It rained constantly. The Cincinnati Bengals made efforts to give the game away at times. Yet, through it all, Cincinnati made just enough plays to get a win to get to 2-3. While it’s yet to be seen how the rest of the season goes, the 20-16 win over Buffalo is a big one for now.
Here is the best and worst from the Bengals in their gritty Week 5 win over the Bills.
Gutting out a win against a tough team in a must-win situation: There were aspects of coaching that could be questioned once again this week, but somehow the Bengals got the win. Marvin Lewis is clinging to his job in the last year of his contract, and his team needed this one going into the bye week. Even though it wasn’t pretty, his team answered the call.
Stars getting into the end zone: Though Joe Mixon had just 3.4 yards per carry on Sunday, he had a hard-fought 10-yard touchdown run and a couple of other nice plays when it seemed like nothing was there. A.J. Green also stepped up, grabbing a 77-yard touchdown pass en route to a seven-catch, 189-yard day.
The pass rush: After a little bit of a dip in this statistical category last year, Cincinnati’s defense has bounced back in a big way this year. Adding rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis has been a big boost, as both had sacks against the Bills.
However, defensive line mainstays also have had productive starts to 2017. Geno Atkins notched his fourth sack of the season against Buffalo, while Michael Johnson had four total tackles and two sacks against Buffalo.
The linebackers: Vontaze Burfict flirted with some of the same penalty issues he’s had in the past again on Sunday, but he showed up huge on Sunday against the Bills. Burfict had a sack and 13 total tackles against Buffalo while stifling LeSean McCoy behind the line on more than one occasion.
Nick Vigil and Kevin Minter also had active afternoons, combining for 14 total tackles. This position group was big in the win, as the entire defense only allowed 221 net yards by the Bills’ offense.
Randy Bullock: It’s easy to criticize Bullock and the easy kicks he made on Sunday, but with the weather and in a must-win game, the veteran stepped up big. He was responsible for eight of the Bengals’ 20 total points, including a 29-yard field goal with under four minutes to play.
Going into the bye and getting more weapons back: Bill Lazor has had moments of making the offense look great, but there are still evidence of growing pains in his new role, as dry spells still occur. One could make the argument that he’s done well in feeding A.J. Green, which is true, but he’s had to get creative with other ancillary weapons because of injury.
Lazor has been without the services of Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert and No. 9 overall pick, John Ross since his taking over for Ken Zampese. One is inclined to think that these two will be back for the Week 7 clash against the Steelers, which should help Lazor to open up the playbook.
Tough luck: The weather didn’t help matters for either team on Sunday, but it seemed as if it had more of an effect on Cincinnati, who was ironically on their home turf. Two passes came off of A.J. Green’s hands, which turned into interceptions, while another fumble by their star receiver also showed how the bounces haven’t totally been going the Bengals’ way over the past year and a half.
Some of these were just mental errors, such as Green’s dropping of a ball in his bread basket, but others were just fluke issues. Fortunately, Cincinnati was able to overcome the elements and turnovers given away, but this needs to start changing if the Bengals are to make a 2017 playoff run.
Run offense and lack of lanes: Outside of the 2014 season in which Jeremy Hill had a breakout rookie campaign, Cincinnati has been very inconsistent in running the football recently. Even when the Bengals attempt to get cute, as evidenced by an eight-yard loss on a double reverse to Alex Erickson on Sunday, they just can’t find room.
The longest run by the Bengals was a paltry 12-yard gallop by Mixon on Sunday and only netted 2.4 yards per carry against the Bills. Now, Buffalo has a stout defense, but this is unacceptable. Lazor will need to figure out a formula up front that works—whether it’s the rotational scheme he’s been using or coming up with a cemented lineup.
William Jackson: The second-year corner impressed with some plays against Green Bay, but had some struggles once again when pressed into action again on Sunday. He had a bad pass interference penalty and let Tyrod Taylor dink-and-dunk on him a few times.
Brandon Tate: Look, at times, I felt bad for Tate in his time in The Queen City, as he was a fan-favorite whipping boy. Some of it was deserved, but he also stepped up with random big plays on offense when the team was decimated at receiver.
The veteran had a pretty solid day against his former team, grabbing a great 12-yard touchdown catch, as well as a 40-yard punt return. It was just one of those things that just made fans frustrated at the irony.
Continuing the losing of the turnover battle: Cincinnati was minus-two in the turnover battle this week, yet still gutted out a win. While this is admirable, this isn’t something that is sustainable for long-term success.
Dalton can still be careless with the football at times, while inopportune drops turning into interceptions also doesn’t help. While the Bengals get a bit of a pass this week because of the rain, this can’t continue if Cincinnati wants to make the postseason.
The injuries: While it was a relief that the Bengals didn’t need to extensively game plan for a star player like tight end Charles Clay, you never want to see a guy get injured—much less carted off of the field. The weather made for tricky footing and Clay seemed to be an unfortunate victim of this issue.
For the Bengals, Tyler Boyd, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick all left the game with injuries, and it had an effect. An ugly day of weather led to ugly injuries and an ugly end score.