Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons
December, 1, 2013
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
TORONTO -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 34-31 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto:
What it means: No matter the outcome, the Falcons' draft status is sure to be a topic of conversation for the remainder of the season, even if head coach Mike Smith said the draft is not a concern right now. Atlanta, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans all sat at the bottom of the NFL standings entering Sunday. While the Texans lost to the New England Patriots, the Jaguars defeated the Browns. Sunday’s victory wasn't the best-case scenario for eager Falcons fans hoping for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Stock watch: Antone Smith's stock continues to soar. The diminutive running back once again took advantage of his touches. He scored on a 38-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, sweeping to the left and darting through the hole with his blazing speed. Smith also ran 50 yards on a kickoff return after taking a reverse from Jacquizz Rodgers. That’s not to say carries should be taken away from Steven Jackson, who played rather well himself while scoring two rushing touchdowns.
Turn of events: Although the defense gave up some big plays once again, the Falcons managed to create turnovers when they needed them most. Robert McClain forced Bills receiver Stevie Johnson to fumble in the final moments of regulation, allowing the Falcons to force overtime. Then William Moore knocked the ball away from Bills tight end Scott Chandler on the first possession of overtime. The fumble was recovered by rookie Robert Alford, who foolishly lateraled it to teammate Desmond Trufant. Regardless, the Falcons got the ball and were able to win on Matt Bryant’s 36-yard field goal. Moore’s forced turnover turned out to be the difference-maker.
Regaining his form: Roddy White hasn’t been himself most of the season thanks to ankle and hamstring injuries. Now apparently back at full strength, White looked like his old self against the Bills. He surpassed 100 receiving yards for the first time this season and looked fluid running his routes. He finished with 10 catches for 143 yards. White had 80 yards combined on six catches in the three games before the trip to Toronto.
Stumbling back: Quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t help his own cause. On one play from the goal line, Ryan stumbled as he dropped back and fell to the ground. On another, he fumbled an exchange with center Joe Hawley that helped set up a Bills score. Ryan seemed to have trouble with his footwork on a couple of plays. Maybe it was playing on foreign soil, although he said earlier in the week that Canada was no different from any other U.S. city.
What's next: The Falcons have another road matchup, this time against the Green Bay Packers at historic Lambeau Field. Uncertainty remains concerning Aaron Rodgers' status coming off a broken collarbone. If Rodgers is out, the Falcons legitimately have a chance to win. But how will the dome-oriented adjust to life outdoors in the cold?