The Falcons were never supposed to beat the Bills on Sunday. They were two touchdown underdogs to Buffalo, but Atlanta kept it interesting for much of the game. The climax came in the final quarter as the Falcons sat inside the Bills’ ten yard line. On second and goal, Matt Ryan took the snap and scrambled for the goal line; he stretched out and dove across the goal line with Jordan Poyer in pursuit.
The initial call was a touchdown and the Falcons had shrunk Buffalo’s lead to just a touchdown. With snow falling, Ryan was overcome with emotion in an atypical moment for the veteran quarterback. The entire situation came to fruition when Ryan stood up, tossed the ball at Poyer’s feet and made remarks the referees deemed would be taunting.
After the apparent touchdown, the penalty didn’t really matter even if it was Ryan’s first taunting penalty called against him since entering the NFL. I didn’t mind the emotion because the team would’ve likely followed Ryan’s high intensity, and it was a weak call. Well, all scoring plays are reviewed, and the booth deemed Ryan had given himself up prior to crossing the goal line. In what is a new rule for NFL officials, quarterbacks running can give themselves up feet or head first.
Now, that penalty would have detrimental impacts on the Falcons chances of mounting a comeback. The NFL’s enhanced focus on taunting penalities has been a topic of conversation this entire season, and for many, the new rules are too extensive and restrictive in what players can and can’t do. Ryan’s brief exchange with Poyer wouldn’t make anyone’s skin crawl; after all, he’s long been considered a pro’s pro, who has never been an overly demonstrative player.
Even Poyer agreed. After the game, Poyer said, via Ben Tsujimoto of the Buffalo News, that he “didn’t honestly know what the penalty was” and that he’d keep anything Ryan said between them. Without the penalty, the Falcons would’ve had a shot to punch it in on the one yard line. Instead, they were backed up on third and goal to the 16 yard line. After two incompletions, the Bills regained possession of the ball and finished the game. Can the entire loss be pinned on Ryan’s blunder?
No. Ryan immediately addressed the situation, which he clarified he was not giving himself up when he dove head first into the endzone. However, those are the rules. Still, if Ryan did give himself up on the one yard line, the Jordan Poyer hit after the fact should’ve been ruled a late hit. Overcome with emotion, Ryan probably felt he was hit late, which resulted in the quarterback voicing his frustrations to Poyer. It wasn’t malicious by any means, and Ryan agreed.
“Then, you know, football is an emotional game,” Ryan said. “So, there are lots of things that are said out there. I’m disappointed in myself in that the timing costs us. But I didn’t think it was anything that bad.”
I don’t think it was Ryan’s fault at all. If he was down at the one, then it should’ve been ruled a late-hit penalty. Or at the very least, offsetting fouls and replaying the down should’ve ensued. Still, the Falcons drew the short end of the stick and eventually lost the game because of a ticky tacky taunting penalty.