There's always a storyline to every game, every week and this week provides a sequel to a disastrous end with a 35-point swing that went from a Bengals 17-point lead at half time only to lose by 18 points. And those stories started early. The Bengals kicked off the season playing the Battle of Ohio (at least the NFL iteration of it), beating the Cleveland Browns 27-17 thanks to a 41-yard A.J. Green touchdown reception and a 39-yard Cedric Benson touchdown run to win the game.
A week later the Bengals were granted an opportunity to deal with Denver's insolence after scoring an unlikely Brandon Stokley touchdown late in the game, beating the Bengals during the 2009 season opener 12-7. Cincinnati fell short by two points and a controversial decision to go for it on fourth down during the week two rematch, rather than attempting a 50-plus yard field goal late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Bengals a one-point lead. And of course the San Francisco 49ers sport one of the more bitter hatreds in Bengals fans and old time Bengals players for their role in beating Cincinnati during their only Super Bowl participations. Cincinnati's offense struggled while the defense, gallant in their efforts to stall the 49ers offense, failed to prevent a fourth quarter touchdown and losing 13-8.
Much like their loss against the Denver Broncos in 2009, which was a shocking turn of events, the Bengals will have an opportunity to respond to Buffalo's five second half touchdowns on November 21, 2010 that put an end to a slow death.
Last year against the Bengals, the Buffalo Bills provided a sample of their unlikely 3-0 start this year, taking advantage of other team's mistakes to dissolve double-digit half-time leads, doing the improbable to win games that no one believed that they should have won. We're not saying that because it's the Bills; we're saying that because the deficits that the Bills have faced, more times than not, typically results in losses in the NFL.
After securing a 17-point lead in the first half last year against the Bills last year, the Bengals offense did more damage than the defense that allowed 35 second half points. With over ten minutes in the third quarter, Cedric Benson lost a fumble on Cincinnati's 32-yard line (he lost five yards on the play also) that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown. On the Bengals ensuing drive, the offense ran a 13-play drive that began from their own 36-yard line and setup a third-and-goal from the Bills five-yard line. Carson Palmer was intercepted by safety George Wilson who returned it 56 yards to midfield. The Bills would take a 35-31 lead after the turnover.
In all the Bengals turned it over three times, didn't gain a yard on a third-and-out in the fourth quarter and missed a 43-yard field goal.
Does that mean the Bengals defense is excluded from the collapse? No. They did give up 35 points. During Buffalo's second-half opening drive, the Bills went nine plays and 68 yards for a touchdown, including an 18-yard completion on third-and-ten. After Carson Palmer's first interception, the Bills went eight plays for 49 yards, capped by a Stevie Johnson 11-yard touchdown to give Buffalo a four-point lead.
With 14:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, down by four points, the Bengals offense went three and out and punter Kevin Huber crushed a 23-yard punt that gave Buffalo possession at midfield. Two completed passes and 50 yards later, the Bills extended their lead to 42-31.
This is one of those games that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis must be reminding his defense about and warning the offense how falling asleep in the second half can be disastrous. Because now the Bengals want to go from a game of vengeance, to a celebration in which the 1-2 Bengals beat the undefeated Buffalo Bills that was victorious against the New England Patriots in week three. Now that's a hell of a storyline; one that's reminiscent to one of Marvin Lewis' best wins in his career (2003, Kansas City).