Led by a resurgent offense, a stingy run defense and some opportunistic big plays, the Buffalo Bills won their third straight game with a 33-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Making his first start since Week 3's loss in New England, quarterback J.P. Losman exploited a banged up Bengals defense to the tune of 295 yards, a score and leading the most efficient offensive performance the Bills have displayed in quite some time.
But this game was about far more than the gaudy offensive stats the Bills were able to accumulate. Yes, we'll talk about the Big Three first, because they deserve it. But don't count out the O-Line, the run defense and an embattled secondary. They were huge too.
Lynch Leads 4th-Quarter Charge
Trailing 21-16 entering the fourth quarter, the Bills ended the game on a 17-point run to close a game out in dominant fashion for the first time this year. At the crux of that attack was rookie RB Marshawn Lynch (the best NFL rookie not named Peterson), who threw a game-winning 8-yard TD to TE Robert Royal, then sealed the win with a 56-yard touchdown jaunt late in the fourth. Lynch finished the game with 153 rushing yards on 29 carries; through half the season, Lynch has amassed 690 rushing yards, and he's well on his way to a very impressive rookie season.
165 of Losman's 295 yards came on 9 Lee Evans catches - the Bills' top target made a lot of plays on quick slants in this contest, and routinely beat Bengals corners to the inside. Evans also made a great catch in the back corner of the end zone to start the game's scoring; he clearly has a very developed rapport with Losman.
What made the difference for the offense this week? How about one of the most dominant performances I've seen from a Bills offensive line in quite some time. Losman was not sacked in this contest, and was forced to scramble just three times - that was a big factor in his completing almost 71% of his passes today. Blitz pickup was superb, run blocking was there (especially when it needed to be), and as a result the Bills put up 33 when their previous high on the season was 19. Huge kudos to the five guys up front - they won this game for Buffalo.
Bills Hold Explosive "O" In Check
Despite top billing, Bengals QB Carson Palmer (along with his top two wideouts, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh) were mostly ineffective in this contest. Houshmandzadeh scored another touchdown, but caught just four passes for 45 yards; Johnson had 3 for 48. Buffalo's Cover-2 scheme eliminated the deep pass from Cincinnati's arsenal, forcing Palmer to check down most of the game. Backup RB Kenny Watson led all Bengals receivers with 7 catches for 90 yards.
The key to Buffalo's success defensively? An outstanding effort by the run defense, which held the Bengals to just 28 net rushing yards. Rudi Johnson had just 11 of those on 9 carries; Watson had 11 more on 4. The elimination of the run game, as well as the deep pass, led to some short drives for the Bengals, and they couldn't hold the ball during important stretches of the game. As a result, the Bills dominated time of possession, holding the ball for over 35 minutes in the contest. With the explosive Palmer at the helm, Cincinnati could only muster 14 points (7 came on a Glenn Holt kickoff return TD).
Rumblings Game Balls
RB Marshawn Lynch: The rookie remains the catalyst of Buffalo's offense, and the team's most consistent player. If it weren't for Adrian Peterson's dominance in Minnesota, Lynch would be the leading candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He's got a brilliantly bright future. For now, he's merely (at time of this post) the fourth-leading rusher in the league.
The offensive line: The not-so-little engines that could. Pass protection was superb, run blocking wore down the Bengals and the line of scrimmage was owned by the Bills all day long. Great performance today is something to build on.
LB Angelo Crowell: Led the run D charge with 14 tackles, and was also effective on the blitz. Clearly the best, most consistent defender the Bills have on a young, improving unit.