The Bills (3-2) gained only 36 yards in the second half of a 20-16 loss to the Bengals, a mark for offensive futility that tied for Buffalo’s lowest second-half output in any game since the 2001 season. Sunday’s post-halftime performance equaled the 2009 Bills, who mustered only 36 second-half yards of offense during a 19-13 loss to the New York Jets on Dec. 4, 2009.
Taking on the Bengals, the offensive ineptitude could be attributed to bad weather (it was raining for most of the game), and injuries, as Tyrod Taylor was without the services of his favorite target, Charles Clay, who tore his meniscus and sprained the MCL in his left knee making a catch in the first quarter.
Also missing was No. 1 wide receiver Jordan Matthews (dislocated thumb). The absence of Taylor’s top two pass-catching targets, combined with Cincinnati often putting eight and nine men in the box, created very little running room for LeSean McCoy, who struggled after halftime, rushing nine times for 12 yards. McCoy did break off a 44-yard run off the right end on a first-down play early in the fourth quarter, but Logan Thomas was called for holding, nullifying the big run.
Taylor fared only slightly better, completing 7 of 12 passes for 39 yards and an interception after halftime.
Buffalo’s six second-half drives yielded the following results: punt, punt, field goal, punt, field goal, interception. Two of Buffalo’s second-half drives led to negative yardage: a three-play drive that lost ten yards following an interception at the Cincinnati 36-yard line that knocked them out of field goal range, and a three-play drive that lost five yards late in the fourth that culminated with an interception and ended any hopes the Bills had of earning the road win.
Take away the nine-play, 51-yard drive that led to Stephen Hauschka’s 38-yard field goal late in the third (which put Buffalo ahead 13-10), and the Bills five other second-half drives produced a grand total of negative-one yard!
By comparison, here is how Buffalo’s offense fared in the second half of the first four games: New York Jets (162 yards gained in a 21-12 win), Carolina Panthers (132 yards gained in a 9-3 loss), Denver Broncos (103 yards gained in a 26-16 win), and Atlanta Falcons (115 yards gained in a 23-17 win).
First-year head coach Sean McDermott and new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison are fortunate the bye week is here so the team can get healthy. Hopefully for the Bills and their fans, Sunday’s inept offensive showing in the second half was an anomaly and not a trend.