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Three gut reactions to Falcons contest vs. Buffalo Bills

Falcons eliminated from playoff contention with 29-15 loss to Bills


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Well, now it's official.

The Falcons have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They had to beat Buffalo on Sunday but couldn't do it, suffering a 29-15 loss here at Highmark Stadium.

They played meaningful football into January but will wrap the season looking to best the rival Saints at home and not much else.

The road team played the AFC East leaders tough all game, in the wind and the cold and the snow, but didn't have enough to complete the upset.

Let's dive right into what stood out in dramatic affair, with three gut reactions to the Falcons loss.

Offense can't do enough

The Falcons got points from special teams. They got turnovers from the defense. They got a few scoring drives from the offense, often set up by turnovers. The attacking unit, however, didn't do enough to hang with the Buffalo Bills over the course of four quarters.

They kept (metaphorically) asking the defense to make big plays and keep the team in it. Eventually those requests went unfulfilled against a dynamic offense and tough, mobile quarterback Josh Allen.

The offense really struggled in the second half, when it became apparent Kyle Pitts couldn't continue due to a hamstring injury. Despite carrying a slim lead into the halftime break, the Bills built a two-score lead early in the fourth quarter.

That's when the Bills pass rush really cranked up, though they routinely beat the Falcons offensive line all day long. The Falcons still found a way to work the ball down the field, only to be rebuffed by a wild sequence of events where Matt Ryan had a rushing touchdown, then got called for touchdown after the score, only to have points taken off the board when he was ruled down at the 1-yard line, then had penalty yards applied to set up 3rd-and-goal from the 15.

The Falcons couldn't score, which essentially iced victory for the Bills. There were opportunities to score that were missed earlier in the game that could've impacted the outcome or put the team in a better and more competitive space.

Defense continues creating impactful turnovers

The Falcons defense closed out last week's win over Detroit. Foye Oluokun made a dramatic interception in the red zone with a minute remaining when a touchdown would've won it.

It extended a run of impactful turnovers that resulted in wins and/or touchdowns. That run continued on Sunday, with the defense intercepting Josh Allen three times to keep the Falcons in it.

Duron Harmon made one in the end zone. The Falcons scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Them A.J. Terrell got a pick. The Falcons got a field goal out of that one. Then Foye Oluokun joined the party, though the Falcons didn't score off of that.

All three of those picks took away a Bills possession a chance to score in a game that was close. That's all you can ask of a defense that, while still flawed, has improved over the course of the season and gotten better taking the ball away.

Coordinator Dean Pees said takeaways have increased because players have a better understanding of the coverage scheme, and therefore better execution of it. That has helped tremendously and is something that should carry over to next season despite some expected roster turnover defense. There will be enough continuity to aid and improve understanding of the scheme, though talent upgrades are required for the defense to take required steps.

Kyle Pitts is something special

Kyle Pitts just keeps breaking records. He now owns the franchise record for receiving yards as a rookie and went over 1,000 yards with a 61-yard catch and run down the sideline, which setup a Falcons touchdown. He bested a rookie best previously set by Julio Jones, with Mike Ditka's all-time record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end now in his sights.

The records, and the play that broke them, shows why Pitts is such a special player. He made a contested catch, broke an arm tackle and then showed great speed working the ball downfield. He's a high-energy player who can line up anywhere and do most anything, proving time and again that he was worthy of the No. 4 overall pick.

Head coach Arthur Smith has said a few times that Pitts is just scratching the surface. If that's true, he has a truly dynamic and productive career ahead of him.

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