This offense has every ability to be great
Cincinnati's first half touchdown drives is why I remain so invested in this offense. Following a game-opening field goal to take an early 3-0 lead, the Bills responded with a 65-yard drive that gave Buffalo a 7-3 lead with over ten minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Bengals offense responded by stringing together a pair of touchdown drives that went 88 and then 98 yards.
Cincinnati's 88-yard touchdown drive really kicked in when the Bengals had second and 15 from their own 30-yard line. Dalton completed four passes out of five attempts for 64 yards, including Marvin Jones' 42-yard screen pass, capped by a beautifully lofted pass to A.J. Green, who snagged the touchdown pass over cornerback Leodis McKelvin. And Dalton's effort to convert a third and six by diving over the first down marker? Inspiring.
Then the defense stuffed Buffalo at Cincinnati's two-yard line and the offense went 98 yards to take a 17-10 lead. Another bubble screen picked up massive yards, this time to A.J. Green, capped by a shovel-like pass to Giovani Bernard, who mutated into the football ninja to score the 20-yard touchdown.
But it's the inconsistency that forces me to hesitate on the high-diving board before plunging into the deep end with faith as my vehicle. In the fourth quarter, the Bengals punted on all four of their possessions, amassing 37 yards on 18 plays.
Though difficult, the road can be won.
Heading into this season, the Bengals were road warriors, winning 11 of 16 away games dating back to '11. This year, both of Cincinnati's losses have come on the road in Chicago and Cleveland.
The generic and realistic goal for every team is to win your games at home and split on the road. Cincinnati improved in that on Sunday by beating the Bills in Buffalo; their first win at Orchard Park since 1985.
They needed it.
Cincinnati will play on the road in three of their next four games and four of their next six with games in Detroit, Miami, Baltimore and San Diego on tap. Not until week 16 and 17 will the Bengals host consecutive games at Paul Brown Stadium.
Giovani Bernard will be the next great receiving back
The modern running back is more than just a runner. Examples of this includes Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Darren Sproles, who are running backs that are ranked in the top-20 among all players in receptions this year.
Giovani Bernard hasn't reached that level just yet, but he's currently fourth on the team with 20 receptions and fifth with 201 yards receiving. A.J. Green is the only Bengals player with more touchdown receptions (4) than Giovani, who scored his second against the Bills on Sunday.
James Brooks holds the team record for most receptions by a running back (54) in 1986. Bernard is on pace for 53 receptions but he's clearly becoming more comfortable out of the backfield, posting six receptions in two of the past three games (Bills, Browns).
Reliance on defense and special teams is good policy
Many teams in the NFL usually focus on having one good unit. Whether it's the offense or defense, most teams rely on their best unit to win games while hoping the other is serviceable enough not to lose it. Two touchdown drives in the first half gave Cincinnati more than enough on offense for the defense and special teams to take over.
But overtime was a prime example on how the Bengals depend so heavily on special teams and defense.
Though offensively the Bengals are an effective bunch, they often hit the proverbial black hole that takes time to regroup from. Thankfully they were regaining departed momentum in overtime, with Dalton hitting Mohamed Sanu on a beautifully timed 10-yard reception that neutralized A.J. Green's offensive pass interference. On the following play, Giovani Bernard caught a 23-yard reception on a wheel route down the right sidelines.
This was more than enough for the Bengals special teams and defense to take over.
After Andy Dalton took a seven-yard sack, the Bengals were forced to punt. Kevin Huber angled a 30-yard punt to the Bills seven-yard line with 10:25 remaining in over time.
The defense forced a three-and-out and Brandon Tate returned the ensuing punt 29 yards to the Bills 33-yard line. Mike Nugent converted the game-winner with under seven minutes remaining in overtime.
Thus the Marvin Jones fan club is created
Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones is best defined this year as the third receiver. Save for a touchdown reception against the Green Bay Packers, Jones has largely been a non-factor this year, failing to reach 40 yards receiving in any of the team's first five games.
It was the sixth game that his arrival made the greatest impact this year. Along with being responsible or two of the team's three biggest plays on Sunday, Jones set a career-high in yards receiving (71) and yards from scrimmage (105).
His blocking was impressive, springing Mohamed Sanu's 12-yard reception that converted a third-and-eight. His third quarter touchdown, several players later, was masterful body control, stopping time to dig two feet into the blue surface for a touchdown just before he was shoved back out of the endzone.
It's performances like these that helps expand Cincinnati's passing game, which also allows A.J. Green to record only his second 100-yard effort this season.
Considering that Andrew Hawkins' eventual return will disrupt the team's wide receiver depth chart, something that could directly affect Jones, his game against the Bills is a solid argument against reduced playing time.