There was 2:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Several minutes prior, running back Jeremy Hill embraced Andy Dalton's swing pass out of the backfield, sliding off an attempted IK Enemkpali tackle and then diving over Stephon Gilmore for a touchdown. With the score tied at 7-7, Buffalo was facing a third down scenario from their own 24-yard line. They only needed three yards.
With quarterback EJ Manuel in shotgun and LeSean McCoy on his left flank, the Bills had three-wide with wide receiver Robert Wood wide right and Chris Hogan in the slot -- NOTE: tight end Charles Clay was in a two-point stance which could articulate trips formation. Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard played man coverage with Hogan as his assignment and George Iloka in cover one.
Manuel targeted Hogan's vertical route when film study and instinct took over for Dennard. "(Hogan) No. 15 was the guy that ended the Titans game with a deep ball and he gave me the same release," Dennard said via Bengals.com. "So I was looking for him to go. Then when I saw the ball in the air, I went up attacked it."
This was Dennard's first career interception.
"I'm still kind of shocked from it to be honest," Dennard said. "How many people can say they have an NFL interception?"
Despite being a first-round pick during the 2014 NFL draft, Dennard has only played 204 defensive snaps during his young career -- he played 77 during his rookie season (including the playoffs). With Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones and Leon Hall (playing the slot), finding time on the field has been difficult for Dennard -- prior to this weekend, Dennard had played 79 snaps, mostly in relief for an injured Jones and Hall or during games with significant leads.
Lewis offered praise for Dennard earlier this month while maintaining that his time will come.
"We need all these guys. His production in other areas is great, we have to keep it up," Lewis said. "He's had a good couple weeks of practice since coming back from injury he suffered in training camp, and that's what you have to do. You have to go and be ready. That's the hardest part of the NFL, staying ready and working on your craft all the time. And when your number called, being ready to go and respond."
With Leon Hall sitting against the Buffalo Bills Sunday due to a back injury, Dennard played a career-high 48 snaps on Sunday. Pro Football Focus gave Dennard the highest grade on Cincinnati's defense.
Alternatively, Dre Kirkpatrick has struggled, per Pro Football Focus. In addition to his overall -12.7 score being the worst accumulated grade on Cincinnati's defense, he's ranked No. 110 out of 111 qualifying cornerbacks -- San Diego's Brandon Flowers is ranked No. 109.
Discussions concerning Cincinnati's cornerback rotation are probably premature but the Bengals should stiff-arm Dennard a bit more frequently into the rotation to expand his experience. That would mean playing time for someone else, either Kirkpatrick or Hall, would have to be sacrificed.