Final score, recap, highlights: Buffalo Bills 29, Atlanta Falcons 15

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  • Matt Ryan
    Matt Ryan
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  • Josh Allen
    Josh Allen
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  • Devin Singletary
    Devin Singletary
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ORCHARD PARK - The Buffalo Bills cannot clinch their second consecutive AFC East division championship Sunday afternoon, even if they defeat the Atlanta Falcons at snowy Highmark Stadium.

They can, however, wrap up a playoff berth if they do the expected and beat Atlanta and get some help in Baltimore. If the Rams can defeat the Ravens, who will be playing without star quarterback Lamar Jackson, that secures a berth in the top seven in the AFC for Buffalo.

Should the Ravens find a way to beat a Rams team that still has a lot to play for as it tries to secure the NFC West title and is still alive for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC, another scenario could also get the Bills into the postseason.

Here's what the field looks like at 11 a.m., two hours before the Bills and Falcons kick off.
Here's what the field looks like at 11 a.m., two hours before the Bills and Falcons kick off.

They would need for both the Chargers to lose at home to the Broncos, and the Raiders to lose to at the Colts, and that daily double is entirely possible.

More: Keys to the game and Sal’s prediction for Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons

More: After some early-season sputtering, Devin Singletary has started to find his groove

Bills vs. Falcons: Here's what McDermott, players are saying

I’ll be providing updates all day long from the stadium so please bookmark this page.

Final: Buffalo Bills 29, Atlanta Falcons 15

Buffalo outscored Atlanta 15-0 in the second half to clinch a playoff spot. The Bills finished with 233 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns.

Devin Singletary rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and Josh Allen added 81 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Matt Ryan flagged for costly taunting call, TD taken off board - 5:42 4th quarter

Matt Ryan appeared to dive into the end zone for a score. It was initially ruled a touchdown and Ryan was called for a taunting penalty for saying something to Jordan Poyer after the play. After review, Ryan was called short of the goal line so instead of a touchdown with the penalty on the kickoff, it pushed Atlanta back to third-and-goal from the Bills' 16. Ryan threw to straight incomplete passes and the Buffalo defense held.

Bills going old school on a snowy day, pounding the ground game - Bills 29, Falcons 15

Cleary recognizing that it hasn’t been Josh Allen’s day passing, Brian Daboll has leaned hard into the ground game and it is working.

Devin Singletary banged in for his second touchdown of the half, a four-yarder that capped a punishing 12-play, 65-yard drive that consumed 7:18 off the clock.

Singletary and Allen repeatedly hammered the Falcons defense, and wit 10:46 to, Singletary has 91 yards rushing and Allen 82, and they have split four touchdowns.

Bills get running game going, regain lead on Devin Singletary TD - Bills 22, Falcons 15

Josh Allen is having a terrible time throwing the ball, and perhaps that’s why offensive coordinator Brian Daboll stuck to the ground on Buffalo’s second possession of the third quarter and the result was a six-yard go-ahead touchdown run by Devin Singletary.

On the 11-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 6:36, Singletary carried seven time for 41 yards including a hard-charging 20-yarder that got things rolling Allen also contributed some key gains on the ground and the only pass he threw was a nine-yard to Cole Beasley.

Allen then hit Beasley with a two-point conversion to make it 22-15.

Josh Allen opens second half with another interception - 14:01 3rd quarter

Josh Allen has three interceptions in the last three possessions. Allen was looking for Stefon Diggs, linebacker Mykal Walker tipped it and linebacker Foyesade Oluokun got the interception. Oluokun returned it 18 yards to the Bills' 25-yard line.

Atlanta went backward. Cordarrelle Patterson lost 3 yards on a carry, Matt Ryan was sacked by defensive tackle Ed Oliver and the Falcons punted into the end zone.

Inexplicably, the Bills are trailing at halftime - Falcons 15, Bills 14

Thanks to an egregious series of events to close out the first half, the Bills are now trailing the Falcons 15-14 at the break in a game that is only this way because of Buffalo’s repeated mistakes.

The latest was a second consecutive terrible interception by Josh Allen, this one by A.J. Terrell at the Falcons 44, and from there, Matt Ryan moved Atlanta quickly downfield to set up Younghoe Koo for a 24-yard field goal. The big play was a third-and-10 conversion on a 15-yard pass to Mike Davis.

