In a game that would determine just how alive the Cincinnati Bengals’ season remains, the Bengals moved in the right direction as they defeated the Bills 20-16. The Bengals are now one game out of first place in the AFC North.
The Bengals succeeded in becoming the first team this season to score more than 17 points against the Bills en route to victory. A.J. Green had almost 200 receiving yards and a touchdown, as Andy Dalton threw for a season-high 328 yards. The defense collected six sacks and was responsible for keeping the Bengals close despite three turnovers from the offense.
The Bengals spent part of their Week 5 pregame honoring the victims of the tragedy in Las Vegas earlier in the week. Dre Kirkpatrick wore customized cleats and the Bengals shared a moment of silence in Paul Brown Stadium.
Dre Kirkpatrick’s cleats for today pic.twitter.com/OBl192PLg4— Athlete Swag (@AthleteSwag) October 8, 2017
A.J. Green made an instant impact. Three of Andy Dalton’s first four throws were to Green, including a 77-yard bomb for a score. Unfortunately, Green had one of the more up-and-down days of his career, but more on that later.
Despite Green collecting two receptions for 22 yards, the Bengals would go three-and-out on their first drive. But the defense forced a sack and a three-and-out from the Bills, and gave the Bengals the ball again. Dalton hit Green on the first and only play of the drive, exploiting the one-on-one coverage from rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White. This was the third straight game where Green has scored the first touchdown of the game and it was a 77-yard bomb, one of Dalton’s best-ever long balls, and in the pouring rain.
The rain adversely affected both teams as both saw many playmakers leave due to injuries.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Tyler Boyd and Adam Jones all left the game early and Vontaze Burfict missed a few plays due to a finger injury. Jones did return, but quickly left again for the remainder of the game.
Bills tight end Charles Clay was injured after being tackled by Shawn Williams as well, which is a big blow to the Bills offense. Soon after, Williams was injured and left the game, too.
Despite the injuries, the Bills were able to make it to the red zone. On third-and-four, Tyrod Taylor’s pass was deflected by Vontaze Burfict and the Bills were force to kick a field goal. Steven Hauschka’s kick was good and the Bills cut the Bengals lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
On the following drive, the Bengals dug themselves into a third-and-21 hole. After a dump off to Giovani Bernard, Jerry Hughes went low on Dalton and drew a roughing the passer penalty. Though the Bengals got a first down, Dalton was clearly shaken up as he limped around the field and the Bengals had to call a timeout in order to keep him on the field. Even though Dalton stayed in the game, his left ankle continued to bother him throughout the duration of the contest.
After the timeout, Dalton came back to connect with Tyler Kroft and move the ball down to the Bills’ 12-yard line. Randy Bullock kicked the three-pointer as the Bengals extended their lead to 10-3 with nine minutes left in the second quarter.
When the Bengals got the ball back after a Bills punt, Dalton gave it away on the first play from scrimmage. The pass to Green was tipped by the star receiver and safety Micah Hyde picked it off. This was Dalton’s first interception since his disastrous Week 1 performance at home.
The turnover set up the Bills’ first touchdown of the game. With the ball at the 12-yard line, Taylor threw a bullet to former Bengals receiver Brandon Tate in the back of the end zone. Hauschka leveled the score with the extra point three minutes away from halftime.
The Bengals’ offense continued to struggle in the second half as Dalton threw his second pick of the game on the first Bengals’ possession. Once again, Green tipped the ball into the hands of the defender, as safety Jordan Poyer pulled the ball in. Unfortunately for Dalton, the ball was turned over on a pass that Green really should have caught. Fortunately for the Bengals, the Bills were unable to capitalize and were forced to punt.
Just when the Bengals looked like they were finally getting some momentum, disaster struck again. Dalton, who was still hobbling around, finally re-connected with A.J. Green for 20 yards. After the catch Green tried to extend the play to get more yards, but Lorenzo Alexander knocked the ball out of Green’s hands after a vicious hit. Poyer collected the loose ball, and after a penalty the Bills got the ball at their own 29.
Now a Green fumble. Huge statical game but he's been involved in three turnovers now.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 8, 2017
A.J. is having the best worst game ever lmao— ☠️Charnel Lawson (@John__Sheeran) October 8, 2017
LeSean McCoy, Nick O’Leary, and a William Jackson pass interference helped the Bills drive down the field. The Bills slowed to a stop, but not before they had reached Hauschka’s field goal range. The Bills kicker nailed the attempt and the Bills took their first lead of the game with 1:54 left in the third quarter, going up 13-10.
Despite the Bengals’ inability to complete passes, the Bills helped the Bengals move down the field on the ensuing possession. The Bills had two penalties that put the Bengals at their own 48. On third-and-10, Dalton fired a pass to Green for 49 yards. It was good to see Green make another positive contribution, but is was not so good to see him struggle to get up after the play as the third quarter expired. He was limping a bit, but did get back on the field for the next play.
The big plays continued on the very next snap as Joe Mixon rushed for his first career touchdown, which was also the first Bengals’ rushing score of the season. The rookie running back bounced around to the outside for a four yard touchdown before Bullock would kick the extra point. The score brought the Bengals back on top, 17-13 with 14:19 left in the game.
As the Bengals defense fought to keep the lead, Carl Lawson negated a Burfict tackle for loss with a late hit penalty. He made up for it later with his first sack of the gam, bringing him to 3.5 on the season. The sack forced the Bills to punt.
The Bengals failed to get anything going on offense, so they in turn were forced to punt. Tate would again inflict his revenge on the Bengals with a 40-yard punt return. A sideline interference penalty on the Bengals compounded the impact of the return, and the Bills took over at the Bengals’ 12-yard line. Thanks to an incomplete pass and a tackle for loss by Burfict (his third of the game), the Bills couldn’t convert on third down. Despite the long punt return from Tate, the Bills had to settle for three points as Hauschka completed the 28-yard kick with 8:59 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Dalton, in an attempt to answer the score, passed the 300-yard mark for the fist time this season. He connected with Brandon LaFell three times, Kroft twice, handed the ball to Mixon several times, and even ran the ball himself, hurt ankle and all. After getting down to the 12-yard line, the Bengals could not reach the end zone. Bullock’s 29-yard field goal extended the lead by three, but the Bills remained within one score of the Bengals. With 3:33 left in the game but no timeouts, the Bills still had time to score a go-ahead touchdown.
The next drive started disastrously for the Bills as Michael Johnson collected his second sack of the game. After a passing play for no gain, the Bills faced third-and-15. Taylor overthrew his receiver, Zay Jones, and the pass landed in the arms of George Iloka who returned the ball 14 yards to the Buffalo 29-yard line with 2:22 remaining in the game. From there, the Bengals let Mixon run the clock down as the Iloka interception proved to seal the victory from the Bengals.
The Bengals now have a bye week before facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 7.