Conventional defensive wisdom says attack young NFL quarterbacks with blitzes but be judicious about going after star, veteran quarterbacks.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was selective but had great timing in blitzing Atlanta's Matt Ryan Sunday.
Ryan's quarterback rating against the blitz last season was second in the NFL only to New England's Tom Brady, according to Pro Football Focus. Frazier rushed five or more on only nine of 44 Ryan drop-backs, according to The News' count.
But the pivotal play of the game was created by a Bills blitz. Here were 10 plays that shaped the 23-17 Buffalo upset:
1. Fumble return TD. Frazier attacked. Jerry Hughes took advantage of a mismatch. Tre'Davious White played to the whistle. Those three factors created White's 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Atlanta faced a third-and-9 situation from their 47. Rather than sit back in a zone coverage, Frazier called a six-man blitz, with linebackers Preston Brown and Matt Milano rushing off right tackle.
Hughes was too quick around the other edge for left tackle Jake Matthews and hit Ryan's forearm. White scooped up the bounding ball and sprinted, unchased, to the end zone. Hughes gave Matthews problems with speed rushing much of the game.
Was Ryan's arm going forward on the pass play? Yes. But upon review, officials ruled the ball had been dislodged before Ryan's arm caused it to fly forward.
Atlanta failed to exploit Frazier's limited blitzes. Ryan completed five passes on the nine blitz plays for 53 yards.
2. Deep accuracy. Tyrod Taylor is known for his deep accuracy and showed it again on the 44-yard pass to Charles Clay that set up the Bills' first-half touchdown.
Taylor rolled right looking for Zay Jones on a crossing route. Atlanta had it well covered. Taylor reversed field and did a nice job putting enough air under the ball to allow Clay to adjust and make the catch. Because the play-action fake drew the Atlanta defense to its right, rookie free safety Damontae Kazee didn't have time to get over to help safety Keanu Neal defend Clay. It took forever for the route to develop. Clay blocked off left tackle, then slow-played his release from the line of scrimmage, trotting on a shallow cross before bursting down the right side of the field.
3. Taylor poised. Give Taylor credit for showing patience in the pocket on the 9-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews, who beat cornerback Desmond Trufant on a crossing route to the left side of the end zone.
The Bills used a stack formation on the right with Matthews, Zay Jones and Logan Thomas bunched. Taylor looked first to Jones, who was covered on a short post to the middle of the end zone. But the play-action fake helped give the Bills' QB time to wait for Matthews to work the width of the field.
4. Centerfield INT. Safety Micah Hyde was the single safety in the middle of the field on a three-deep zone on his interception late in the third quarter. It was a second-and-1 situation, a perfect time to go deep. Hyde did not bite on the run fake. Ryan's long pass for Taylor Gabriel was a tad underthrown. Hyde was all over it, even if it had been a deeper throw.
5. Tipped INT. The Bills were protecting deep with two safeties back and man coverage underneath when Hyde made a diving pickoff of a third-and-17 pass in the fourth quarter. Give nickel cornerback Leonard Johnson credit for tight coverage on receiver Nick Williams, who tipped the pass into the outstretched arms of Hyde. His 37-yard return set the Bills up for their last field goal.
6. FG 56 yards. Stephen Hauschka's boot to put the Bills ahead, 20-17, tied for third longest in Bills history.
7. FG 55 yards. Hauschka's boot with 3:06 left tied for fifth longest in team history and made him 11 for his last 11 from 50-plus yards over the past three seasons.
8. Falcons' wheel route. There wasn't much Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander could do in coverage down the sideline against Atlanta speedster Tevin Coleman. The pass from Ryan was perfect for a 39-yard gain, which set up the Falcons' first TD.
9. Key TFL. Ryan Davis and Lorenzo Alexander crashed right tackle to force a 7-yard loss for Devonta Freeman on a first-down play from the Buffalo 42 with 4:35 left. Two plays later, Hyde got his second interception.
10. The last stand. Ryan wanted receiver Justin Hardy on a slant to the left on his final, fourth-down pass with 49 seconds left. Cornerback Shareece Wright had Hardy covered. Then White was in tight coverage on Gabriel to force an incompletion.