Things are starting to look bleak over here for Bills Mafia after the Buffalo Bills fell to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football, 24-18 — the very same score in which they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 on Thursday Night Football. It was yet another week where the injury-riddled defense kept the game close enough but the offense simply couldn’t get the job done. Buffalo now has lost more games this season in just nine games than it did all of last season. The Bills have a 5-4 record and find themselves sitting in third place in the AFC East and ninth place in the AFC. Sigh.
Tight end Quintin Morris (ankle) was able to suit up for the first time since Week 6 while linebacker A.J. Klein (back) and defensive tackle Poona Ford (healthy scratch) were among the notable inactives.
Let’s take a look at the Week 9 Bills versus Bengals snap counts and talk position battles on both sides of the ball.
Bills offensive snap counts (58 snaps)
Buffalo’s offensive line walked out of the game unscathed and allowed five QB hits and one sack to a Bengals’ pass rush that ranked sixth in QB knockdowns per attempt (11.0%) coming into Week 9. Good stuff. All in all, there haven’t been many changes to the offensive line whatsoever this season, and it’s clear they’re starting to get on the same page.
We saw some glimpses of the typical hero-ball play style from quarterback Josh Allen (100%) with his terrible interception in the second quarter. But Allen finished with over 300 total yards, leading the team in both passing and rushing.
It’s about that time we start talking about wide receiver Gabe Davis (93%) and his future on this team. Despite logging 54-of-58 possible offensive snaps, he was targeted just twice and finished the night with a goose egg. He’s found the end zone five times but has only eclipsed three receptions in just three of nine games this season. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (95%) on the other hand? Yeah, we like him. He continued to make big plays when it mattered and has found the end zone three times in the last five games. As President of the Khalil Shakir (71%) fan club, it’s promising to see his role finally increase. He has now logged at least 65% of snaps in back-to-back weeks and is so clearly preferred as the WR3 when playing out of 11-personnel because of his YAC potential. Wide receivers Trent Sherfield (36%) and Deonte Harty (5%) remain non-factors on offense for the most part, aside from Sherfield’s blocking ability and Harty’s occasional shifty move.
Tight end Dalton Kincaid (90%) has made quite the impact in back-to-back games since Dawson Knox was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) with a wrist injury. After posting a healthy 5-65-1 receiving line last week, he carried that momentum into Week 9, leading the team in targets (11) and receptions (10). It’s not hard to see how much better Kincaid looks in the Bills’ system than Knox but it will be interesting to see how they handle his return within the next few weeks. Knowing our Bills, Kincaid will go right back to the pre-Week 6 role even though he’s making a legitimate impact and building rapport with Allen.
The running backs don’t get much analysis because well, the Bills didn’t use them. Running back James Cook (55%) and Latavius Murray (45%) totaled six carries for 20 yards and two carries for yards, respectively. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey simply didn’t include it in the game plan because Buffalo’s opening touchdown drive featured *checks notes* six pass attempts and a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Allen.
Bills defensive snap counts (70 snaps)
Considering how many injuries the defense has sustained thus far, holding the Bengals to 24 points and three second-half points is about as impressive as it gets. Let’s get right into the new guy — cornerback Rasul Douglas (60%). Not often do you see players who logged one full practice during the week be able to come in and play 60% of snaps but maybe Douglas is just built differently. Buffalo rolled with cornerbacks Dane Jackson (84%) and Christian Benford (49%) on the first two defensive series but subbed Douglas in on the third. He originally replaced Jackson but Benford was taken out at some point late in the game so Douglas out-snapped him, 42 to 34. When Hyde left the game with a stinger, cornerback Cam Lewis (3%) took his place.
While the secondary has struggled at times, safeties Micah Hyde (81%) and Jordan Poyer (100%) continue to be the leaders of the defense each week. Taylor Rapp (33%) has seen his usage increase over the last two weeks because of the use of dime packages and Poyer essentially sliding into a linebacker position. Considering the state of Buffalo’s linebacker room and now the head injury for Terrel Bernard (43%), we better get used to the dime packages, folks.
The linebacker situation isn’t great. A.J. Klein (back) was ruled out ahead of Sunday night’s game and while he could’ve provided some leadership and experience, that’s not going to fix anything. Linebacker Tyrel Dodson (96%) is now the MIKE linebacker with Bernard sidelined for however long, which made me sick to my stomach just typing it. Cincinnati was purposely targeting Dodson in the passing game and it worked. His run-stopping ability is impressive and much-needed, but the Bills essentially have no coverage in the middle of the field. Dorian Williams (44%) will certainly see his role increase if Bernard’s injury is serious, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Dodson-Klein duo moving forward knowing how the coaching staff operates with rookies. Yuck.
The three defensive ends with the most snaps –– Leonard Floyd (50%), A.J. Epenesa (44%) and Greg Rousseau (43%) –– should be getting all of the snaps moving forward because it’s obvious that edge rusher Von Miller (34%) is nowhere near himself as he’s hurting the defense regularly just by being on the field. He has recorded one tackle since returning in Week 5.
The decision to dress defensive tackle Tim Settle Jr. (36%) over Poona Ford was puzzling, to say the least as it feels like Settle has had little to no impact when on the field this season. Nonetheless, the Bills still dressed 11 defensive linemen, with the most notable being newly signed nose tackle Linval Joseph (43%), who out-snapped Settle, 30 to 25, and did his job of eating up space in the middle of the line.
As a unit, the defensive line recorded seven QB hits, one sack and four tackles for losses.
Bills special teams snap counts (21 snaps)
- 18 snaps (86%): CB Cam Lewis, CB Siran Neal, LB Tyler Matakevich
- 15 snaps (71%): TE Quintin Morris, FB Reggie Gilliam, SS Taylor Rapp
- 14 snaps (67%): DE Kingsley Jonathan
- 13 snaps (62%): LB Dorian Williams
- 10 snaps (48%): WR Trent Sherfield
- 8 snaps (38%): CB Dane Jackson, RB Ty Johnson, LB Tyrel Dodson
- 6 snaps (29%): SS Jordan Poyer, K Tyler Bass
- 5 snaps (24%): WR Khalil Shakir, P Sam Martin, LS Reid Ferguson, CB Josh Norman, DE Shaq Lawson, DE Greg Rousseau, DE A.J. Epenesa, DT Tim Settle
- 3 snaps (14%): WR Deonte Harty, FS Micah Hyde
- 2 snaps (10%): C Ryan Bates, G David Edwards, G O’Cyrus Torrence, G Connor McGovern, T Dion Dawkins, T Spencer Brown
- 1 snap (5%): DT Ed Oliver, DT Jordan Phillips, DE Leonard Floyd, CB Christian Benford, CB Taron Johnson, CB Rasul Douglas