ATLANTA — Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 23-17 victory against the Atlanta Falcons worked out:
1. Don't get into a track meet you aren't likely to win. Check. The Bills' defense pretty much took care of that by keeping the Falcons' offense from ever getting a track meet started. It also helped that the Falcons' top two receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, suffered injuries in the first half that kept them out through the balance of the game.
But there is no denying that the Bills controlled the tempo by not allowing quarterback Matt Ryan to take over the game with his passing arm. He finished 24-for-42 for 242 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. His passer rating was a meager 61.8. Ryan also lost a fumble, although that easily could have been ruled an incomplete pass as his arm appeared to be going forward with the ball.
The Bills made the Falcons work for everything they got through the air. Other than giving up a 39-yard throw from Ryan to running back Tevin Coleman, the Bills didn't allow another pass longer than 18 yards.
2. Keep pounding on that running rock. Check. The results weren't overly successful, but give the Bills credit for staying persistent with their rushing attack. The Bills ran the ball 36 times for 117 yards for an average of only 3.3 yards per attempt.
LeSean McCoy finished with 76 yards, his highest total since gaining 110 yards in the season-opener against the New York Jets, on 20 carries. McCoy certainly was more effective than he was in gaining a combined 30 yards in the last two games, but the Bills have plenty of room for improvement on the ground. Still, it matters that they stuck with running the ball and on a day when their defense was coming up big, it significantly contributed to the outcome.
3. Continue to look like a top-10 run defense. Not so much. Although the Bills began the day ranked seventh in the NFL by allowing an average of 75.3 yards per rush, they faced a massive challenge in trying to even contain a Falcons rushing attack that has the dominant duo of Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. And you have to give it to the Falcons, because although they weren't explosive through the air, they more than made up for it with 149 yards on 29 carries for a whopping average of 5.1 yards per rush.
Coleman led the way with 79 yards on nine carries (an 8.8-yards-per-carry average), while Freeman chipped in 58 yards.
4. Build on the passing success from last week. Not really. Tyrod Taylor threw for only 182 yards. He completed only four passes to wide receivers, although one, to Jordan Matthews, was for the Bills' lone offensive touchdown.
However, on the way to completing 12 of 20 attempts and finishing with a passer rating of 106.7, Taylor did have a pair of big throws to tight end Charles Clay. One was for 44 yards, which set up the scoring throw to Matthews in the second quarter. The other was for 34 yards, which set up a 56-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal that gave the Bills a 20-17 lead.
5. Hold up in pass protection. Semi-check. It wasn't as bad as last week against Denver, which sacked Taylor four times. The Falcons dumped him three times and he did have to scramble on occasion, although that wasn't all on his pass protection (or lack thereof).