Brian Brohm did his level best, but another injury on the offensive line and an inconsistent running game left Buffalo's offense punchless in a 31-3 loss to Atlanta at the Georgia Dome Sunday. The Falcons had just a 10-point halftime lead, but Buffalo's offense was never able to reach the Atlanta red zone in another game where stringing positive plays together was a struggle.
"I thought our guys fought we just didn't have the firepower to make the game that we wanted to make it," said interim head coach Perry Fewell. "I thought we came out and battled in the first half and we had a couple of turnovers that led to points (for them) and they got the momentum going and we could never get momentum going. Every time we made a play it seemed like we hurt ourselves."
"It's hard to win games period if you're going three-and-out," said Terrell Owens. "There were some drives we had and we didn't capitalize. We had some things going, but it's just been that way all year. It's tough. We're fighting throughout the games. We're just not executing."
The closest the Bills offense got to Atlanta's end zone was the Falcons 23-yard line, when Buffalo put their only points on the board in the game, a 42-yard field goal by Rian Lindell down 24-0.
"With the field goal I wanted points on the board," said Fewell. "I was not leaving here without points on the board. I felt if we could just get some points maybe we could back that up with some more points. I was trying to get momentum with that situation."
Part of the problem was poor field position for almost the entire game. Buffalo's average drive start was their own 19-yard line on 11 total possessions.
The other problem was Buffalo's run game was completely shut down managing just 40 yards, a season low. As a team the Bills averaged 2.2 yards per carry. Fred Jackson had just 39 yards on the ground.
"That was one thing we set out to do, try to control the game on the ground and get some quick passes," said Lee Evans. "But another lineman went down so we brought in another guy. It just didn't really work like we had planned for it to work."
"Obviously if you have a young quarterback like that they're going to load the box, because the thing we can do well is run the football," said Fewell. "So they loaded the box, they dogged inside, they stunted inside to confuse the blocking scheme if they could and made it real tough for us to run the ball successfully."
The Bills defense could only hold Atlanta at bay for so long as the Falcons padded their 10-0 halftime lead when Matt Ryan hit Marty Booker on a 12-yard slant for a touchdown to make it 17-0 midway through the third quarter.
"We put it on ourselves to help our offense out," said Paul Posluszny. "With a young quarterback in the game we wanted to put the game on our shoulders, not his. Obviously defensively we didn't do that at all. We didn't make the big play to help our offense score. We struggled at times and they were able to move the ball on us more than we expected them to. We played hard and were trying, but it's a tough deal. It's just not coming together for us."
Buffalo then committed a costly turnover deep in their own territory on the ensuing series. On a 2nd-and-10 from the Bills 19-yard line Fred Jackson was stripped of the ball by Chauncey Davis and the loose ball was recovered by Lawrence Sidbury, who took it the remaining 11 yards for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter to put the game well out of reach.
One of the long bright spots on defense was Aaron Schobel's three-sack performance, which also included a pair of forced fumbles. Unfortunately Buffalo was unable to come up with either of them.
Atlanta jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. After the Falcons defense sent the Bills three-and-out, Matt Ryan aired out a 1st-and-10 pass from the Bills 42-yard line that was pulled in by Roddy White for a 42-yard touchdown.
"They jumped on us in a hurry," said Posluszny. "But it was one play, and we still had the whole game. We wanted to bounce back from it and we were ready to get back out there."
The Bills offense got off to a rough start as they went three-and-out on their first two possessions and then five-and-out on their next three. Brian Brohm relied on a short passing game using quick outs and screens to keep the Falcons pass rush at bay in the first half.
"We felt the best way to go was to utilize the short passing game and get some good work out of the run game and be able to nickel and dime them down the field," said Brohm.
"I think he played well," said Evans of Brohm. "I think he adjusted to some of the things they were doing to us. He got the ball out and made some good reads and did what we asked him to do. He made some good throws."
He finished the game 17-29 for 146 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked twice. His longest completion was 15 yards.
"The theme of the game we didn't get very many big plays," said Brohm. "They made more plays than we did and we just couldn't get the big play in any phase of the game."
"We knew we had to focus on the quick game and tried to get the ball out of his hands," said Evans. "They did a good job of trying to bring pressure and drop guys out, and they brought more guys than we could block and they did a good job of getting after us running the football and when we were trying to take our shots."
The Falcons later added a 51-yard Matt Bryant field goal capping a 13-play 47-yard drive for a 10-0 lead. Atlanta had marched all the way to the Buffalo 12-yard line, but a sack and forced fumble by Schobel along with a personal foul penalty backed the Falcons up to the 33.
Buffalo put its longest drive of the first half in the final six minutes of the second quarter. Brohm converted a pair of third downs with short passes of seven and six yards to Lee Evans and Terrell Owens respectively. But the 10-play drive stalled at the Falcons' 37. Facing a 4th-and-3 with 1:49 left in the half the Bills surprisingly punted. Brian Moorman's kick went for a touchback.
"I just felt it was not good range for (Rian Lindell)," said Fewell. "We said in pre-game that if it's outside that landmark then we would make a different decision and not try and kick that field goal and give them field position. So we chose to punt it and I was hoping to try to get it down inside the 10 and try to turn the tide for field position, trying to play field position football at that particular time."
Atlanta had a chance to make it a 13-point lead with five seconds left in the second quarter, but Bryant's 55-yard attempt was blocked by Spencer Johnson. The loose ball was recovered by Justin Jenkins who returned it to the Bills 47, then lateraled to Reggie Corner. He tried to lateral, but fumbled and George Wilson took it the remaining 41 yards to the end zone for what looked like a touchdown. But Corner's knee was ruled down before his fumble negating the play.
With the loss the Bills fell to 5-10 on the season, and have now dropped three of their last four games. Buffalo wraps up the 2009 campaign on Jan. 3 with a home finale against Indianapolis. Kickoff is set for 1 pm.