For the entire first half of their home opener, the Buffalo Bills dominated the Cincinnati Bengals. So, when the team entered intermission with a mere 14-point lead, it felt like one of those games where letting a team hang around would come back to haunt them. As the second half unfolded, making me feel more and more like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane!, I thought that the Bills were about to blow an entirely winnable football game.
However, the tides turned, the Bills prevailed, and all was well in Orchard Park. While there was certainly a lot to be happy about (hello, Dawson Knox!), the team still showed an inability to close out a team on the brink of demise. A better performance from some of our players to watch would have allowed for that to occur but, overall, the team has plenty to be proud about in starting 3-0 for the first time since 2011.
How did our players to watch against the Bengals fare? Here’s how it went.
QB Josh Allen
There was good Josh (9-of-12, 103 yards, 1 touchdown in the first quarter), there was bad Josh (an interception in the third quarter that made me say a whole lot of words I can’t print and allowed a dead Bengals team to come back to life), and then there was hero Josh (yet another game-winning drive in the fourth quarter). Overall, we saw the best and the worst that Allen has to offer, and we also saw a reminder that football is a game where the quarterback may have a ton of influence, but it’s still played by 46 guys on each side working together to overcome challenges. Allen shot himself in the foot with a bad intentional grounding penalty and an even wore interception, but he had another strong day overall. He completed over 60% of his passes again yesterday, and he connected with eight different receivers in the process. He ran when he had to, he checked down when he had to, and he took some deep shots when they were there. Overall, Allen has shown that he’s going to be a darn good quarterback in the league, even with his growing pains. His eighth-straight 200-yard passing game, plus another day with a touchdown pass, is yet another step in the right direction.
RB T.J. Yeldon
I have been a huge Yeldon proponent since even before Buffalo signed him this offseason...and I am starting to regret that life choice. Given the chance to see significant reps for the first time this season, Yeldon did little to show that he deserves a larger role in the offense regardless of Devin Singletary’s status. Yeldon carried the ball eight times for 30 yards, showing little vision and little elusiveness. He was targeted three times in the passing game, catching two passes for 19 yards. Yeldon also lost a fumble when he was carrying the football as delicately as Jerry Seinfeld carried a loaf of marble rye. Yeldon may have some ability, but he certainly isn’t making a case for himself to be part of Buffalo’s renaissance as any more than an ancillary piece.
WR Zay Jones
Zay didn’t have a big day, but he made two really big catches for the Bills. Both of his grabs came on third down, and both of them went for first downs. Jones caught a 23-yard pass on a third down to convert, and then he caught one short of the sticks before making a nifty move to gain the first down by a nose (Bengals coach Zac Taylor challenged the play, but it was upheld). With John Brown and Cole Beasley seeing most of the targets, Jones has been relegated to third-option duty and, frankly, that’s where he’s best served at this point. If he can continue to provide Allen with a sound option on third downs (and continue to provide sound run-blocking), then he’ll be fine in this offense. His line (2 catches, 33 yards) won’t light up any fantasy football lists, but he can carve out a role if he keeps developing.
DE Jerry Hughes
Maybe someone can help me out here, but I saw Hughes terrorizing fill-in left tackle Andre Smith early and often this week. I then saw smith flat-out tackle Hughes a few times...but no holding call came. Perhaps it’s the homer in me, but Jerry seemed to be drawing enough should-be flags to fill up a laundry basket throughout the afternoon. His stat line (1 tackle, 1 pass deflected) doesn’t indicate a great day, but Hughes looked good throughout the afternoon. Facing another fill-in left tackle this weekend against the New England Patriots, it would be nice to see Hughes not only look this good, but land a few hits on the quarterback this time around.
CB Tre’Davious White
Tre responded in a big way this week. After taking some (pretty unnecessary) heat on Twitter for allowing six catches against the New York Giants, White made two huge interceptions that helped the Bills win. The first came on a beautiful diving grab where he ran the route better than Andy Dalton’s wide receiver did. The second came as Cincinnati was marching in the final minute of the fourth quarter. When White caught the tipped ball, it iced the victory for the Bills. His only tackle went for a loss, as well. White now has as many interceptions through three weeks (2) as he did in the entire 2018 season. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote that White should be mentioned among the league’s best corners, so perhaps Buffalo’s top cover man in the secondary is seeing a bit more of the respect he deserves.