Here is a look at tonight’s winners and losers.
The Bengals needed a great game from their quarterback in this one, and he delivered. Sore calf, bloodied index finger on his thrown hand, it didn’t matter.
No. 9 brought his signature brand of football, complete with scrambling, ad-lib completions, and pinpoint accuracy for a much-needed Bengals win. He finished with over 70% completion rate, 348 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
The “Cinco Comeback” has been underway for the past two weeks. Against San Francisco, Higgins had five catches for 69 yards, cementing his status as one of the league’s top receivers once again.
This week, the Bills admirably clamped down on Ja’Marr Chase, daring Cincinnati to beat them elsewhere. Higgins responded with eight catches for 110 yards, becoming a drive-extender and key to this week’s victory.
The team’s tight ends coach saw great outputs from secondary receiving options the past couple of years in C.J. Uzomah and Hayden Hurst. Unfortunately, this year’s group hasn’t brought the same results.
Yet, tonight, his group brought a lot of quality results. Three tight ends (Tanner Hudson, Irv Smith, Jr., Drew Sample) contributed to the win, with two of those guys catching touchdown passes.
On the NBC postgame show and in Zac Taylor’s postgame presser, he specifically pointed out Casey and his position group. Good on Casey, Taylor, and this position group for stepping up in the wake of so much criticism.
Irv Smith, Jr., Drew Sample, and Tanner Hudson:
For weeks, the Bengals’ tight end situation has been the subject of much scrutiny. And, when the Bengals didn’t swing a trade at the deadline, more criticism came their way.
These three stepped up in various ways, with two in the group netting touchdowns. Hudson led the way with 45 receiving yards on four catches, while both Smith and Sample had touchdown grabs.
The three combined for 10 catches for 101 yards and two scores. A nice golf clap for that group.
Zac Taylor and the offensive brain trust:
Look, the Bills knew what they wanted to take away, even if their roster was limited by injuries. Ja’Marr Chase was bracketed, largely to favorable results for Buffalo, as “Uno” had just four catches for 41 yards.
Still, despite some questionable decisions (ahem, toss plays), Taylor and the crew had a great plan this week. It’s like they knew the tight ends would be forgotten this week, leading to the above-mentioned output.
This had a brilliant counter-attack label on this win. Everything the Bills had or tried to achieve, the Bengals had an answer.
You’ve got Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and a myriad of other weapons to account for this week. It’s a formidable matchup, to say the least.
“Loudini” cooked up a magical formula for this one. Allen once again looked pedestrian against the Bengals’ defense, accounting for two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), while looking uncomfortable all evening.
The “off-ball” approach and contain looks frustrated No. 17 all evening. Don’t tell anyone, but Anarumo continues to be one of the hot head coaching names for 2024.
Frank Pollack and the offensive line:
The Bills’ vaunted front was one of the best in the NFL, in terms of getting to the quarterback. It was one of the areas in which we figured would be the tale of the tape this week.
Burrow was sacked just once, though hit seven times. However, a combination of renewed mobility and great play by the line made his night easy.
The NBC postgame show highlighted Orlando Brown, Jr., but Jonah Williams as the team’s right tackle also deserves kudos. Congrats to the entire line for a solid night all-around.
When he wasn’t receiving terrible toss-play calls, Mixon made the most of his carries. As we look at each carry this year, he seems to be running uber-inspired in 2023.
Mixon had 19 total touches for 68 total yards, but some of the calls going his way weren’t optimum opportunities. Even so, he had a tough touchdown run and the game-sealing first down on a hard-fought trot.
Whoever called the toss-run plays:
Who’s got the fingers on the switch here? We understand the need to bleed the clock and chew up time, but sheesh.
On roughly three critical occasions, Joe Mixon was given a toss that led to negative yardage. And, in each carry, Mixon was met far into the backfield.
But the good guys won, so no worries.