ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have taken to calling kicker Stephen Hauschka "Hausch Money" and for good reason. Hauschka has kicked four field goals from beyond 53 yards in the last two weeks, and his two against the Falcons - 56- and 55-yarders in the fourth quarter - provided the winning margin in the 23-17 victory.
"I'm hitting the ball well, and just everything is coming together," Hauschka said. "It feels great. I knew I was capable of these types of things, and the mind is powerful. I'm just trusting myself, believing in myself and having fun out there."
His teammates are loving him. "Hauschka's the man," guard Richie Incognito said. "He's a true professional. The guy works his butt off. He's probably the hardest-working kicker I've ever been around. He's passionate about it, and you know, we believe in him. When he makes those kicks, man, I mean they're huge for the team. It changes the whole tenor of the game."
The Bills have hit their first injury crisis of the season. After three games, the only starting players who had missed time were offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Sunday against the Falcons, that changed.
"We've got some adversity with injuries," head coach Sean McDermott said Monday. He revealed that linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Jordan Matthews both incurred broken thumbs in the game and were undergoing surgery Monday. Also, special teamer Colt Anderson broke his forearm and is also having surgery. There was no timetable on any of the players, but it's clear Matthews and Humber will miss multiple weeks, and Anderson could be done for the year.
Glenn sat out again due to his lingering foot and ankle problems, and defensive end Shaq Lawson joined him on the inactive list with a groin injury. Their status for this week won't be updated until later.
Rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White continues to impress. He had another excellent game in Atlanta, and one week after recording his first NFL interception against Denver, he scored his first NFL touchdown when he scooped a Matt Ryan fumble and raced 52 yards to the end zone.
"The success he's had is not a mistake, it's not happenstance," McDermott said of his first first-round pick as an NFL head coach.
On the play, it looked like Ryan's arm was going forward and the play that was ruled a fumble early in the third quarter would be reversed to an incomplete pass. White never heard a whistle so he grabbed the bounding ball and took off. Replay confirmed it to be a fumble.
"That's what we are coached to do every play; when the ball is on the ground, you scoop and score," said White. "That's what we do every day at practice. I sort of ran and started jogging at first, but I didn't hear the whistle so I just ran full speed."
REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C - It certainly wasn't a prolific day for Tyrod Taylor (12 of 20, 182 yards), but there were several positives to draw. He threw downfield as much in this game as he had in the first three; he found TE Charles Clay for a couple of big plays; and he did not turn the ball over for the third straight game. There are still major issues with the receiving corps, and it only gets worse now that head coach Sean McDermott announced Monday that Jordan Matthews has to have thumb surgery and will be gone multiple weeks. Rookie Zay Jones continues to struggle to get open, and he had a big drop on a deep ball. He has only four catches for 57 yards this season.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus - Better than it was the last two weeks, but still not where the Bills want to be. LeSean McCoy ran for 76 yards on 20 carries and that limited success was directly attributable to an offensive line that rose up to a big challenge. The 19-play field-goal drive in the second half was epic; it turned the game in Buffalo's favor, and the key was the run game. Oddly, Taylor didn't have a very good day running as the Falcons defense was sharp in its preparation for his bootlegs and designed keepers.
--PASS DEFENSE: A-minus - The Bills continue to excel against the pass, and this time it came against a top-notch quarterback in Matt Ryan. True, it helped that both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu didn't play in the second half for the Falcons, but still, the Bills did an excellent job. SS Micah Hyde had two outstanding interceptions, CB Tre'Davious White had the presence of mind to scoop a loose ball that some players just assumed was an incomplete pass and run 52 yards for a touchdown. And Jerry Hughes was a constant source of angst for Ryan as he had six hurries that included a sack/forced fumble, the one White recovered for the score.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C - Atlanta was able to pile up 149 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per attempt as the Bills had some problems with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. DT Marcell Dareus played only 29 percent of the snaps as he was coming back from an ankle injury, and the Bills were also without DE Shaq Lawson who has been strong against the run all season. LB Preston Brown was in on 10 tackles, and LB Ramon Humber was in on six before he suffered a broken thumb that will sideline him.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus - Stephen Hauschka has been a revelation for the Bills. He has now made four field goals beyond 50 yards in the last two games, and his 55- and 56-yarders in the fourth quarter provided the winning margin against the Falcons. Punter Colton Schmidt had a nice day with a 45.3 net average and he had one 60-yarder that helped shift field position. The only letdown came at a bad time, in the fourth quarter when the kickoff team allowed the Falcons' Andre Roberts to go 61 yards when it was still a three-point game, but three plays later Hyde picked off Ryan to kill the threat and cover the mistake.
--COACHING: A-plus - Sean McDermott has the Bills fully engaged and buying into everything he's teaching. He has his team ready to play every week, and they rarely make the dumb mistakes that have often derailed previous Bills teams. Rarely, but not always. McDermott admitted Monday the Bills had only 10 men on the field on Atlanta's final play due to a substitution mistake, but the Bills survived. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison discovered that throwing the ball downfield can be useful, and he smartly found ways to get Charles Clay deep a few times. On defense, Leslie Frazier has turned the Bills into a smart, fundamentally sound group that doesn't wilt in the big moments, and makes big plays when they are there to be made. Tremendous job.