Hobbled Falcons falter against strong Bills D, welcome upcoming bye week

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons’ three-game winning streak finally came to an end after their 23-17 Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Birds started their season strong and headed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium as one of two undefeated teams in the league, but the strong Bills defense held this powerful offense to just 17 points. That had a lot to do with the injury Julio Jones sustained just before the first half ended, as well as a plethora of injuries across the board. Without Matt Ryan’s top receiver, he had to look elsewhere in order to produce. Normally Mohamed Sanu would be the next option, as the receiver had 15 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown going into the game. Unfortunately, Sanu would go down as well with a hamstring injury, leaving Ryan deprived of his usual offensive weapons.

Ryan did the best he could, but without his top options on the field, he struggled. The Bills defense came into Week 4 as the only team in the NFL to not have allowed a passing touchdown, so the odds were against Ryan. He did manage to break Buffalo’s streak by hitting Justin Hardy for a 3-yard touchdown through the air, but success did not trend throughout the game. He threw two picks and had a fumble—on a controversial call that stood upon review—that was returned 52 yards by Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White for a touchdown. His 5.85 yards per attempt became his worst rating since the last game of the 2014 season. The Bills pushed to the top of the AFC East with the win, leaving the Falcons in need of a restoration as they head into their bye week.

HOLSTERED WEAPONS

With Julio Jones and Sanu fighting injuries, Ryan may have to find success through other options in the Falcons offense. After two quiet performances following his Week 1 explosion, Austin Hooper stepped up and caught five passes for 50 yards. His excellent pass-catching ability and big-play potential may secure him an increased role in games to come. Though he did manage to put points on the board, Justin Hardy was targeted six times and only came down with the ball twice. Hardy may see his usage increase as well, but he will have to turn more targets into receptions. Ryan’s sneaky option Taylor Gabriel went without a catch in Sunday’s game, but his involvement will surely be increased if Jones and Sanu are less than 100 percent.

RUNNING BACKS STILL STRONG

One thing is for sure, the Falcons continue to get production out of their running backs. Devonta Freeman found the end zone after a 1-yard rush. He has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season. Tevin Coleman ran the ball hard, rushing for 79 yards on nine attempts, but his talents extended to the Falcons passing game as well. With the Birds in need of big plays, Coleman caught four passes for 65 yards to lead him to a season-high 144 total yards. While the durability of the Falcons’ top receivers remains questionable, it’s nice to know that the team can always rely on its running backs.

The Falcons will look to regroup and recharge during their Week 5 bye. Hopefully this time off allows for Jones and Sanu to return for Week 6 in full health. Atlanta’s next game will be against the Miami Dolphins, last place in the AFC East. After a hard loss this Sunday, the Falcons will look to take advantage of this tasty matchup against a team that failed to put up points against a usually generous Saints defense.

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