Report card: Bills 23, Falcons 17

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Here are the grades for the Falcons from their 23-17 loss to the Bills before a crowd of 71,273 at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sunday.

The Falcons had three turnovers from quarterback Matt Ryan and dropped to 3-1 headed into their bye week. The Falcons lost their game before the bye week last season, too. The Bills improved to 3-1.

The injuries continued to mount for the Falcons, who lost wide receivers Julio Jones (hip flexor), wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (hamstring), safety Keanu Neal (hand) and defensive tackle Jack Crawford (biceps).

The Falcons were already without four starters in defensive end Vic Beasley (hamstring strain/tear), right tackle Ryan Schraeder (concussion), free safety Ricardo Allen (concussion) and defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw (ankle).

Run offense: Devonta Freeman was held to 58 yards on 18 carries. Tevin Coleman had nine rushes for 79 yards. The Falcons used their "12-Gauge" wildcat formation with Sanu at quarterback and he nearly scored on a 4-yard run. Freeman got in behind left guard Andy Levitre for 1-yard touchdown run on the following play to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead.  Grade: C

Pass offense: Ryan and Coleman connected on a 37-yard wheel route to get the offense moving in the second quarter after Jones left the game with a hip flexor. By halftime, Ryan completed passes to seven different receivers including two to tight end Levine Toilolo. But Jones and Sanu were lost for the game. Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy and Nick Williams tried to pick up the slack. Ryan was intercepted by Micah Hyde on a 50-50 deep ball to Gabriel in the third quarter. Hardy caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 7:00 left to play. Hyde intercepted Ryan again after he tried to squeeze a pass into Nick Williams on third-and-17. The ball clanged off Williams' hands and popped up. Ryan has five interceptions over the past two games. Ryan was 24 of 42 for 242 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a lost fumble. Grade: D

Run defense: When the Bills took a 14-10 lead in the third quarter, the Falcons knew they'd have to stop their rushing attack. The shifty LeSean McCoy was difficult to tackle and quarterback Tyrod Taylor got loose outside the pocket on some timely scrambles as they ran 11:20 minutes off the clock during a 19-play drive. Fullback Pat DiMarco, a former Falcons standout, was a solid lead blocker. The Bills had to settle for a point-blank range field goal to make it 17-10. McCoy and Mike Tolbert combined to rush 28 times for 107 yards for a 3.8 yards per carry average. Grade: B-minus

Pass defense: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews beat cornerback Desmond Trufant for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Matthews was lined up in the right slot and ran a crossing route to the left. Trufant tried to undercut the route, but Taylor's pass was too high. Also, Neal was beaten by Bills tight end Charles Clay for a 44-yard deep ball and rookie free safety Damontae Kazee was too late getting over the top to break up the catch. Neal left the game with a hand injury and was replaced by Sharrod Neasman. Clay was open all day and finished with five catches for 112 yards. Grade: D

Special teams:  Kicker Matt Bryant made a 28-yard field goal. Punter Matt Bosher was solid. The Falcons continued to get penalties on the punt coverage team. Brooks Reed and Neasman was called for penalties. Stephen Hauschka made a 56-yard field goal to put the Bills up 20-17 with 4:44 left to play.  He followed that up with a 55-yarder. Grade: C

Coaching:  The Falcons had to get creative when the starting wide receivers were lost for the game. Running backs Coleman and Freeman had to carry more of the load. Hardy nearly had a costly fumble, but the play was ruled an incompletion. The Bills weren't fooled by a fourth-and-1 play action pass to Gabriel that was incomplete with the Falcons threatening to score in the final minute.  Grade: D

Next up: The Falcons will have a bye week before hosting the Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In Other News