The Buffalo Bills were blown out by the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, losing 27-10 and bringing their once-promising season to a sudden halt. For just the second time in franchise history, the Bills left Highmark Stadium a loser in a playoff game. Unlike the last time, though, this one never felt particularly close.
The Bengals outplayed, out-executed, and out-coached the Bills, doing whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, on Sunday afternoon. Bright spots were few and far between for the boys in blue, and ultimately, there weren’t enough of them to end with a win.
Here is how our five players to watch in the Divisional Round fared on Sunday.
QB Josh Allen
Allen never looked comfortable, thanks in part to Cincinnati’s beautifully executed defensive game plan, a horrific showing by the offensive line, and his own propensity for holding the ball entirely too long. Allen threw some great balls — a sideline dime to Gabe Davis, for example, on the final drive of the first half — but he also missed the mark on a few other throws. The biggest example was the game’s first third down, where he threw to Stefon Diggs’ outside shoulder rather than leading him up the field to the inside for what may well have a been a touchdown. Granted, he was hit on that throw — a common theme on the afternoon — but he looked skittish in the pocket often. With how easily Cincinnati was breaking into the backfield, I can’t say that I blame him. Allen finished 25-of-42 for 265 yards, and an interception that came when the game was already well out of reach in the fourth quarter. He also ran it eight times for 26 yards and a touchdown. All of those rushing numbers led the Bills on the day.
WR Gabe Davis
Yeesh. Davis made a great catch on Buffalo’s final drive of the first half, gaining 25 yards to put Buffalo in the driver’s seat for a field goal. On the next play, he was wide open, but Allen never looked at him, choosing instead to throw to Quintin Morris. The throw was batted down, Allen threw two more incomplete passes, and head coach Sean McDermott decided to punt from the Bengals’ 42-yard line. Davis had a go-ball slip right through his hands in the second half when the team desperately needed someone to make a play. He had two catches for 34 yards on four targets.
DT Jordan Phillips
Well, I was crazy thinking that Phillips, or any of Buffalo’s defensive linemen, for that matter, could impact quarterback Joe Burrow in the passing game against a gaggle of backup offensive linemen. Phillips, who we learned on Monday was playing with a torn rotator cuff that will require surgery, had little impact on the game, notching one tackle over 19 defensive snaps. DaQuan Jones, who we worried about taking snaps away from to play a combo of Phillips and Ed Oliver, had a bigger impact on the game in his absence than Phillips did by playing. Jones suffered a calf strain, and was declared inactive. The result was exactly as it was over the last few years whenever the defense’s designated top-dog at the one-tech is out: the Bengals bullied Buffalo at the line of scrimmage all day long.
CB Tre’Davious White
We said that White would need his A-game this weekend, and I don’t think that Sunday’s effort qualified even as his C-game. White was flagged twice for pass interference, and he was once again a frequent target in coverage. Not that Buffalo played man for most of the game — when they did, they actually played well, holding Burrow to just two completions for 14 yards — instead choosing to sit in zone coverage for most of the day. Burrow carved it up, especially in the early going, and the Bills missed multiple coverage assignments en route to their worst performance in a long time on defense. White had four tackles without a pass breakup.
CB Kaiir Elam
The good news is that Elam finally out-snapped a healthy Dane Jackson, as he played 65% of the time. He didn’t break up a pass, and he totaled four tackles on the game, the exact same stat line as White. Looking ahead to next year, Elam definitely has shown flashes of being a strong partner to a healthy White if the former All-Pro can regain his form. The bad news is that Bengals receivers were running wide open all afternoon in what was a tremendously disappointing loss to end Buffalo’s season.