Bills/Falcons: Game Balls and Goats

It was another sad display for the Bills Sunday in Atlanta. Buffalo was dominated from start to finish in a 31-3 drubbing. Matt Ryan was sharp. Aaron Schobel recorded a hat trick. Brian Brohm was OK. And Buffalo's offensive line performed at a season's worst level. Full analysis inside...

The Atlanta Falcons remain a team on the rise, one win away from their first-ever back-to-back winning seasons.

The Buffalo Bills remain a team of confusion, with no direction and no hope for the immediate future.

In Sunday's 31-3 obliteration, the Bills were outclassed in every facet of the game. The Falcons stymied Buffalo to a season-low 40 yards rushing. Matt Ryan (250 yards, three touchdowns) picked apart Buffalo's banged-up secondary. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood gashed the Bills' run ‘D' for 120 yards. And, learning on the fly, Brian Brohm was average.

Late-season surge? Not a chance. This team needs a full-scale purge. Here's your weekly dose of game balls and goats:

Game Balls

MATT RYAN

After a turf toe sidelined him for two weeks, Ryan is finishing strong. Clearly, he has the temperament to be an elite quarterback. No situation rattles Ryan. Hooking up with Roddy White, Marty Booker and Michael Jenkins was too easy. He calmly exploited the Bills' poor pass coverage over and over again, stepping into deliberate throws all day. Ryan's third scoring toss, a fade to White, was textbook. Ryan lobbed it to the far corner, Drayton Florence bit, and the rout was on.

Not many quarterbacks have embarrassed the Bills secondary like this. Atlanta struck gold with Matt Ryan.

AARON SCHOBEL

If this was Schobel's last road game, he went out in style. The ninth-year defensive end was a wrecking ball. Schobel had three sacks and a forced fumble, providing Buffalo's only sense of spark.

Schobel's career arch is kind of sad. You feel for him. Throughout his career, the players around Schobel have deteriorated into fringe starters. Yet Schobel has only improved. He had many doubters after signing a contract extension and struggling through injuries. But with his fourth double-digit sack season, it's clear Schobel still has game.

Hopefully he reconsiders this whole retirement thing. Schobel is one the Bills' rare core players on defense. Here's a thought. Maybe he is simply fed up with the organization that has skidded its tires in the mud for a decade and he wants to bail. You know, the 'ol Brett Favre manuever. Whoever is hired as Buffalo's new head coach must talk Schobel into staying. With 78 career sacks, he has been the face of the defense since the turn of the century.

Sunday proved that he still has three or four seasons left, too.

JASON SNELLING

Getting the lion's share of the carries in Michael Turner's absence, Snelling bullied Buffalo for 68 yards on 15 carries. His 17-yard run around the right edge was the Bills' season in a nutshell — nobody was home on a simple off-tackle play. Left defensive end Chris Kelsay washed himself into no man's land. Tackles Spencer Johnson and John McCargo were nowhere near. And Paul Posluszny was Neanderthal-slow getting to Snelling, who raced up the right sideline for what was a crucial run at the time.

Difficult to say where to start in repairing this hapless rush defense. Blame injuries all you want but even healthy guys like Posluszny have been consistently out of position.

Goats

BUFFALO OFFENSIVE LINE

The main culprit for the Bills' pathetic total of 178 yards, 11 first downs and three points. No holes on the ground. Minimal time for Brian Brohm to throw. An overall, sloppy performance. It's not a surprise but is discouraging nonetheless. Buffalo unloaded millions of dollars into players up front the last few seasons. Too bad it was on Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker. Poor financial decisions have caught up to Buffalo big time, something Sunday's blowout magnified to an extreme.

Where Art Thou Jason Peters? He's just one player, but still. It had a very unfortunate domino effect. Fred Jackson finished with 39 yards on 13 carries. If not for his second-efforts, this easily could have been 10 yards. Jackson is fighting for his dear life every carry.

Sounds like a broken record by now but this line is an utter mess.

BRIAN BROHM (sort of)

Let's be clear. It's not fair to label Brohm a "goat" in this lopsided loss. Believe it or not, he was actually OK in completing 17-of-29 passes for 146 yards on a smattering of safe throws. This is mostly an indictment on the front office for putting the offense in such a predicament.

No team should be starting a practice-squad quarterback in December. Contender or pretender. No team should be in such a desperation mode. I guess it's a sign of the times here in Western New York. The Bills are lunging for leftovers — players other teams gave up on. Misfit toys.

One month after toiling on Green Bay's practice squad, Brohm started a NFL game. He had all of three practices with the first-team offense. That is a no-win situation. Anyone expecting a grand kaboom to the Brian Brohm Era Sunday was sorely mistaken (and hopefully admitted to Buffalo General Hospital). Albeit with two picks, Brohm was neither good nor bad Sunday. For him, this was all about getting a feel for the speed of the game, mentally and physically — a preseason-type of opportunity. In all likelihood, he'll have an opportunity to compete for the No. 1 job at some point. Getting game action was important.

But as far as the Bills are concerned, it's embarrassing that it got to this point. One more game to go. One game.

thdunne@gmail.com

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