There's a handful of reasons the Buffalo Bills are a pain in our collective asses. Along with sporting a ten-game winning streak that's dating back to the 1989 season, the Bengals defense collapsed as hard as Jean Van de Velde did at the 1999 British Open. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer posted two touchdown passes (Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens), Cedric Benson posted a one-yard touchdown in the second and Johnathan Joseph intercepted two Ryan Fitzpatrick passes, returning one for a touchdown.
It was a 31-7 lead at half time and the fans of a 2-7 Bengals squad felt good about themselves. Five touchdowns later by the Buffalo Bills and those same Bengals fans were shocked that a 24-point half-time lead ended up being an 18-point defeat. After the game, we wrote:
Cincinnati did score 31 points in the first half, forcing a realistic expectation that the team with last year’s fourth ranked defense should be able to protect the lead. Instead the defense gave up 235 yards in the second half, along with 35 points. And while there’s no excusing the defensive second half fail, one could make a direct correlation to the team's sudden, and shocking nosedive in the self-respect and dignity category. Look no further than the Bengals injuries suffered in the first half. Roy Williams suffers a concussion, Johnathan Joseph suffers an ankle injury and Chris Crocker was lost early in the game with a knee injury. Three starters in the secondary were hurt in the first half, never returning by the time the Bengals kicked the football to begin the third quarter. And let's not forget that Jonathan Fanene was placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week, that Antwan Odom just came off a suspension and Tank Johnson and Frostee Rucker both missed Sunday’s game due to their own injuries.
But the secondary was a mess, leaving Chinedum Ndukwe, Reggie and Tom Nelson as the team’s safeties with Brandon Ghee playing opposite of Leon Hall at cornerback. It mirrored the second half of a preseason game where the starters took the night off after half time so the team can judge the lesser talent on the field. Ryan Fitzpatrick, completing 10 of 13 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns, took advantage of that.
Carson Palmer, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. After completing 10 of 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Palmer took the night off after his first interception, completing only nine of 21 passes for 98 yards passing with a second interception. It wasn’t just Palmer; the offense equally failed in the second half turning the ball over three times along with a missed field goal. A holding penalty negated a Terrell Owens touchdown on a 13-play drive that ended with a Palmer interception in the endzone. Terrell Owens dropped two passes and even though he was the most productive receiver in the game, Jordan Shipley dropped a third down pass on a drive that ended with a missed field goal.
People often talk about the talent on this squad. But the truth is, those same people aren't very mindful of including the team's backup players in that discussion. The Bengals are the type of team that falls apart because the team isn't talented enough to overcome those injuries. Yet, as the devil's advocate does reconnaissance, how many teams have seen this many injuries, specifically in the secondary and on the defensive line?
How will the sequel be played out? Will the Bengals third-rank defense flip open their skirts in defiance (ala Braveheart) after facing non-explosive offenses that largely assisted them in the impressive category? Or will the team replay the second half from last year's loss to the Bills?