Bills Defense (First 3 Quarters)
The Bills defense allowed a whopping 284 yards in the first half and 483 total net yards to the Bengals offense over the entire game.
The Bills did not force a punt until the 4th quarter. Hell, I didn’t even think Cincinnati had a punter until thefourth quarter, because they sure did not seem like they needed one!
The Bengals had many short passes that turned into big plays, especially in the first half, including a 54-yard gain off a screen pass by A.J. Green, a 42-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass by Marvin Jones and a 20-yard touchdown off a shovel pass by Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard.
The Bills defense finally adjusted to the Bengals in the second half, not allowing big plays off screens, but the defense still did not get much better in the third quarter.
The Bills allowed a touchdown on the Bengals’ first drive of the second half, in part due to a taunting penalty by defensive tackle and captain Kyle Williams. On the next drive, the Bengals spit in the Bills’ faces by going for it on a 4th-and-15, which they converted with a 23-yard pass from quarterback Andy Dalton up the middle through double coverage to wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
Luckily for the Bills, Nugent missed a 34-yard field goal (after a holding penalty on Bengals tight end Alex Smith that nullified a 24-yard field goal) on the next set of downs after the 4th-and-15 conversion, which kept it a two-possession game. As told above, the defense bounced back and kept the Bills in the game during the fourth quarter and overtime by forcing five punts.
Brian Moorman can’t do it all, even though he probably wishes he could.
In the Bills’ past two games against the Cleveland Browns (179 yards on seven punt returns, including a 79-yard touchdown, by Browns returner Travis Benjamin) and Sunday versus the Bengals (Tate’s 29-yard return in overtime), the field possession the Bills gave to other teams off of punts led directly to losses in both games. In the previous game versus the Baltimore Ravens, the Bills allowed a 17-yard punt return from Tandon Doss that set up a potential game-winning drive, though the Bills ultimately won the game when Alonso sealed victory with an interception.
The struggles of the Bills’ punt coverage unit ultimately fall on special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, who is in his first year with the Bills after three years with the Detroit Lions and seven with the Carolina Panthers. While he has had success with Detroit and Carolina in the past, he has to change the punting unit in order to get better results. Opponents have averaged 14.7 yards per punt return against the Bills, the fourth-highest number against any team in the league. Something has to be done.
I am not one to place blame on officials, but line judge John Hussey’s calls were terrible for both sides in Sunday’s game. From my viewpoint, Hussey was consistently marking the ball anywhere from a half-yard to two yards off of where it actually should have been, and he somehow missed Brian Moorman’s punt that went out on the 1-yard line when he was standing right next to it.
A blatant pass interference call that would have gone against Bengals cornerback Adam Jones on a deep ball intended for Marquise Goodwin in the fourth quarter went uncalled.
On the final plays of the first half, Andy Dalton took two knees to run the clock out, but he didn’t go straight down. He took a couple steps back and took a knee, but somehow only lost a half-yard according to the spots determined by the officials. I know this is only a miniscule detail, but the fans in my section were going crazy. The ball should been marked on the Cincinnati 1-yard line, thereby preventing a knee and forcing the Bengals to run a play and risk the Bills coming up with a safety, but the ball was instead marked at the 2-yard line, giving Dalton room to kneel down the ball again and run out the clock to halftime.
The referees were inconsistent during Sunday’s game.
The Week 6 had many positives for the Buffalo Bills, with the major negative being the defense’s play during the first three quarters. It was the first game back in the lineup for free safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who both missed the Bills’ first five games of the season, which may have caused some confusion while Gilmore also played with essentially one hand thanks to his healing wrist being heavily taped in a club. The Bills defense looked great in the fourth quarter and overtime, but needs to be more consistent.
Thad Lewis did not meet Warren Sapp’s bold prediction of 300-plus yards, but looked better than I expected. The Bengals could make a deep run into the playoffs, and the Bills played with them and almost pulled off an upset.
While this Bills team is still 2-4, it does not look like a typical 2-4 Bills team of the past decade. A great team would have pulled off a win overtime; the Bills are not a great team yet, but they are getting there.