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Vic Carucci's Take Five: Bills can't afford to get into a track meet vs. the Falcons

Here are my five takes on Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

1. Don't get into a track meet you aren't likely to win. The Falcons will throw the ball. A lot. They threw on nine of their first 12 plays in last Sunday's victory against the Detroit Lions. And why not? They have one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and big-play receivers in Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.

Facing the Bills' zone-based, bend-but-don't-break coverage, the Falcons are bound to have a good deal of success through the air. The key for the Bills is to not fall into a deep hole quickly, because despite the improvement their passing game showed in last Sunday's win against Denver, escaping well enough to come out on top figures to be improbable. Asking Tyrod Taylor to match Ryan, big play for big play, seems like a bad idea.

The Bills need to control the pace of this game. They must slow down the tempo and avoid critical mistakes, because the Falcons usually don't make too many (Ryan's three interceptions against Detroit, including one that was returned for a touchdown, notwithstanding). If it sounds similar to the preferred approach against the New England Patriots, it should. Ryan, Jones, Sanu and Gabriel have plenty in common with Tom Brady and his play-makers.

2. Keep pounding on that running rock. After going almost nowhere on the ground the past two weeks, it would be easy to understand if the Bills chose to abandon the notion of trying to run their way to success. But they can't and, obviously, they won't.

Running remains very much the foundation of the Bills' offense, and LeSean McCoy will, once again, have a chance to return to the form he showed in gaining 110 yards in the season-opening victory against the New York Jets. The Falcons are allowing 4.81 yards per play, although they did a good job against the Lions, holding Ameer Abdullah to 22 yards on six rushes in the first half.

McCoy gained only 21 yards against the Broncos, but that was 13 more than he had against Carolina. The Bills also augmented their rushing attack by making extensive use of their short passing game, with Taylor connecting with McCoy for a game-high seven completions for 48 yards (an average of 6.9 yards per completion) and tight end Charles Clay for six completions for 39 yards (an average of 6.5 yards per completion).

3. Continue to look like a top-10 run defense. The Bills rank seventh in the NFL by allowing an average of 75.3 yards per game, and they will face a fairly big challenge in trying to keep the Falcons' rushing attack in check.

Devonta Freeman had 106 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Lions. He and Tevin Coleman combined for 68 yards in the first half to help open up the passing game, something the Bills can't afford to do against the NFL's seventh-ranked pass offense (with an average of 269.3 yards per game).

The Falcons will also try to keep the interior of the Bills' defense on its heels by looking to get their backs matched up against the linebackers on short and intermediate passes.

4. Build on the passing success from last week. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was able to help the Bills rebound from a poor effort through the air against the Panthers with a variety of tweaks in the offense, including throwing from formations that typically indicate a run is coming.

Dennison additionally kept the Broncos' defense off-balance by having Taylor work from a moving pocket and slowing down the pass-rush with a constant threat of keeper plays. Dennison will need to be every bit as creative this week, although, unlike the Broncos' defense that features man-to-man coverage, the Falcons' is zone-based and there should be seams to exploit with throws to Clay and tight end Nick O'Leary.

Taylor again needs to spread the ball out as he did last Sunday, targeting eight receivers and completing passes to six.

5. Hold up in pass protection. One of the overlooked statistics from last week was the fact Taylor was sacked four times for minus-16 yards.

The Falcons will be highly aggressive in coming after him with a pass rush that has generated nine sacks in three games. They will look to take advantage of Taylor's occasional hesitation to throw if he doesn't find an open target within his first two options.

Quinn also is well aware of the need to slow play the pass rush to help minimize the impact of Taylor's running threat and keep him contained. Taylor rarely will force a pass, opting instead to run, throw the ball away or take the sack.

But he must be mindful of field position and how many possessions the Falcons get, because they're good at cashing in on them.

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