ATLANTA – We all saw this one coming, right? The Buffalo Bills pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the young NFL season on Sunday. Here are my 10 takeaways from the 23-17 victory.
1. The Bills have a legit defense. Better yet, make that LEGIT. While it’s true Buffalo caught a break when Falcons receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu were declared lost for the game with injuries in the third quarter, that shouldn’t take away from a sparkling defensive performance. How many times have we seen the Bills lose games like that? It didn't happen Sunday.
2. Zay Jones absolutely has to make the catch on a ball he dropped in the second quarter. A perfect throw from Tyrod Taylor would have put the Bills in Atlanta territory after Buffalo went ahead 7-3, on its previous drive. Instead, Buffalo punted the ball away and the Falcons drove for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. The Bills traded up for Jones to make plays like that.
3. Injuries were a huge factor in Sunday’s game. In addition to the Falcons’ receivers, the Bills saw wide receiver Jordan Matthews and linebacker Ramon Humber miss time because of respective thumb injuries, while cornerback E.J. Gaines went out because of a groin injury. Safety Colt Anderson, a core member of the special teams, was also lost for the game because of an arm injury. Depending on the severity of each injury, Buffalo's depth will be tested.
4. The special teams went from rags to riches in a matter of seconds in the fourth quarter. After a 56-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka, the kick-coverage team couldn’t get down the field fast enough and Atlanta’s Andre Roberts had a 61-yard return. Credit to Shareece Wright for hustling to prevent the touchdown because …
5. Micah Hyde made two huge interceptions in the second half. On the first, he stayed with Taylor Gabriel, timed his jump perfectly and made sure to come down with the ball. On the second, he grabbed it just before the ball hit the ground, stopping Atlanta’s drive that started in Buffalo territory with the Falcons trailing by just three points.
6. Holy cow is Stephen Hauschka something. Two field goals, from 56 and then 55 yards, in the fourth quarter. He’s making them look like extra points. That's all 11 consecutive makes from 50 or more. Hauschka missed his first attempt with the Bills and then banked in his second. Since then, he’s been absolutely nails.
7. Replay review straight confuses me. It looked like Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had the ball with his arm moving forward in the second half, but the call of a fumble -- which was recovered by Tre'Davious White and returned for a touchdown -- was upheld. It also looked like Hyde's second interception might have touched the ground, but that also wasn't overturned. Bills fans aren't complaining.
8. I don’t need to see many more Mike Tolbert rushes. The Bills’ backup running back fumbled in the second half, then put the Bills in third and long in the fourth quarter by gaining next to nothing on a pair of rushes. He was in the game at that point because LeSean McCoy was getting looked at by trainers, but Tolbert is not scaring opposing defensive coordinators.
9. It’s not a good sign for Adolphus Washington that he’s fifth on the depth chart at defensive tackle. With Marcell Dareus and Jerel Worthy returning to the lineup Sunday, Washington was a healthy inactive. A 2015 third-round draft pick, Washington is one of just six players drafted by former General Manager Doug Whaley still on the team.
10. The Bills are determined to give Kaelin Clay an opportunity on offense. That’s the only reason I can come up with for why he’s active over Brandon Tate. Clay was targeted twice, but didn’t make any catches. The coaches must see something in him in practice that the rest of us are missing.