The Bills beat the Cincinnati Bengals to remain undefeated at 3-0. Counting the preseason, that’s seven wins in a row, and seven times I start with my arrows pointing up.
- First-half defense
The Bills played maybe the best 30 minutes of defense I’ve seen in my now six seasons as the team’s radio sideline reporter. They were absolutely outstanding from the very first snap until the final play of the half. The Bengals totaled 76 yards in the first two quarters. The Bills took the ball away twice and completely suffocated everything Cincinnati wanted to do. QB Andy Dalton did not complete a pass in the first quarter and finished the first half 5-for-14 for only 63 yards. The Bengals’ first half drives number of plays: 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 5, 1.
- RB Frank Gore
The ageless wonder did it again. Gore showed why the Bills still had faith in investing in him and even letting go of LeSean McCoy before the season began. He was shooting through holes and powering his way over the goal line, totaling 76 yards on 14 carries (averaging 5.4 yards/carry), and adding a pair of catches for another 13 yards.
- TE Dawson Knox
Knox had one unfortunate play when he dropped the ball right around the 5 yard line. Other than that, he had two of the biggest plays of the game that help the Bills to victory. First, he came across the formation and got open in the end zone for a 1 yard TD pass from Josh Allen for the game’s first score. Then, when the Bills needed a drive the most, Knox took a pass from Allen, stiff-armed one defender and ran over another on his way to a 49 yard gain, setting up the game-winning TD. He wound up with 3 catches for 67 yards and the TD.
- WR Cole Beasley
Beasley didn’t have overwhelming numbers, but he did exactly what most expected when the Bills signed him – became a security blanket for Josh Allen. Beasley finished the game with 8 catches for 48 yards, and also had the big two-point conversion catch after the first score.
QB Josh Allen making something out of nothing
It was a pretty uneven day for Allen. He did some good things and also some pretty bad ones (see Arrow Down). His positive was making something out of nothing. Several times Allen extended plays with his legs then wound up either running or throwing for a gain. His competitiveness just keeps him looking to make plays even when it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to. And his size and athleticism allows him to make them. Allen’s overall numbers were pretty good, throwing for 23-for-36 (63.9%) for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 9 times for 46 yards, giving him 289 yards of total offense on the day.
- Containing WR John Ross
Bengals receiver John Ross came into the game No. 2 overall in receiving yards, but the Bills held him to just 2 catches for only 22 yards. They did a tremendous job of keeping Ross in front of them and not allowing him to get open down the field.
- CB Tre’Davious White
White had his first career two interception game, and the first multi-interception day by a Bills cornerback since Stephon Gilmore in 2016 (also against the Bengals and QB Andy Dalton). White added a tackle for loss and two passes defended.
- S Micah Hyde
Hyde had a hand in two Bills’ takeaways, starting with a huge strip of the football of John Ross, then tipping the pass White intercepted to seal the game. He also had 5 tackles, inlacing one for a loss.
- DT Jordan Phillips
Phillips was disruptive all game long, finishing with 3 tackles, including two for losses, adding a sack and 2 QB hurries.
- 3rd down defense
The Bengals only converted 3 of their 11 third down chances, which is only 27%.
- Sean McDermott’s 2-point decision
The Bills head coach made a critical, and correct decision to go for two after the Bengals were called rod penalty on an original PAT kick attempt after the first touchdown. The penalty put the ball at the one yard line. The resulting 2-points turned out to be a huge, essentially forcing the Bengals to have to score a TD late instead of just needing a field goal to tie.
- QB Josh Allen’s critical mistakes
As mentioned above, Allen’s competitiveness and mentality allow him to make plays others can’t. But those traits can also often lead to bad decisions and plays, and he had several of those, including a fumble he lost, but luckily the Bengals defender had a foot out of bounds, and then a horrible decision to throw a pass while falling backwards and no real chance to complete. It was intercepted. Allen’s “hero ball” instincts have shown up in some way in each of the first three games so far. Sunday, it finally bit him and almost contributed to costing a loss.
- 4th quarter defense
The Bills defense was pretty amazing in the first half. They were very good in the third quarter, but looked like a different unit in the final period, and not for the better. The Bengals started to get their run game going, which led to some big pass plays, as well. Cincinnati rolled up 189 yards just in the fourth quarter. They only had 117 the entire other three quarters combined.
- RB T.J. Yeldon’s fumble
With the Bills up 11-0 early in the second half, they had a chance to really pull away with a first down at the Bengals 15-yard line. T.J. Yeldon ran left and fumbled the ball away.
- Too many runs to Isaiah McKenzie
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll went to the well one too many times when he called an end-around to McKenzie on 3rd and 1 on a critical third quarter drive. McKenzie was stopped for a 3-yard loss, and the Bills punted. It was the third handoff to McKenzie and second in three plays.
THE BIG PICTURE
We’ve all heard it already by now: “well, if the Bills play that way against the Patriots, they’ll get killed.” That’s probably right. Or how about, “they haven’t read played anybody good.” That may be right, too.
Yep. The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions and really good once again. And the combined records of the teams the Bills have beaten so far is 1-8. But here’s the thing – none of that has anything to do with beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. And none of it takes away any of the three wins they’ve had so far.
Know who else is 3-0 and hasn’t beaten anyone good? The Patriots. In fact, the combined records of the teams they’ve played is 0-9. Obviously, no one thinks the Pats aren’t good, but you get the point, which is, none of that matters when either team wakes up Monday morning and gets ready to play one another next week.
All the Bills – or anyone – can do is play the teams on their schedule and try to win every game. And so far they’ve done that, and once again did it in a totally different fashion than either of the first two wins. Week one, beat the Jets by coming from behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Week two, beat the Giants by controlling most of the game. Week three, beat the Bengals after taking control early, then losing the lead late and rallying for the win.
Ugly wins, pretty wins, escaping with a win. It doesn’t matter how you want to term it, if the word “win” is included, it’s good. Sunday was a good day for the Bills. They improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2011. But now we know what it’s like to feel high expectations. The Bills were 6-point favorites in this game. A lot of people felt they’d have an easy time with the Bengals and had already moved on to the Patriots in one week. But Cincinnati had other ideas and almost spoiled the entire home-opener party, thanks to a lot of help from the Bills by making several critical mistakes. So, yeah, if they do that against New England they’ll probably lose. But they didn’t play New England. They do next week.
And what a week it’s gong to be. It’s the only game on the entire schedule featuring two 3-0 teams playing each other. Bills fans often wonder, or even complain about, when their team is going to get “more respect” and be recognized by the national media. Well, the second part of that is about to happen. A win and the first part will certainly follow.
No matter what you thought heading into the Bengals game, whether it was apprehension and worry the Bills could lose, or already chalking it up as a win and looking ahead to the Patriots, it doesn’t matter, because it’s now officially Patriots week.
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