1 – Secondary and Hughes can change gamesA couple of weeks ago the Bills got six sacks, but no turnovers in a 9-3 loss to Carolina. The mantra going forward was takeaways. On Sunday in their upset win at Atlanta, Buffalo forced three turnovers as 'Jerry and the Takers' went the other way with the ball.
Hughes had a strip sack and forced fumble early in the third quarter on a 3rd-and-9 that rookie Tre'Davious White took the other way for a 52-yard fumble return touchdown.
"I got off the ball really well, I was just watching the tackle's hands," said Hughes. "I was able to kind of beat him on the edge. I really wanted to just lunge and grab that quarterback's arm. That's one thing that (defensive line) Coach (Mike) Waufle has preached. We have numerous drills throughout the week where we actually work on strip-sacks. So, to see the drill actually hit the game field, Tre did exactly what we do every week—scoop high and tight and go score. It was fabulous."
"That's something we're coached on every day. Coach McDermott and our other coaches do a great job. When the ball is on the ground we scoop and score every day at practice," said White. "That's just something that's embedded in us since phase one. I was sort of jogging at first, but I didn't hear a whistle so I just started running full speed and the play stood."
The play gave Buffalo a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter. On the ensuing Falcons possession, Matt Ryan unloaded a deep pass downfield that was thrown outside. Micah Hyde had perfect leverage on the intended receiver and made the interception.
It led to a field goal for Buffalo and a 17-10 lead.
With Atlanta trailing late in the fourth quarter 20-17, on a 3rd-and-17 at the Buffalo 49, Hughes again got pressure on Ryan, whose hurried throw was tipped and intercepted by Hyde who made a shoe string catch.
"That's Jerry Hughes. He does that every day in practice," said Hyde of the Bills premier pass rusher. "One of the best in the league at it. It's a work of art just watching him especially on the back end watching him just get to the quarterback. He's making these 320-pound offensive tackles look like fools, look like little boys and it's amazing to see and he does it every day. It's just awesome."
"Coach Frazier had just talked about it, coming out of the locker room at halftime hungry for some turnovers," said Hughes. "If we wanted to be a playoff caliber team and be any type of defense, we need to force turnovers on the road. I was just happy that it worked out in our favor."
2 – Bills not awed by top shelf competitionThe Bills got a nice win last week against a team with a championship caliber defense, but this Sunday was a major step up. The defending NFC Champions were averaging almost 30 points a game through the first three weeks and have All-Pro talent all over the field on both sides of the ball. What we learned is not only can Buffalo's roster handle it, they thrive on facing that kind of competition.
We asked several defensive players what it was like in the huddle up 23-17 with Atlanta's high-octane offense inside Buffalo's 10-yard line.
"We were saying, 'Let's go,'" said Hyde. "We wouldn't want to have it any other way. We love that stuff man. It starts with coach McDermott. He preaches little stuff like that, just competing. That's the greatest moment you can have in this game. Fourth down with their offense out there and down by six and they need to score a touchdown. We had to go out there and make a play and we were able to."
The defense not only sniffed out the play action, but had all the eligible receivers covered. In the end, it was Matt Ryan who panicked, throwing an errant ball out into the right flat incomplete to end Atlanta's threat and seal the win for Buffalo.
"Just stay composed, stay in the moment," said Jordan Poyer. "What a great moment it was for our defense. In a 4th-and-1 and the game on the line, that just speaks to how hard we've been working all season long. The guys on this team, it just speaks for a lot of the guys on this team man. We fought really hard and I'm really proud of them."
3 – Hausch-moneyWe already saw the kind of leg that Stephen Hauschka has in the Week 3 win over the Broncos when he had 53 and 55-yard field goals in the 10-point victory. He earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. On Sunday, he upped the ante.
In a tie game, late in the fourth quarter Hauschka buried 56 and 55-yard kicks to the groans of the Falcons fans watching. He accounted for the game-winning points for Buffalo and three more insurance points in the win.
"That's exactly the situation I want to be in as a kicker," Hauschka told Buffalobills.com. "Good conditions once again and we kind of set our lines before the game. For me then it was just about staying mentally sharp and focused. And knowing that if I put a good leg swing on it, it's going to go through."
Hauschka's teammates have already got a nickname for him, calling him Hausch-money like 'house money.'
Head coach Sean McDermott must feel like he's playing with house money when he can trot Hauschka out onto the field and he's making attempts that are barely beyond midfield.
It also must be good peach of mind for Tyrod Taylor when a drive stalls shy of the opponent's 35-yard line.
"It's big time. Hausch has been doing a great job of making those conversions," said Taylor. "He came to me at halftime and told me where his spot was on the field where he needed to get too and I figured it was a little deeper this week just because it was indoors without the elements and just being outside. So, I kept it in mind. We want to finish drives with six points, but definitely having him there is a good thing."
"This is what I prepared for all offseason," Hauschka said. "All training camp this is where the work pays off. Just to have that mental focus, that endurance, those great leg swings. That's what it's all about. This team is going places. It feels great."
Check out photos of the 2017 Buffalo Bills playing the Atlanta Falcons.