TORONTO - The Atlanta Falcons took this victory away from the Buffalo Bills. Not once, but twice.
Two forced fumbles -- one as regulation was winding down and one in overtime -- proved to be the difference, and Matt Bryant kicked a 36-yard field goal with 12 minutes remaining in the extra session to give the Falcons a 34-31 victory at the Rogers Centre on Sunday.
It was Atlanta's first road victory in six tries this season and improved its record to 3-9. The Bills dropped to 4-8 and lost for the fifth time in six seasons at their once-a-year, home-away-from-home.
It appeared the Bills were on their way to their second consecutive victory near the end of regulation when quarterback EJ Manuel completed a 14-yard pass to Stevie Johnson. But before the Bills receiver could get out of bounds, cornerback Robert McClain punched the ball out of his hands and Falcons safety William Moore recovered at the Atlanta 28 with 20 seconds remaining.
The Bills won the toss in overtime, and Manuel hit Scott Chandler over the middle for 22 yards to the Buffalo 45-yard line, but the Falcons' opportunistic secondary struck again. Moore forced the tight end to cough the ball up, and Falcons cornerback Robert Alford scooped it up, then lateralled to Desmond Trufant, who returned it to the Buffalo 47.
Running back Steven Jackson ran for four yards, quarterback Matt Ryan completed a 20-yard screen pass to Harry Douglas, and Jackson carried twice more for six yards to set up Bryant's game-winner.
"As a defensive unit, we take pride in our jobs, we take pride in what we put up on the board, we take pride in our stats, we take pride in winning,'' McClain said. "The season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to go, but we go out there and we fight non-stop, regardless of the score."
The Falcons offense did its part, too. Ryan survived six sacks and numerous pressures to complete 28 of 47 passes for 311 yards and one score. Wide receiver Roddy White was his favorite target with 10 catches for 143 yards. And Jackson finished with 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
"It was good; it feels good,'' Ryan said. "Certainly we've had our ups and downs this year. We haven't won the way that we would have liked to. To get it done today on the road and the way we did as well, overcoming a lot of things throughout the entire game and guys just making plays when they needed to make plays, I think that makes it feel even better."
It's been a mostly down season for the Falcons, who last year went 13-3 and made it to the NFC title game.
"We finished strong today,'' said Falcons coach Mike Smith. "And we want to finish strong in this fourth quarter of the season."
The loss was especially difficult for the Bills to handle because it virtually eliminated them from playoff contention.
Running back C.J. Spiller played his best game of the year for the Bills, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Manuel completed 18 of 32 passes for 210 yards and one score.
"Yeah, it definitely stings, the opportunity we had in front of us," Manuel said. "For the game to come down to the end like it did, it's tough. It's a tough pill to swallow right now and we just have to move forward. We still have another four or five games left in the season and we want to finish that strong."
Buffalo took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Manuel 4 minutes, 16 seconds into the game. The touchdown, the first of Manuel's career, was set up by a 77-yard run by Spiller on the Bills second play.
The Bills received a major scare on their second series when Manuel was leveled by Sean Weatherspoon. The Falcons linebacker was called for roughing the passer, and Manuel spent several anxious moments on the ground before walking gingerly to the sidelines. He was able to return after one play and guided Buffalo to another touchdown on a 4-yard run by Fred Jackson with five minutes left in the first quarter. It was Jackson's seventh rushing touchdown of the season, a career best.
Atlanta closed the gap to 14-7 with 2:30 left in the first on a 27-yard sprint to the end zone by Steven Jackson. Ryan completed three passes for 41 yards during the five-play, 81-yard drive that was aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty against Bills defensive end Mario Williams.
Buffalo increased its lead to 17-7 midway through the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter.
The Falcons responded with a 38-yard touchdown run by Atone Smith with 4:49 remaining in the half. The score capped a six-play, 71-yard drive.
Atlanta tied the game as time expired in the first half on a 49-yard field goal by Bryant.
Ryan fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez midway through the third quarterback to give the Falcons their first lead of the game. It was Gonzalez's fifth TD reception this season and 108th of his career.
With 6:15 remaining in the third quarter, Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso recovered a botched snap between Ryan and center Joe Hawley. One snap later, Manuel dumped a screen to Jackson, who juked two defenders on his way to a 21-yard touchdown.
The Bills regained the lead with 11:48 left on a 36-yard touchdown run by Spiller. The play came one snap after Manuel connected with Robert Woods for 33 yards. Cornerback William Moore was called for unnecessary roughness on the play.
Steven Jackson scored from the 1 to tie the game at 31 with 1:28 remaining. The touchdown was set up by a pass interference call against cornerback Nickell Robey in the end zone.
NOTES: Bills RB C.J. Spiller's 77-yard, first-quarter burst was the longest non-scoring run in Bills history, eclipsing by two yards the 75-yard non-scoring run by Terry Miller during the 1978 season . . . The Falcons ran a reverse on the opening kickoff and Antone Smith returned the ball 40 yards to midfield . . . The Bills sacked Falcons QB Matt Ryan three times in the first half. Backup defensive end Jerry Hughes had two of the takedowns . . . Toronto mayor Rob Ford attended the game wearing a No. 22 Bills Fred Jackson jersey . . . The Bills rushed for 139 yards in the first half, five more than they averaged for an entire game over the first 11 games
By Scott Pitoniak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: December 1, 2013 09:56:54 PM
Falcons use turnovers to beat Bills in OT
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