The Bills committed three turnovers in the first 30 minutes, and all three were damaging. And now, a game that they should be coasting to victory in, is likely going to be a fight to the finish.

Buffalo turns it over for the third time of first half - 1:06 2nd quarter

Josh Allen threw his second interception in as many passes. Allen missed Cole Beasley and it was picked by A.J. Terrell, who returned it 4 yards to the Falcons' 44. Allen has two rushing touchdowns but has completed 8 of 20 passes for 88 yards and two interceptions.

Just like that, Falcons are back in the game - Bills 14, Falcons 12

As momentum swings go, the Bills just experienced a pretty big one, and it did not go in their favor.

Josh Allen threw an ill-advised pass that was tipped and then intercepted in the end zone by Duron Harmon which cost the Bills at least three points, maybe seven. One play later, superb rookie tight end Kyle Pitts caught a Matt Ryan pass, broke a tackle and ran 61 yards to the Buffalo 19.

From there, Mike Davis carried on four straight plays before banging into the end zone from the two and now the Bills lead has been cut to 14-12.

That’s two big, big mistakes by Buffalo - the first being the fumbled punt for a safety - and the Falcons, who probably have no business being in the game, are as halftime approaches.

Atlanta picks off pass in end zone for full Josh Allen experience - 3:20 4th quarter

Josh Allen tried to do too much. On third-and-8 at the Atlanta 10-yard line, Allen bought time with his feet but forced a ball intended for wide receiver Cole Beasley. The pass was deflected and intercepted by safety Duron Harmon for a touchback. Allen escaped for a 16-yard run earlier in the drive and the Bills had a failed trick play with a reverse to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who wanted to pass but was taken down for a 2-yard loss.

Matt Ryan puts together drive to cut Falcons deficit to 14-5

The Bills defense stiffened in the red zone after Atlanta marched downfield without much resistance, and the Falcons had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo with 10:08 left in the second quarter.

The Falcons were able to get some chunk plays on the ground, and two Buffalo penalties also helped their cause as Eli Ankou jumped offside and Ed Oliver was flagged for a rather dubious roughing the passer penalty. Then again, in today’s NFL, aren’t they all dubious?

Greg Rousseau strip sack turns into Bills touchdown - Bills 14, Falcons 2

The Bills’ first-round pick has been pretty invisible since he made that great interception off Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes way back in Week 5, but he announced himself in the first quarter of this game.

Rousseau blew through the Falcons line to sack Matt Ryan and force a fumble which Harrison Phillips recovered at the 18. Six plays later, and one critical coach’s challenge that worked out, and Josh Allen scored his second rushing touchdown on a designed three-yard sweep.

Gabriel Davis made a great catch on third-and-10 that was ruled a catch, then was turned over, and then was reviewed on replay and changed back to a catch. That gave the Bills first-and-goal at the 6, and now Buffalo is up 14-2.

Bills force Matt Ryan fumble, recover in red zone - 2:27 1st quarter

Buffalo sacked Matt Ryan for the second time of the first quarter and he coughed up the ball. Rookie defensive end Gregory Rousseau got the strip sack and it was recovered by defensive tackle Harrison Phillips at the Falcons' 18-yard line.

Bills take 7-2 lead with long TD drive on first possession

The Bills offense finally got its first opportunity following the Atlanta safety, and Josh Allen came out firing as he directed a 15-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 6:10 of the first quarter.

They caught a break when the Falcons were called for a pass interference penalty on a fourth-down Allen incompletion, and then Allen scampered in for the TD on second down.

Allen was 6 of 12 for 65 yards, and while some of the completions were nice throws, he also threw a few poor passes. All in all, the result is the result and it’s 7-2 Bills, but that certainly wasn’t the most artistic drive we’ve seen from him.

Atlanta takes 2-0 lead on fumbled punt, safety

Buffalo made the first big mistake of the game. Rookie Marquez Stevenson fumbled a punt inside the 15-yard line after he was hit by Avery Williams. Buffalo's Jake Kumerow recovered the scrum for the ball in the end zone to give the Falcons a safety. Had an Atlanta player jumped on the ball it would've been a Falcons touchdown. Bills coach Sean McDermott and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie each chatted with Stevenson on the sideline after the miscue.

