Bengals dig hole, rally to lead, but fall to Bills 21-17

Bills 21 Bengals 17

Down 14-0 after a downright ugly first half performance, the Bengals came off the mat with 17 unanswered points to take a 17-14 lead with 4:54 remaining Sunday afternoon in Buffalo. The first victory of the Zac Taylor era was in sight. But the Bills responded with a 7 play/78 yard drive vs a gassed Bengals defense to regain the lead and then intercepted a poorly thrown and tipped Andy Dalton pass to Auden Tate at the Bills 10-yard line with :12 left to seal it. It was the second time this season the Bengals have had the ball with a chance to win on their final possession.

The Bengals fall to 0-3 and have dropped 10 of 11 dating back to last season. They've lost by 1, 3, 3, 4, 5 and 8 in that stretch. They've also lost by 14, 15, 24 and 37.

A first quarter penalty for 12 men on the field during a Bills point after attempt came back to haunt the Bengals. The penalty allowed the Bills to attempt/convert a two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead. As a result, the Bengals faced a four point deficit rather than three points on their final drive, forcing the Bengals to have to score a TD rather than attempting a field goal to tie the game.

The Bengals outscored the Bills 17-7 in the second half and outgained them 229-159. They are due credit for second half adjustments, but much criticism for the first 30 minutes.

Offense:

It was a brutal first half. And I mean BRUTAL. The offense did not record a first down until 1:57 remained in the half. The Bengals were outgained 257-77 and had only two first downs to 18 for the Bills at the break. But as poorly as the offense played in the first half, they trailed just 14-0 at the break.

Dalton's first completion (0 for 5 start) came with 10:20 left in the 2nd quarter.......and John Ross fumbled it. Dalton was just 5 of 13 for 64 yards at the half.

The offense turned a Darius Phillips INT into their first score of the day in the 3rd quarter when Tyler Eifert had a big 18-yard catch to the one-yard line that set up a Dalton RPO keeper to cut the Bills lead to 14-7. It was the first time the Bengals scored in the 3rd quarter in their last seven games.

The offense finally found a rhythm near the end of the 3rd quarter. They marched 11 plays/82 yards and tied the game on a Mixon 1-yard TD catch.

Thet executed a beauty of a screen to Mixon that went for 33-yards with Trey Hopkins offering a big block.

The Bengals finally found their running game. Joe Mixon ripped off an 11-yard run early and wound up 15-61 (4.1). The Bengals ran 19 first half plays, Mixon touched it just four times, all runs (4.5), no targets.

Dalton completed seven straight passes in a second half stretch and engineered three scoring drives. Overall: 20 of 36, 249 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT...rating 63.3 overall. His first pick was a poor pass to intended for Tyler Boyd. His second INT was high and behind Tate..

The OL allowed two sacks and one false start in a noisy environment. Billy Price didn't catch my eye, in a good way. I'll be curious to see his PFF grade.

Ross dropped the the first pass thrown his way (5th of year) and then fumbled his first catch. Dalton overthrew Ross on a pass up the sideline late in the first half. Ross didn't come out of his route clean, but I'm not convinced he really sold out for the attempt.

Tate started for the first time in his career: 6 catches on 10 targets for 82 yards.

Defense:

The Bills, like the 49ers, ran a number of misdirection plays (jet sweeps, play action, reverses and bootlegs) that stretched defenders to the perimeter and confused.

The defense spent a ton of time on the field (22:57/46 plays in the first half and 36:54/73 plays overall) but managed to keep the Bengals in the game, applying early and constant pressure on QB Josh Allen.

After the Bengals took the lead with 4:54 remaining in the game, TE Dawson Knox came up with the play of the game (blown coverage) when he stiff-armed Shawn Williams and rumbled his way through Jesse Bates for a 47-yard gain to the Bengals 22-yard line. That set up the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining (7 play/78 yard TD drive).

Knox was a 3rd round pick (96th overall) in the 2019 draft. Drew Sample, selected in the 2nd round (52nd overall), did not have much impact in his 10 snaps.

The Bills rushed for 175 yards on 46 rushes (4.9).

Although Allen forced a pass that was picked off and was careless at times, he impressed with his athleticism, mobility, strength, arm and toughness. At one point he collided with Frank Gore in the backfield and fell to the ground but got to his feet and completed a pass. He was a handful to bring down.

The D forced a three and out to open the game when Geno Atkins recorded his first sack on the year.

Carlos Dunlap forced an intentional grounding by Allen that took the Bills out of FG range in the 1st QT.

Darius Phillips picked off an Allen pass and returned it 22 yards to provide a spark that led to the Bengals 1st TD.

Preston Brown recovered a fumble that Sam Hubbard forced. Hubbard also applied pressure on the Allen pick. Williams Jackson III could not corral an interception near the goal line. Andrew Billing had an impactful day. Andrew Brown had a rough day: Personal foul late hit on Allen.

Special Teams:

Phillips had a 92-yard kickoff return for touchdown called back by a questionable hold against Tate. The Bills player, engaged with Tate, appeared to turn his back to spin from contact.

Randy Bullock's 43-yarder field goal gave the Bengals their first lead with 4:54 remaining.

Miscellaneous:

The Bengals committed five penalties in the 1st quarter, including three on the Bills first scoring drive: Brown was called for a personal foul/low hit on Allen, Clayton F. was called for grabbing the helmet and then they were called for 12 men on the field for the PAT attempt.

The Bengals were later forced to call a timeout to avoid a penalty for 12 players on the field on defense.

Bobby Hart was ejected for making contact with an official after the Dalton INT to seal the game.

Next up:

0-3 Bengals at 0-3 Steelers on MNF. The Steelers opened a 4.5 point favorite in Vegas.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister covers everything in Cincinnati sports! Host of sports talk on Cincinnati News Radio 700WLW and ESPN 1530! Read more

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