One final week of the 2021 NFL season for the Atlanta Falcons. While they fell to the Bills in Buffalo, there were some encouraging signs from a team that is clearly looking toward 2022.
Special teams set the tone
After an opening drive that ultimately resulted in a punt, gunner Avery Williams set the tone that this Falcons team was determined to create turnovers. Buffalo returner Marquez Stevenson was immediately popped by Williams, forcing the football out and back into the Bills’ endzone for a safety.
Turnovers were the name of the game on Sunday — Atlanta created four of them — and kept the Falcons firmly in this football game until things went squirly late.
Duron Harmon gets the tip drill. Pick when Falcons needed it terribly, down 14-5 with the Bills in the red zone. Oluokun tipped it.
A banner day for Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts made his first professional trip to Buffalo one to remember. It was highlighted by his 61-yard catch and run where he stiff-armed a Bills defender back to the Pleistocene Era, but also put him among elite company as a rookie tight end.
With his 69 yards on the day, Pitts now stands only behind Mike Ditka for the most receiving yards all-time by a rookie tight end. He now only needs 60 yards to eclipse Ditka’s long-standing mark.
As stated above: This Falcons team came into the cold and snow determined to create turnovers — and that, they did. Avery Williams began the change-of-possession affair with his forced fumble on Atlanta’s first punt, and was then followed by the secondary.
Safety Duron Harmon kept the turnover train rolling in the second quarter, securing the tip drill on a Josh Allen pass intended for wide receiver Cole Beasley just shy of the end zone.
Atlanta capitalized on that interception with a touchdown on its ensuing offensive drive.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen heaved yet another pass intended for Cole Beasley on Buffalo’s possession following the Atlanta touchdown, and Pro-Bowler-In-Our-Hearts A.J. Terrell who fully laid-out to give the Falcons the ball yet again.
Linebacker Foye Oluokun chimed in with a pick of his own in the third quarter.
The Falcons defense and special teams, much like the offense, is in a transitional phase — but they’ve shown a proficiency at taking the ball away. They did that four times in Buffalo.
Right tackle Kaleb McGary is tied for fourth in the NFL with eight sacks allowed. He had a dreadful game against the Bills as a pass-blocker, allowing two of those sacks — one where he pulled off the line and had a clear shot at the rusher, just to get bullied off the play.
Kaleb McGary is finishing off his third NFL season, and while he’s flashed at points, he’s been consistently unimpressive at the right tackle spot.
The touchdown dive
What can you even really say about this play other than the officials completely blew it and then added insult to injury by throwing a flag on Matt Ryan for taunting after the fact?
From the Bills’ seven-yard-line, Matt Ryan scrambled and then dove for the would-be touchdown. The officials viewed that whole sequence differently, ruling that by diving headfirst across the goal line, Ryan was ‘giving himself up’ and therefore did not actually score.
To make matters worse, they flagged Ryan for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting, and Atlanta would get nothing on the drive and turn it over on downs.