A rough start and even rougher finish defined what was the defining loss of the Bengals’ 2016 season. Despite losing their best player, the Bengals managed to battle the Bills for the first half and appeared as though they might’ve even stolen a win from Buffalo. However, as time wore on, the 2016 Bengals we’ve come to know made themselves known, as Cincinnati failed to capitalize on opportunities and eventually handed a win to the Bills in a week where the Ravens lost yet again.
It’s hard to imagine a rougher start for the Bengals than what we saw in Cincinnati on Sunday against the Bills. Cincinnati lost Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green on the first drive of the game and Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the ensuing defensive drive, allowing the Bills to take a 7-0 lead on a seven-yard touchdown run from LeSean McCoy.
The Bengals, however, proved to be resilient. Andy Dalton led a 13-play, 50-yard drive, connecting with four different receivers, eventually taking a read-option for a two-yard touchdown run. A missed PAT — which was also the fault of Clark Harris for a bad snap — preserved the Bills’ 7-6 lead.
Momentum swung the Bills’ way with the miss, as Stephon Gilmore picked off a Dalton pass on the next drive. Buffalo eventually kicked a field goal to take a 10-6 lead. But again, the Bengals remained resilient despite losing their best player.
A 13 play, 61-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Tyler Boyd’s first career touchdown grab, gave the Bengals a 12-10 lead. Another Nugent miss put the Bengals just six points up, but on the bright side, the Bengals’ offense moved the ball down the field on the Bills’ defense and took a lead despite losing its best player on the first drive of the game. Boyd and James Wright both stepped up in the game with some nice catches.
Later on in the half, Dre Kirkpatrick made a fantastic interception, tapping his toes on the one-yard line to prevent what could’ve been a Bills touchdown catch. Dalton drove his offense right back down the field, but right as Cincinnati was approaching field goal range, the quarterback threw another interception to Gilmore. It was largely due to Tyler Eifert trying to haul in the ball and tipping it right into the hands of the Bills defender. At halftime, the Bengals held onto a 12-10 lead.
Cincinnati’s lead didn’t last long, however. The Bills kicked a field goal on the opening drive of the second half, holding onto a 13-12 lead for quite a while before finally extending that lead by another three points after a nice fourth down stand from the Bengals early in the fourth quarter. Down 16-12, Cincinnati did not respond well, giving the Bills the ball back on two quick three-and-outs.
It was a case of the Bengals’ inability to move the ball in the second half, as for the second straight week, Cincinnati’s offense inexplicably could not move the ball after halftime. The Bengals’ offense, like in New York, got far less creative in the second half of Sunday’s game, which is something it needed to be when without Green and with a hobbled Tyler Eifert on the field.
A last-ditch effort guided the Bengals down the field, as Cincinnati took advantage of the Bills’ prevent defense to give itself one last chance, but it was too late. The Bengals failed to score a touchdown on the drive and, as a result, are now 3-6-1. Nugent’s two missed extra points certainly played a part in the Bengals’ coming up short in a four point loss, but Cincinnati’s complete inability to move the ball in the second half was the real reason why the Bengals fell short.
This game leaves the Bengals with tons of questions, and they’ll need to prepare for the Ravens next Sunday with an injury-ridden squad.