Let there be snow!
Roughly an hour prior to Sunday's kickoff, mother nature's bipolar personality offered pregame highlights, as sunny skies were obscured by dark clouds with wintery precipitation randomly showering Buffalo.
Yet, it wasn't the lake-effect storms, which tend to bring apocalyptic snow storms to western New York, that threatened Buffalo's home team at Ralph Wilson Stadium; it was the Bengals balanced offense and reliable defense that advanced Cincinnati's record to 6-0, joining the '88 and '75 squads as the only teams in franchise history that began a season at 6-0; there are no 7-0 records in franchise history.
Wide receiver Marvin Jones supplied Cincinnati with a pair of highlights, leading the way with 95 yards receiving on a career-high nine receptions. Giovani Bernard generated 73 yards from scrimmage on only nine carries (eight rushes for 50 yards which translates to a 6.2 yard/rush average). Quarterback Andy Dalton completed 22 of 33 passes for 243 yards passing, scoring three touchdowns and a passer rating of 118.6.
Cincinnati is off next week with a scheduled bye and will return on Nov. 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
BILLS TAKE 7-0 LEAD
With the Bengals front seven collapsing on the opening play of the game, running back LeSean McCoy gains 33 yards (also avoids a Dre Kirkpatrick tackle) to the Bengals 47-yard line. Rex Ryan's challenged the ensuing play, converting an incomplete pass into a 19-yard completion to tight end Charles Clay reaching the Bengals 28-yard line with over 14 minutes remaining.
Two plays... 52 yards.
A pair of LeSean McCoy runs and a strong third down throw to Clay converts another first down inside the redzone. Wide receiver Robert Woods reached Cincinnati's eight-yard line, where McCoy was dropped setting up a manageable third and one from the Bengals seven; Bills quarterback EJ Manuel easily converted during a quarterback sneak. Buffalo concluded the 80-yard drive with an easy quarterback sweep, scoring without much difficulty to take a 7-0 lead with 9:24 remaining in the first quarter.
Despite Adam Jones' 49-yard kickoff return to Buffalo's 49-yard line, Cincinnati failed to score on their opening possession for only the second time this season; Andy Dalton sailed the football towards Giovani Bernard on third-and-three, forced to punt without generating a first down.
BENGALS TIE THE GAME AT 7-7
A plethora of missed tackles early are obviously a storyline (one that was phase out as the game continued), but it didn't impact Cincinnati during Buffalo's second possession of the game, who failed to generate a first down. Yet, Adam Jones, returned the ensuing punt six yards while Buffalo was called for taunting, placing Cincinnati at their own 48-yard line with 6:09 remaining in the first.
Penalties helped Cincinnati early, with an illegal use of hands resetting Cincinnati's drive with another first down on Buffalo's 28-yard line with 4:49 remaining. Eventually Cincinnati has first down on Buffalo's 13-yard line when Andy Dalton swung the football to Jeremy Hill out of the backfield; Hill avoided a tackle and dove into the endzone to the game with 3:26 remaining in the first.
Cincinnati's slow start defensively went from missed tackles to an impact-heavy core of superstars making plays. On Buffalo's second possession of the game, the Bills went three-and-out. Following Cincinnati's game-tying touchdown, cornerback Darqueze Dennard intercepted an EJ Manuel pass, returning it to the Bengals 45-yard line with 2:26 remaining in the first. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton allowed an easy shotgun snap to slip through his fingers and Cincinnati's ensuing possession resulted in a punt.
BENGALS TAKE 17-7 LEAD
One could call it the Gio Drive, with Bernard opening the series with a six-yard run and 23-yard reception, moving Cincinnati's fourth possession from their own 45-yard line to the Bills 26-yard line.
Two plays later, Cincinnati faces third and one from the Bills 17-yard line. Andy Dalton expertly surveyed the defense and announced an audible. Following his cadence, Dalton handed off to Bernard, who spliced through Buffalo's defense to give Cincinnati a 14-7 lead during an easy 17-yard touchdown run with 10:24 remaining in the second.
Following Buffalo's ensuing third-and-out, the Bengals extended their lead 17-7 on Mike Nugent's 47-yard field goal with over seven minutes remaining.
BENGALS WITH 17-14 HALFTIME LEAD
Buffalo, unwilling to fade into Cincinnati's confined narrative of an undefeated season, generated their first first down with 6:21 remaining in the second quarter; their first since scoring a touchdown with over nine minutes remaining in the first quarter.
It was like flooding rain relieving a record drought.
Eventually the Bills have second down from Cincinnati's 22-yard line with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Manuel breaks contain by looping around right edge, lobbing the football to a wide open Sammy Watkins, who secures a touchdown to reduce Buffalo's deficit to a field goal.
THE MARVIN JONES DRIVE AND A 24-14 LEAD
Wide receiver Marvin Jones had only generated 22 yards receiving on four receptions by halftime. Yet, he was the team's leading wide receiver, excluding Giovani Bernard who had a 23-yard reception during "The Giovani Bernard drive" -- not only was this the longest play of the filrst half, it was more than the combined total from Cincinnati's other pass-catchers.
Andy Dalton came out firing to Jones in the second half, completing four of five passes on throws targeting Jones for 66 yards, including an unlikely 42-yard reception (unlikely because it didn't look possible at the time) and a 10-yard flip, reaching into the endzone to give Cincinnati a 24-14 lead with 11:01 remaining in the third quarter.
Now Jones has 88 yards receiving on eight receptions.
TYLER EIFERT EXTENDS BENGALS LEAD 31-14
With 1:45 remaining in the third quarter, Andy Dalton shouts instructions and tight end Tyler Eifert -- initially lined up at right tight end -- motioned wide right. Dalton takes the snap and throws a competitive pass (aka, allowing his tight end to compete against the coverage to out-physical the defender) to Tyler Eifert, who wins the battle for a four-yard touchdown reception.
Mike Nugent added a three on a 39-yard field goal, concluding a 10-play drive with over ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.