Well that was ugly/exciting/pulse pounding/exasperating and a victory. I don’t think they’ll give it back. There are times this team really looks like it has what it takes to be good both on offense and defense but there are maddeningly inconsistent and downright mediocre stretches of these games that look like frighteningly similar to what we’ve seen the last 20 years.
Bad passes? Check. O line getting blown up? Check. A few good runs but no real explosive plays down the field? Check. D plays great then all of a sudden collapses? Check. What we hadn’t seen much of in the past 2 decades is wins when the team does those things. That they did all of this in Sunday’s game but still won is different. And encouraging.
Both the offense and the defense made plays when they had to to get the victory. This was something not seen in the dark old days. A long touchdown drive with a great Dawson Knox catch and run, an excellent Josh Allen run off a run/pass option to the 1 followed by Frank Gore (who had a very solid game) pounding it in on 3rd down behind great blocking (with special credit to Lee Smith) The Bengals offense, awakened and alive the whole 2nd half, did not go meekly. Attacking and moving straight down the field, the Bills D regrouped and a tipped pass intercepted by Tre White sealed the deal.
The things I liked:
- Frank Gore running hard despite what seemed like a foot or shoe problem and making a really nice catch on a very wobbly pass in the 1st half.
- Dawson Knox on that last drive. Gronkesque!
- The defense in the 1st half. This game should have been over based on their play and the chances the Bills had on offense.
- McDermott going for 2. I think that is absolutely the right play. Teams get 1 yard when needed well over 50% of the time.
- 2 Tre White INT’s. Micah Hyde strip on Ross.
- The Bills caught some breaks on penalties and rulings in the 1st half. That TD kickoff return penalty was ticky tack and Allen’s fumble could have gone the other way. It didn’t seem clear the Cinci defender was on the boundary line when it was recovered. There have been years where breaks like that never seemed to go the Bills way. Maybe they are getting them because they are a better team and were the more aggressive team in the 1st half.
- More batted balls by the D line
- Micah Hyde getting Kevin Johnson in the right position and Johnson getting a sack on the play.
- The first touchdown to Knox. Nice play call and design.
- The O line blocking for Gore’s runs up the middle, primarily in the 2nd half.
- Allen’s throw to Zay Jones while being hit low and not being able to step into it.
- They threw a screen pass! It wasn’t great but at least they threw it.
- Crowd noise by the fans. Seemed exceptional throughout (at least through my television set).
Things I didn’t like:
- The Bills need to get a sense of urgency when they get a lead. They are not putting teams away and it will definitely come back to bite them.
- I thought this was the worst game Allen played this year. Terrible interception. Horrifying. Very poor ball security on the fumble. They got lucky on that one. “Hero ball” throws off the back leg and one even after he started to run then went backward to heave it to the end zone. (That should have been caught but it was still a risky and ill advised throw). A bad grounding penalty. To me he looked confused by what he was seeing. Yes there were times when the O line broke down fast and he extended plays with his feet (a good thing) but in others he still held the ball like he wasn’t sure whether to throw it or not and then kept looking to run. To me, it looked a lot like last year.
- T.J. Yeldon as a runner. I see no instincts to find daylight or wiggle to get there. The fumble was a critical play and perhaps kept the game from being a runaway in the 1st half for the Bills. If Singletary is going to be out next week, I might give Marcus Murphy a call.
- Jon Feliciano getting hurt. He’s been very good all year and I thought they struggled a lot without him. Also Harrison Phillips, who has been playing much better and getting a lot more snaps each week, apparently getting hurt toward the end of the game.
- The lack of big chunk plays besides the one catch by Zay Jones and the last catch by Knox. Running Gore up the middle and hitting dink and dunk throws to Beasley was about all they had to offer besides Allen scrambles.
- Called Josh Allen runs. I just think there are too many of them and using it before the half, with his ball security, is not the right time. It’s time to limit those.
- The Bengals offensive line had been a dumpster fire for the 1st 2 games. I didn’t think the Bills pass rush was very good for much of the game, except in some blitz situations. One would think the crowd noise would make setting protections difficult but the Bengals, especially in the 2nd half, looked totally unaffected. I am concerned by their lack of a rush the last 2 games.
- Dawson Knox with a drop. Dawson Knox false start. Young player doing young player things both good and bad.
- Auden Tate, who had one catch for six yards coming in to the game, with six catches for 88 yards. He looked to be open most of the 2nd half.
- The play call at the end of the half. They had enough time for a quick play to the boundary but chose to try a 62 long shot yard field goal and worse left time on the clock for the Bengals.
We can now start looking forward to the Evil Empire and Darth Hoodie (he would have melted wearing the hoodie on Sunday on that sun drenched sideline). 3-0 vs 3-0. Just one of 16 but maybe a little bigger than the others. For what it’s worth and to offer a smidge of hope, even though the Patriots have outscored their opponents 106-17 they haven’t beaten a team with a win yet. (Bills opponents are 1-8).
Editor’s babble: This was definitely a game that would have gotten away from the Bills in the past. Hopefully they learn from their many mistakes on the field and almost giving the game away (Josh). Thanks to Joe Tauriello for his contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.