Bills clinch playoff berth, eliminate Falcons with 29-15 win

The AFC East-leading Bills rallied to clinch their third consecutive playoff spot

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Buffalo clinched a playoff berth when Devin Singletary scored two touchdowns rushing in the second half to make up for Josh Allen’s sloppiness in a 29-15 victory over Atlanta that eliminated the Falcons from contention.

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The AFC East-leading Bills rallied to clinch their third consecutive playoff spot. Buffalo (10-6) did so by beating the Falcons, coupled with the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons (7-9) went down swinging in being eliminated from the NFC race to extend their postseason drought to a fourth year in their first season under coach Arthur Smith. The Falcons forced four turnovers, with an injury and COVID-19-depleted secondary intercepting Allen on three consecutive possessions spanning halftime.

Allen did a much better job running than throwing by scoring two touchdowns rushing on a snow-dusted field, and with temperatures in the low 20s.

Buffalo won its third straight and needs only to beat the New York Jets in its finale next weekend to clinch its second consecutive division title — and assure the Bills home-field advantage for the wild-card playoff round.

The Bills didn’t make things easy on themselves. They squandered a 14-2 first-half lead. And the game wasn't decided until the Bills benefited from the Falcons having a touchdown reversed on replay review, compounded by quarterback Matt Ryan being flagged for taunting with 6:07 remaining.

Rather than scoring on a 7-yard run and cutting Buffalo’s deficit to 29-22, officials ruled Ryan’s knee was down at the 1. The taunting penalty then pushed Atlanta back to the 16, where Ryan threw incompletions into the end zone on third and fourth down.

The Bills turned to the ground game once Allen opened the third quarter getting intercepted by Foye Oluokun. Singletary capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 6-yard run, while Allen completed a pass to Cole Beasley for a 2-point conversion to put Buffalo up 22-15. Singletary scored on a 4-yard run on Buffalo’s next possession.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Darren Hall (34) looks on as Buffalo Bills' Devin Singletary (26) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Darren Hall (34) looks on as Buffalo Bills' Devin Singletary (26) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Singletary finished with 23 carries for a career-high 110 yards rushing. Allen, meantime, finished 11 of 26 for 120 yards passing, but had 81 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Allen’s first two interceptions to close the second quarter led to the Falcons scoring 10 points in the final 1:48 to take a 15-14.

Mike Davis capped a five-play, 80-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run following Allen having his pass tipped by Oluokun and getting picked off by Duron Harmon in the end zone. A.J. Terrell’s diving interception then led to Younghoe Koo hitting a 24-yard field goal as time expired.

The Falcons opened the scoring with a safety when Atlanta’s Avery Williams forced Marquez Stevenson to fumble a punt return. Buffalo’s Jake Kumerow didn’t recover until he was tackled in the end zone.

Atlanta’s roster was thinned by COVID-19 with nine players on the reserve list, a group which included starting safety Jaylinn Hawkins. The Falcons’ secondary was also further depleted with cornerback Fabian Moreau sidelined by rib injuries.

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PITTS IS IT

Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts set the franchise rookie record for yards receiving and became the NFL’s second rookie tight end to top 1,000 yards receiving. Pitts finished with two catches for 69 yards before being limited by a hamstring injury in the second half.

With 1,018 yards receiving, he broke the team’s rookie record set by Julio Jones, who had 959 yards in 2011. Pitts also inched within 58 yards of the NFL record set in 1961 by Mike Ditka for rookie tight ends.

HONORING MADDEN

Bills WR Stefon Diggs paid tribute to John Madden by having the Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster’s likeness printed on his cleats. Madden died this week and Diggs chooses a different design on his cleats each week based on what he feels is relevant.

Diggs was first introduced to Madden through his NFL video game, and then grew up watching him on television broadcasts.

UP NEXT

Falcons: close at home against NFC South rival New Orleans on Sunday.

Bills: close at home against the AFC East rival Jets on Sunday.