At the start of Sunday night’s broadcast, NBC released an interesting statistic. According to the projections, the Buffalo Bills would only have a 47% chance of making the playoffs if they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s November. The season is more than half over for the Bills. And one of the NFL’s preseason Super Bowl favorites is worse than a coin flip to get into the playoffs, if NBC’s analysis is to be believed.
Sunday evening was the story of two teams who both started the season with heavy defeats but are now developing in opposite directions. The Bengals got things under control and picked up their fourth straight win with a 24-18 win over the Bills.
Meanwhile, the bills seem lost. They are 5-4 and already have more losses than they did all of last season. The offense struggled to move the ball consistently on Sunday night. The defense came together after a slow start against Cincinnati, but that unit doesn’t look the same after some key injuries and the Bills couldn’t get enough big stops to win the game.
It looks like there’s still a lot of season ahead of us, but it’s getting late early for the Bills.
A quick start for both teams
Both attacks started quickly. The Bengals had an impressive nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive early in the game. The Bills responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive. The Bengals came right back with another touchdown drive. There were three touchdowns and 232 yards in the first quarter and it looked like we were in for a classic shootout between two of the best teams in the NFL.
Then the defenses collapsed and the attacks stalled. The Bengals scored the only touchdown of the second quarter when tight end Drew Sample made several tackle attempts for a 22-yard score and a 21-7 halftime lead.
The start of the second half was even quieter. The Bills scored a field goal and that was the only score in the third quarter.
The Bengals played well in the first half but couldn’t hold off the Bills. The Bills had chances to get back into the game, but couldn’t capitalize on them. An entertaining start to a big game went quickly, but in a game with high stakes, it was tightly contested until the fourth quarter.
The Bills just couldn’t do their part to make it a classic finish.
Bills face a deficit in the 4th quarter
The Bills had a good run in the fourth quarter. They got a stop on fourth-and-5 at their own 35-yard line and then started moving the ball. The Bills entered the red zone on a catch by rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid. But when Kincaid was upended, he fumbled while in the air, and the Bengals recovered.
That summed up the Bills’ night and, in many ways, their season. Everything seemed to be a struggle. Even when something went well, it quickly fell apart.
The Bengals weren’t great offensively after their first two drives. Buffalo did a pretty good job of limiting Cincinnati’s big plays. But it didn’t matter. The Bengals took a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter after a drive stalled inside the red zone. Normally with a quarterback like Allen and 8:08 minutes, the situation doesn’t seem too bad, but the Bills weren’t themselves on Sunday night. They haven’t been that way for many weeks.
The Bills stayed in the game. They scored on an Allen pass to Stefon Diggs and made the two-point conversion to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 24-18 with 3:32 left. But when the Bills needed a big stop, they couldn’t get it. Burrow hit Tyler Boyd for a massive 32-yard gain. On a third-and-3, Von Miller missed a tackle on Joe Mixon in the backfield and Mixon ran for the game-winning first down.
Cincinnati seems to be back. The season was in trouble early on as there were issues that seemed difficult to fix. But the Bengals have addressed some of those issues, and Burrow’s calf injury, mostly behind him, was a big factor. Burrow had 348 yards.
Cincinnati made the necessary adjustments and turned their season around. Can the bills do the same before it’s too late?