The Buffalo Bills hung tough with the Cincinnati Bengals through four quarters, but this game just wasn’t meant to be. They came away with a loss in Cincinnati, 16-20. The game was wet and sloppy, with the remnants of Hurricane Nate flying through the area, and the Bills played that way for too much of the game (especially on offense).
A key dynamic in this one was between Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Bills cornerback Tre’davious White. Green had seven receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown. 124 of those yards came on two plays, the two plays of this game where White was beaten badly. Green also dropped two passes that were intercepted, and fumbled a ball that was recovered by the Bills. Green was clearly too good for Buffalo’s other cornerbacks, leaving the team to call the tactic of having White shadow Green around the field for the second half.
The other key dynamic was the injury sheet. The Bills found early success throwing to Charles Clay, who started the game with two catches for 31 yards. Then a low tackle took out his knee at the sideline, and Clay was carted to the locker room with an injury. That left Tyrod Taylor working with Nick O’Leary as his most proven receiver. The team also lost Leonard Johnson to a hamstring injury, meaning rookie Greg Mabin played a large amount of time as the nickel corner in the second half.
The Bills offense struggled against Cincinnati’s defense. They lost the battle of the trenches, giving up six sacks and only rushing for 82 yards on 24 carries. Tyrod Taylor started the game well, but folded when he lost his safety valve. He looked blind to pass rushers coming around the edges, and didn’t pull the trigger on chance throws that could’ve extended the drive. When Buffalo had the ball with 3:33 remaining and a chance to win with a touchdown, Taylor took a sack, threw a screen pass for no gain, then threw an interception. He finished 20-of-37 passing for 166 yards, one touchdown, and the aforementioned interception.
The referee crew was active in this game, with both teams called for 6 penalties worth 71 yards. The story of this one, though, will be how the Bills failed to capitalize when their defense and special teams gifted them great opportunities. A Brandon Tate punt return gave them a drive start at the Cincinnati 12 yard line, and that turned into a field goal. Three Cincinnati turnovers led to only ten points.
The Bills go into their bye week at 3-2, a better spot than most expected at the start of the season, but not an ideal playoff position. They’ll need to heal up if they want to continue pushing for that spot at the end of the season.