither team ever led by more than a single possession. The Bills led for most of it, and they were catapulted by a Jerry Hughes strip sack of Matt Ryan which was recovered by Tre’Davious White for a 52-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s first possession of the second half. This was incredibly controversial as replay seemed to show Ryan’s arm moving forward on the play, which should have resulted in an incomplete pass ruling.
This game turned into a war of attrition for the Falcons, who lost both Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones to injury, as Matt Ryan was then forced to operate with a wide receiver corps consisting of Taylor Gabriel, Nick Williams and Justin Hardy.
Buffalo’s hero was kicker Stephen Hauschka, who nailed field goals of 56 and 55 yards on the Bills’ final two possessions of the game, to give his team a late three-, then six-point lead. Ryan led a final drive for the win, but his offense was stopped on 4th and short, 10 yards shy of the end zone.
That started a slide of three consecutive defeats for the Falcons, who did bounce back to win 10 games and then a road playoff game to get to the NFC Divisional Round.
Buffalo, meanwhile, finally ended their long playoff drought, finishing as an AFC Wildcard representative with a 9-7 record.