Atlanta's offense couldn't do anything with the free kick, going three-and-out and punting out of bounds at the Bills' 31-yard line.

Buffalo native, UB grad Steven Means holds a lengthy grudge

The Buffalo News contacted Falcons edge rusher Steven Means and the native of Buffalo who played high school ball at Grover Cleveland and played for the hometown UB Bulls is still mad the Bills didn’t draft him back in 2013.

“I grew up in the heart, in the inner city of Buffalo, New York,” Means said. “I played little league football in the old Bills stadium at Johnnie B. Wiley (field on the site of War Memorial Stadium). I went to a Buffalo public school growing up, elementary and high school. I went to the University at Buffalo. When it was too cold to practice outside, we went to the Bills’ stadium. I had my pro day at the Bills’ stadium. Came to work out at the Bills’ stadium. Made a name for myself at that pro day. And growing up a diehard Bills fan and to not wind up there and let rounds and rounds and rounds pass by – it’s another little chip on my shoulder.”

Means was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Buccaneers and he has also played for the Ravens, Eagles and Falcons. All 27 of his NFL starts have come since he went to Atlanta in 2019.

“Stephen Means is just a great professional, and I know that term gets thrown around and it can be subjective, but what Stephen does, he’s a very smart, instinctive football player,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith told western New York reporters during a conference call. “He plays special teams. A great guy in the locker room, provides authentic leadership. He’s productive. He’s a good, quality edge. Those guys hang around for a long time. They understand how to play.”

Emmanuel Sanders tops Bills inactive list

One of the questions that kept popping up during the week centered around the Bills’ receiving corps, and how would they deploy everyone now that both Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were cleared to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Part of the equation was settled Sunday morning when the Bills announced that Emmanuel Sanders would not play, presumably because of his sore knee.

Sanders missed the second half at Tampa Bay and all of the Carolina game with the injury, but he was able to play last week at New England and caught two passes for 20 yards as the Bills were without Davis and Beasley.

During the practice week, Sanders was listed as a limited participant during the Wednesday walk through, and then did not work on Thursday and Friday which was an indication that he’d be out against Atlanta.

The other question Sunday will be how the Bills use Isaiah McKenzie after his career game against the Patriots while filling in for Beasley. The expectation is that Stefon Diggs, Davis and Beasley will be the primary three-man group, but McKenzie can’t be ignored after what he provided in the big victory over New England.

Incredibly, the Bills have no one on the COVID list despite the rampant outbreak that is overwhelming western New York so their inactives are injury-based, or healthy scratches.

Joining Sanders on the inactive list are running back Matt Breida, offensive lineman Bobby Hart, defensive linemen Boogie Basham and Vernon Butler, and tight end Tommy Sweeney.

Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who has missed several games for various reasons, is active, as is defensive end A.J. Epenesa who is off the COVID list, so that that’s why Basham and Butler are down.

Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano is also active, but it’s uncertain whether he will return to the starting lineup at left guard ahead of Ryan Bates who filled in so capably last week when Ike Boettger got hurt. Feliciano can serve in the Bates role as the primary backup to the three interior positions.

Weather is typical for January

Hey, wouldn’t you know it, winter has arrived in western New York. You knew it was coming at some point, and Sunday, the Falcons - a dome team from the south - will have to deal with temperatures in the high 20s and an annoying snow that right now, two hours before kickoff, has the field lightly covered

The one thing you always look for on these days isn’t so much the cold and snow, though, it’s the wind because that’s what impacts play the most. And it looks like there’s a breeze, but nothing too problematic for either Josh Allen or Matt Ryan to worry about.

Conditions are supposed to remain this way for most of the day, though trying to predict what might happen in Orchard Park even 30 minutes down the line is sometimes tricky. Suffice it to say, this isn’t the hurricane-like Patriots game from a month ago, nor is it the Colts snowmageddon game from 2017.

How to watch, listen to Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons game

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Highmark Stadium

TV: FOX (Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin)

Satellite radio: Sirius 103, XM 234

Radio: 96.5 FM/950 AM

Series: Falcons lead 7-5.

