What a topsy-turvy game in Buffalo. After the Bengals sleepwalked through the first half, they came alive for a whirlwind final two quarters.
Unfortunately, the Bengals couldn’t complete the comeback and fell to 0-3 on the season. Here are the best and worst performers from Cincinnati’s Week 3 loss to Buffalo.
Auden Tate: The big receiver saw his most extensive action this week and stepped up nicely. Tate finished with six catches for 89 yards and forced a clutch holding penalty on the team’s final drive.
Andrew Billings: The big defensive lineman had a couple of really nice plays in the first half. The team needed to stop the run this week and Billings had a couple of stuffs early in the contest.
Darius Phillips: The second-year defensive back just makes plays. He had an outstanding kickoff return that was negated by a phantom holding penalty, but also a huge interception to set up the Bengals’ first touchdown of the game.
Sam Hubbard: This kid is having a heck of a second season. He was pressuring Josh Allen with frequency, including on the interception by Phillips. He also forced the fumble by T.J. Yeldon in the first half and finished with six tackles and the forced fumble.
Joe Mixon: It’s been a tough start to the season for Mixon, but he backed up his in-week words about playing better. He really came alive in the second half, as he grabbed a game-tying touchdown reception and ran for 61 yards on 15 carries.
Andre Smith: Early in the first quarter, Smith allowed a pressure to Jerry Hughes, who hit Andy Dalton’s arm for an incompletion to stall a drive. He also had a false start right before the half, as the team was likely trying to set up a Hail Mary attempt.
Dre Kirkpatrick: For being one of the longest-tenured Bengals player, Kirkpatrick continues to look utterly confused in the secondary. He was victimized on some of those broken plays by Josh Allen, usually in the form of a conversion of long distances on critical downs. Even in one of his positive plays—a breakup of a potential touchdown to Dawson Knox—he wasn’t even looking at the football.
Andy Dalton: Before the two-minute drill and last-second heave to Tate, Dalton was 6-of-16 for 75 yards and an interception deep into the third quarter. He wasn’t receiving much help from other players on his unit, but there were some other familiar errors.
He had three batted passes at the line once again (one was completed) and just seemed to be a hair off on some other passes. The constant pressure rattled Dalton, as he either scrambled away without looking downfield for further options, or ran into a sack (see the opening drive of the third quarter for both examples).
Unfortunately, Dalton had another egregious interception in the second half, putting the Bengals behind the eight ball in a game that was still in their grasp. He played better in the third and fourth quarters, but threw another interception as the team was driving to win. The throw to Tate was high and behind and was tipped for the pick.
John Ross III: At one point, Ross’s first two targets netted a drop and a lost fumble. Things didn’t get much better later in the game, as he also missed on grabbing what would have been a big gain before the half. Ross had some big numbers in the first two games, but his mental mistakes continue to madden everyone.
Zac Taylor: This team is competitive, but too many silly mistakes are being made. The team had 12 men on the field on two different occasions, while nobody on the defense wanted to wrap up Allen for a sack.
Taylor’s play-calling in the first half was also uninspiring, as the team was held scoreless until the third quarter. There are glaring times when the staff’s inexperience shows and this team is still “learning how to win”.
The officiating crew: I didn’t realize the Bengals were scheduled two simultaneous opponents in Buffalo for Week 3. Whether it was the phantom holding call on Tate, the WTF moment with the not-Allen fumble and Nick Vigil recovery, or a number of others, Cincinnati had an uphill battle with the folks in zebra stripes.