Second Half Meltdown Breaks Bengals In Loss To Bills, 49-31

Steve Johnson concerning Bengals preseason expectations: Why so serious?

Today will go down in Bengals history as the day that the team completely quit on the 2010 season and perhaps even more importantly, on head coach Marvin Lewis. After sprinting out to a 21-point lead, the Bengals folded and showed an embarrassing lack of effort once again in falling to the 1-8 Bills at home, 49-31.

The Bengals started off the game well, scoring on their opening possession on a two-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Chad Ochocinco.  Palmer threaded the needed down the middle of the field in between Bills defenders.

Cincinnati then looked to be in good position as Dhani Jones intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass, but the play was negated by a roughing the passing call on DE Michael Johnson.  Some opportunitistic passing and some excellent running by Fred Jackson, and Buffalo was able to score to tie the score at 7-7.  Along the way, the Bengals lost starting safety Roy Williams for the day on a concussion.

The Bengals went right back to work on their next drive.  After some good running by Ced Benson, Palmer caught Leodis McKelvin napping with a 48-yard bomb to Terrell Owens that set the Bengals up at the Buffalo 2-yard line as the first quarter expired.  Palmer would find T.O. two plays later for a 14-7 lead.

Buffalo’s next possession ended quickly as Fitzpatrick’s pass to Lee Evans was undercut by CB Johnathan Joseph, whose interception set up the Bengals in Buffalo territory.  Cincinnati would pull to 21-7 on Ced Benson’s one-yard plunge.

Things got worse for the Bills on their next possession as Fitzpatrick was victimized by Joseph again.  This time, the CB from South Carolina took the interception 22-yards for the score and a 28-7 Bengals lead.

Buffalo regained their composure, getting into Bengal territory on their next possession. A Bengals penalty, defensive holding on Reggie Nelson, gave them life on a fourth-down incompletion at the Bengals 32.  A fourth-down completion saved them again, setting them up at the 10.  But the Bills could not convert it into points, as Rian Lindell’s 33-yard kick on fourth-and-15 was wide right.

The bad news for the Bengals was they lost their other starting safety, Chris Crocker, to what looked like a serious knee injury on the series.  The Bills clearly tried to exploit the thin secondary during the drive, repeatedly going after safety Reggie Nelson.

The Bengals took over on offense with 4 and ½ minutes to go with a three-touchdown lead, but went backwards, and had to punt from their own endzone with 2:46 left.  The Bills had all 3 timeouts and the two-minute warning to make something happen from their own 44. Five plays later, and the Bills were on the board with a touchdown, as Fitzpatrick found David Jones for 28 yards.

The Bengals got the ball back with 1:17 to go and all 3 time-outs remaining.  Lindell kicked the kick-off out of bounds, setting up the Bengals with great field position at their own 40.

Two big receptions by Jordan Shipley for 45 yards were sandwiched around a 10-yard catch by Brian Leonard and got the Bengals to the Bills 2.  A Pass Interference call on the next play to T.O. set up the Bengals at the one with 15 seconds left and two time-outs. Another P.I. call on the next play got them closer, but Bernard Scott was stuffed at the one with five ticks left in the first half.  The Bengals appeared to go to the well too often.  They tried another dive by Scott, who was stuffed again. Time appeared to run out on the clock, but referee Ed Hochuli ruled that Scott’s forward progress was stopped with one tick left, and the Bengals had legally called their final time out.

Cincinnati kicker Aaron Pettrey was then allowed to nail a short 19-yard field goal and the Bengals went into the half with a commanding 31-14 lead.

Of concern to the Bengals as they entered the locker room was their thin secondary, which Buffalo was clearly exploiting, and Cedric Benson being down with what was termed “vision problems.”

The Bills took the second half kick off and put together a long drive, converting 3 third-and-longs along the way.  The Bengals depleted secondary was again the culprit in allowing Buffalo to find pay dirt, as Fitzpatrick hit Steve Johnson for 28 yards on 3rd-and-7. Suddenly the score was 31-21.

On the next Bengal possession, Cedric Benson fumbled the ball, and Drayton Florence scooted in for the score from 27 yards out.  Rian Lindell’s extra point made it 31-28 with 9:54 left in the 3rd quarter.  Just like that, what was once a 21-point lead was sliced to three.

The Bengals finally calmed down and put together a solid drive, and looked to take command again but a spectacular, bobbling touchdown catch by T.O. was called back on a holding call on OT Andrew Whitworth.  Undeterred, Palmer hit Chad Ochocinco on a 3rd and 13 for the first down, and Cedric Benson powered the ball down to the Buffalo 7 yard line.

But disaster struck again and Carson Palmer was picked off in the end zone, and safety George Wilson returned the ball 56 yards into Bengals territory at the 49. Fitzpatrick immediately moved the Bills into scoring position.  As the fourth quarter began, the Bengals were clinging to a 3-point lead as Buffalo had a 3rd-and-one at the Bengals 13-yard line.

They would convert, setting up a first-and-10 at the 11, and Steve Johnson abused the Bengals secondary again on an 11-yard touchdown, and the collapse was complete with the Bills taking a 35-31 lead.

The Bengals could do nothing with their next possession, and after a terrible punt, it took Buffalo only a handful of plays for Fitzpatrick to get his third touchdown pass to Steve Johnson and a 42-31 Buffalo lead.

The Bengals were hanging it up. Quitting on live television in disgusting fashion.

With 11:28 remaining, the Bengals were down by 11 points after squandering a 21-point lead.

In desperation mode, the Bengals frantically put together a drive, converting two fourth downs along the way.  On their 3rd fourth down of the drive, the Bengals decided to let the newly signed Pettrey attempt a 43-yard field goal, and he shanked it.

The Bills were able to run down the clock to under three minutes, forcing the Bengals to use their final timeouts in the process.

With 2:43 to go, no time-outs, and at their own 20, the game seemed decided and it looked like it to the Bengals as they sullenly took the field. On their second play, Carson Palmer was intercepted for the second time in the game, this time to Drayton Florence, and the game was over.

The Bengals defense made one last show of quit as they let Fred Jackson score easily from 30-yards out to create the final margin, 49-31. On the play, Reggie Nelson and Rico Murray gave little to no effort to contain the edge and Jackson ran down the sideline virtually untouched.

Post-Game Observations:

  • Marvin Lewis must go after this showing.  The team has done their best to make him the next Wade Phillips.  If that is in his future, frankly he deserves it.  To take a team that was 10-6 last year, improve the roster in nearly every area, and lose seven straight, Lewis has put himself into the ranks of the David Shulas, Bruce Coslets, and Tiger Johnsons of Bengal history.
  • Mike Zimmer is not excused either.  For a defense to give up 42 points to a one-win team (7 points were given up by the offense) is unacceptable.
  • The players quit on themselves.  I would not be surprised if the team does not win another game.  The roster should be blown up, the coaching staff should be fired, and the entire organization should be ashamed. I cannot name one player that has NFL-caliber mental toughness or intestinal fortitude.

Next up for Cincinnati is a Thanksgiving Night game at the Jets on NFL Network.  Look for them to lose that game by 3 or 4 touchdowns.  In the meantime, I expect Chad Ochocinco and T.O. to be a distraction, and for the locker room to implode.  Carson Palmer will take all the blame to protect the players who deserve blame, and his future in Cincinnati will be just as short.

Ugly.  Embarrassing.  Pointless.  Another Groundhog Day season in Cincinnati.

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