Tipico betting line: Bills -13.5

Talking points

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works in the pocket against the Detroit Lions during the first half Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Atlanta.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works in the pocket against the Detroit Lions during the first half Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Atlanta.

► Falcons coach Arthur Smith on the Bills: “They're really good football team. They have been. A little familiarity there with playing the last couple of years when I was in Tennessee. Good scheme, fast defense, they've invested a lot in that front seven. So, they're the No. 1-ranked defense in the league for a reason. Explosive players on offense. They present a lot of problems. We’ve got to play really well to go up there on the road in Buffalo.”

► Falcons QB Matt Ryan on Josh Allen’s playing style: “He's got a different build than I do. He's got a little more size to him, he's got a little more, probably, wherewithal able to withstand some of the things that he does. In what I've watched of him, I've always just been impressed. He's tough, there's no question about it. But his ability to extend plays and use his legs to make plays have been critical for their team for a couple of years.”

► Falcons TE Kyle Pitts on nearing 1,000 yards receiving: “It means a lot to me because I personally think (Tony Gonzalez) is the best (tight end) ever. Just looking at all the tight ends that came before me, he was a guy I liked watching. I would have never thought of 1,000 yards. That’s a lot of yards. Always striving to be the best, but I would have thought 1,000 would be a little tough.”

NFL rankings

Bills Falcons

Total offense: 381.2 yards (6th); 309.5 (25th)

Rush offense: 120.4 yards (11th); 86.2 (31st)

Pass offense: 260.8 yards (7th); 223.3 (16th)

Points scored: 28.5 (3rd); 18.5 (25th)

Total defense: 287.9 yards (1st); 364.9 (24th)

Rush defense: 114.8 yards (17th); 120.9 (22nd)

Pass defense: 173.1 yards (1st); 244.0 (23rd)

Points allowed: 17.6 (3rd); 26.7 (28th)

Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons individual leaders

Rushing

Bills: Devin Singletary 146 carries, 672 yards; Josh Allen 102-619; Zack Moss 86-298; Matt Breida 26-125; Isaiah McKenzie 7-34; Emmanuel Sanders 2-31; Mitchell Trubisky 10-27.

Falcons: Cordarelle Patterson 140-579; Mike Davis 124-431; Wayne Gallman 28-104; Matt Ryan 37-73; Qadree Ollison 17-67.

Passing

Bills: Josh Allen 374 of 575, 4,048 yards, 34 TDs,12 interceptions.

Falcons: Matt Ryan 342 of 504, 3,555 yards, 19 TDs, 11 interceptions.

Receiving

Bills: Stefon Diggs 89 catches, 1,092 yards; Cole Beasley 76-640; Dawson Knox 46-538; Emmanuel Sanders 42-626; Devin Singletary 38-204; Gabriel Davis 29-470; Zack Moss 21-191; Isaiah McKenzie 18-163; Tommy Sweeney 9-44; Matt Breida 7-72.

Falcons: Kyle Pitts 64-949; Russell Gage 54-594; Cordarelle Patterson 49-523; Mike Davis 40-246; Calvin Ridley 31-281; Olamide Zaccheaus 26-351; Tajae Sharp 25-230; Hayden Hurst 25-188; Lee Smith 9-65; Keith Smith 8-53.

2021 Buffalo Bills schedule

9/12 vs. Steelers, L 16-23

9/19 at Dolphins, W 35-0

9/26 vs. Washington, W 43-21

10/3 vs. Texans, W 40-0

10/10 at Chiefs, W 38-20

10/18 at Titans, L 31-34

10/24 Bye week

10/31 vs. Dolphins, W 26-11

11/7 at Jaguars, L 6-9

11/14 at Jets, W 45-17

11/21 vs. Colts, L 15-41

11/25 at Saints, W 31-6

12/6 vs. Patriots, L 10-14

12/12 at Buccaneers, L 27-33 OT

12/19 vs. Panthers, W 31-14

12/26 at Patriots, W 33-21

1/2 vs. Falcons, 1 p.m.

1/9 vs. Jets, 1 p.m.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills 29, Atlanta Falcons 15: Final score, recap, highlights

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