On the heels of Buffalo’s first loss of the season to Cincinnati 23-20, as expected there’s plenty of emotions to go around. Predictably, those emotions are very pretty. It was a difficult loss to swallow. The Bills put together two halves, one positive and one negative. On Sunday the Bills just couldn’t get away with it on the road against the Bengals.
* The Bills and 4-0 would’ve sounded so sweet to use them in the same sentence. But let’s be honest with ourselves: nobody predicted or thought they’d be 3-1 after four games. I thought after the first four games they’d be 2-2, beating Oakland and Cincinnati. So right now, I think being 3-1 is a very good bonus. And let’s not forget they’re tied with New England for the best record in the AFC East.
* I think this game was probably what many expected. The Bills put so much into the New England and it took a lot out of them finally ending a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots. So after that, to go on the road, whether I like it or not there was some room for a letdown.
* That being said, this was the game the Bills needed to have because of what awaits them. The schedule isn’t exactly favorable. Buffalo plays Philadelphia, New York Giants, Washington, New York Jets and Dallas. Those teams are a combined 11-9. That might not sound impressive, but running the NFC East gauntlet will be a difficult task and facing the Jets is no picnic in the park. We’re about to find out what the Bills are made of over the course of the next six weeks.
* Buffalo better start to figure out to how to control the tempo of a game. Oakland dominated and dictated the tempo throughout the first half. New England did the exact same thing to them in the first half of their game. And now, Cincinnati dominated the second half. If the Bills can’t figure out a way to start to dictate to other teams how the game is going to be played there won’t be a lot of successfull Sundays and happy Mondays in the near future.
* Let’s get to the defense. Because the offense never found a rhythm and never got any momentum going throughout the game, the defense was out there bare faced and they got exposed. It was shocking they gave up 454 yards to Oakland. It was expected Tom Brady and the Patriots cranked out 495 yards. But it was very disturbing they gave up 458 yards to the Bengals. The week prior, Cincinnati scored eight points and converted one third down. The Bengals more than doubled the Bills in first downs, 25 to 12. The offense isn’t going to keep scoring at 37-point clip every week. There will be games in which the defense is going to have to win. This was one of them and they couldn’t get the job done.
* For the first time in four weeks, the Bills were finally outscored in the second half of a game.
* Okay, the Steve Johnson “no-catch” was clearly bogus. It was a catch. Somehow the officials had some masterful piece of evidence to point out otherwise. I won’t argue that it wasn’t a game changer and sadly, that would’ve probably been the Bills’ biggest play of the game to that point. But, I don’t want to use that call as a crutch or an excuse. It was one of a handful of things that didn’t go Buffalo’s way, but the Bills didn’t play well enough to win. They did, however, play bad enough to lose and when you don’t put forth your best the breaks tend to go against you.
* Somehow, as big of a no-show as they were through the entire second half and pretty much the whole first quarter, the game was there for the Bills’ taking. But this time there was no “Fitzmagic”. It had the look, the feel that Fitzpatrick and company were going to engineer their third consecutive game-winning drive at the end of the game. But it just wasn’t meant to be. They got Buffaloed. The Bills got a taste of their own come-from-behind medicine and it was almost worse than Robitussin.
* For the second time in two weeks, the Bills got destroyed by a rookie wide receiver. And that means the bad Leodis McKelvin showed up. He was dominated by Oakland’s Denarius Moore, redeemed himself a week ago with a big interception of Tom Brady and then allowed A.J. Green to go off. It’s easy to see why he hasn’t been able to lock down a starting job in the secondary. Despite making a nice pass break up in the end zone against Green, McKelvin struggles when the ball is in the air. So we’ve had bad Leodis, good Leodis and once again bad Leodis. Maybe he’s on track to be good Leodis again next Sunday. Either way, I haven’t seen anything that points to the contrary that would suggest McKelvin will become a consistent corner for the Bills. I hate to use him as a whipping boy and it doesn’t fall squarely on his shoulders. But he is making a bad habit of allowing too many big momentum changing plays particularly in the second half.
* The Bills won the turnover battle, and in fact didn’t turn the ball over. Plus they got a defensive touchdown off an interception for the second week in a row. If those things continue to happen, Buffalo won’t be on the wrong side of games like they were on Sunday.
* For the first time this season, the offensive line didn’t give Fitzpatrick a lot of time in the pocket. Credit Cincinnati’s defense. They were able to pressure Fitzpatrick and it wasn’t sporadic like the previous three games. He never got comfortable and the offensive line never felt comfortable.
* One of the big reasons the Bills got virtually nothing going on offense? Cincinnati didn’t give up the big play. Buffalo used a lot plethora of big play home run type passes that gashed Kansas City, Oakland and New England. They had 15 pass plays of 20 yards or more, but on Sunday they had just two against the Bengals. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. They tried to get Steve Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and even Brad Smith down the field for big gains. But each attempt fell by the wayside.
* The hardest part to swallow about this game was the fact that Buffalo essentially got beat by a rookie quarterback. Andy Dalton was 7 of 20 with two interceptions in the first half. But Dalton was able to string together a bunch of completions in the second half and he found his rhythm with A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. In the second half, he completed 11 of 16 passes, threw for 186 yards , and had the game-tying touchdown on a three-yard quarterback draw.
* So why was Dalton able to be so successful? Because of the running game. Cincinnati had 172 rushing yards on 32 carries. Cedric Benson finished with 104 yards on 19 carries; 84 of those yards came in the second half. The Bengals averaged 5.3 yards per carry Buffalo’s run defense still has a long way to go. Yes, Benson is the first 100-yard rusher the Bills have allowed, but it goes beyond that. They allowed 108 against Kansas City, but allowed the Chiefs to average 6.0 yards per carry. Against Oakland, they gave up 131 and 4.4 ypc, and against New England they allowed 108 at a 4.2 ypc clip. Cincinnati was the best team to really gash the Bills’ run defense. It’s gotten better, but the Bills’ run defense still has a long way to go to improve.
* Right along with the team of their rush defense woes, the tight end continues to be an ongoing problem. The Bills had no answer for Rob Gronkowski and Jermaine Gresham was a beast with 70 receiving yards and a touchdown. Way too much room for Gresham to roam in the secondary. Way too many yards after the catch. The Bills were a step behind Gresham all afternoon.
* Hey, Shawne Merriman welcome to the Bills. It wasn’t your traditional sack, but nonetheless it goes down as a sack. Something to build on moving forward.
* Marcell Dareus I thought was a real factor. He got his first career NFL sack and just narrowly missed out on a two-sack performance. The Bengals opted to play Dareus one-on-one and he made it a habit of winning those matchups. When he becomes that dominant force we all think he can be, he and Kyle Williams along with Dwan Edwards will form a great defensive line.
* Speaking of Edwards, I thought he was the best defensive player for the Bills. He finished with eight tackles and his motor was working in overdrive all afternoon.
- Dwan Edwards – had eight tackles, was extremely active and closed off a lot of gaps that negated running room on his side of the line.
- Bryan Scott – 43 yard INT returned for a touchdown got the Bills going in the second quarter. Scott’s INT for a TD was the second week in a row Bills returned INT for a score.
- Marcell Dareus – recorded first NFL sack, finished with four tackles
What’s Next? – Buffalo returns home this Sunday for a pivotal out-of-conference matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m sure many envisioned the Bills would be the 1-3 team coming into this game, but it’s the Eagles who have dropped three in a row and they’re a desperate 1-3 team that is going to be prepared at all costs to avoid falling into what would be a possible season ending 1-4 hole.