The Buffalo Bills held off the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, building a 14-point lead before squandering it and overcoming a three-point deficit en route to a 21-17 victory. The Bills moved to 3-0 on the season, while the Bengals fell to 0-3.
For the first half, Buffalo was able to dominate the game by holding down all of Cincinnati’s top players. Then, for a brief moment in the second half, the Bills lost their grip and looked like they would lose a game that was incredibly winnable. They eventually clamped down and sealed the victory.
How did the Bengals’ five players to watch look this weekend? For a while, it was awful, but they eventually put together a respectable afternoon.
QB Andy Dalton
Through one half of football, it looked like the Bills might end another quarterback through poor play. Dalton was putrid in the first half, completing 5-of-13 passes for 63 yards, 32 of which came on one completion. He was much better in the second half, completing 15-of-23 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. However, he added two interceptions to his ledger, including the one that sealed the game for Buffalo with under one minute left in the game. Give Dalton credit for keeping his poise after such a dismal start, and also for moving the ball pretty freely over the course of three second-half scoring drives. However, Buffalo was able to force him into mistakes when it mattered most.
RB Joe Mixon
Entering the game, Mixon had carried 17 times for 27 yards, and he had five receptions for 17 yards. That’s bad. Mixon is no Joe Schmo, as he’s coming off a 2018 campaign where he ran for 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry, adding 43 catches for 296 yards and one touchdown as a receiver. On Sunday, Buffalo was able to hold Mixon in check, although he did manage his best game of the 2019 season. He carried 15 times for 61 yards, and he caught two passes for 34 yards, including a touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
WR John Ross III
Buffalo was able to slow the speedy Ross, who dropped the first pass of the game in what was a harbinger of the bad day to come. He made his first reception on Cincinnati’s fourth drive of the game, a seven-yard grab early in the second quarter. He promptly fumbled the ball, and Matt Milano covered it up to give Buffalo a prime scoring chance (which they would squander thanks to a T.J. Yeldon fumble). Ross managed two catches for 22 yards on a day where he was targeted six times overall.
DT Geno Atkins
The big man up front was a hassle all game, and once starting right guard Jon Feliciano left with a neck injury, it was clear that Atkins would be able to influence the game. His biggest play came on the Josh Allen “WTF” interception in the third quarter that gave Cincinnati life in the game. Atkins absolutely abused rookie Cody Ford, who shifted to guard from right tackle in Feliciano’s absence. Atkins flushed Allen from the pocket, leading to his ill-fated decision to throw it right into the hands of cornerback Darius Phillips. Atkins finished the game with five tackles, one tackle for loss, and that one fateful hit on Allen.
S Jesse Bates III
Buffalo once again was unable to burn a team on a really long-distance passing play, but Bates was not a huge factor in the passing game overall. Allen was able to work the middle of the field, and the Bills were able to run through the middle quite often, as well. Bates finished with seven tackles, but the greatest impact he had on the game didn’t involve what he did—it actually involved him absorbing a tremendous impact.