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Plays that defined 2017: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

A review of the 2017 season and the plays that defined each game.

With 2017 in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Week 5 match-up:

Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

Entering Week five, the Buffalo Bills were riding high. At 3-1 coming off victories over Denver and Atlanta, “Process-fever” was being diagnosed all over the country. The Bills’ opponent was the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, mired in a 1-3 season where playoff hopes were already dying. Weeks one and two were rough for the Bengals, prompting the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. The league wasn’t completely sold on his replacement, Bill Lazor. However, the Lazor offense had already produced better results and a Week four win over the Cleveland Browns.

Despite lots of practice learning to temper hopes, it was hard for Bills fans not to like their odds. Naturally it was the perfect time for a letdown. The offense of the Bills matched up with the Bengals nicely in terms of first downs, time of possession, and rushing yards. Sadly, in passing yards and points the Bengals had a decided advantage. Though the Buffalo defense managed to force three turnovers leading to 10 points, the offense couldn’t finish enough drives to come away with another win.

Micah Hyde picks off Andy Dalton (Q2, 4:52)

Wet conditions likely contributed to this pass flying a little too high. Andy Dalton makes a quick read and has his man open from a clean pocket. What should be a routine throw bounces off the receiver’s hands and Micah Hyde is on the back end to pick it off. This play pauses to show where the return ends (Cincinnati 23-yard line). Remember this for the next play. Also, there could arguably have been a flag for the shove at the end. The cheerleader who is saved from injury by her balance and quick feet demonstrates one of several good arguments for calling these penalties.

The Bills’ only TD on the day (Q2, 3:15)

Starting from the Cincinnati 23-yard line following the interception from Micah Hyde, the Bills capped off a six-play drive with this touchdown from Tyrod Taylor to Brandon Tate. Taylor fits the ball in nicely over one defender and makes sure Tate has the only shot at the ball. Tate does his part and makes sure there’s no argument on whether he maintained control. The scoring replay made quick work of confirming both feet were in. This score tied the game at 10, which would hold up nearly to the end of the third quarter.

Jordan Poyer fumble recovery (Q3, 6:49)

With the game still tied midway into the third quarter, the Bengals looked to take the lead. Andy Dalton found A.J. Green for 20 yards to continue an already promising drive. This pass would have put them in easy field goal range if it were’t for Lorenzo Alexander. Green was wrapped up by Micah Hyde and Alexander finishes the play in no uncertain terms. Jordan Poyer fielded the resulting fumble on the move in remarkable fashion. Poyer’s solid return was mostly negated by a blindside block from Adolphus Washington.

Buffalo Bills take the lead (Q3, 1:59)

Pumped up after the fumble recovery, the Bills put together one of their best drives of the day. Stephen Hauschka was called upon for the second time, and what would be his longest attempt in a Week five contest that gave him only chip shots. At a mere 38 yards, the Bills lead was all but certain. While the Bills capitalized with two scores off of three turnovers, the offense managed only a pair of field goals for the rest of the game. This drive stalling before the end zone closely resembles the “not quite enough” offense that took the field the rest of the day.

This was the Bills’ only lead of the game and would be short lived. Cincinnati found the end zone to begin the fourth quarter. Another Hauschka field goal would put it back within one. Like the rest of the day, the Bills were close.

Interception seals the game (Q4, 2:22)

Following the final Bengals score to put them up by four, the Bills were left with 3:33 on the clock. On first down, Taylor would be sacked for five yards. A completed pass to McCoy would yield no yards on second. On third and fifteen, the Bills called up a play to get past the sticks (though it was likely four-down territory). In a play reminiscent of our first one, the ball sails high and Zay Jones makes a valiant effort. As they say though, “you can’t teach height” and Jones needs a good deal more to make this catch. George Iloka looks like the intended receiver and seals the win for Cincinnati. The defense allows one first down to the Bengals. With no timeouts left, this turned out to be precisely one too many.