For the third time in four home games, Ralph Wilson Stadium has been less than friendly for the Buffalo Bills.
Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals offense was clicking again, beating the Bills 34-21. Cincinnati’s high powered offense gave Buffalo’s banged up offense no chance to keep themselves in the game late, scoring 17 points in each half.
For the Bengals, Dalton passed for 243 yards, going 22/33, and tossed 3 touchdowns. Wide receiver Marvin Jones caught 9 of Dalton’s passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Buffalo got running back LeSean McCoy back, who rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown, as well as wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who had 48 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt in the second quarter. However, Buffalo was without starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and had to start backup EJ Manuel. Manuel finished 28/42 for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) and an interception.
Here are some notes about Buffalo’s third home loss on the season:
- EJ Manuel played well enough. He was inconsistent, as he always is, but he made enough plays in this game to keep Buffalo in the game. He also had some bad throws that allowed Cincinnati to get good field position. In the end, backup QB or not, four straight 3-and-outs are not ideal, but this game is not as much EJ’s fault as you’d think. Buffalo’s best drive start all game was the 20 yard line. That means Buffalo’s defense and special teams didn’t flip the field for their banged-up offense, and their best drive starts were when the Bengals’ kickoffs (after scoring points) went for a touchback. Not many teams win games that way, let alone with their backup quarterback.
- The penalties continue to be an issue. Yes, holding calls are subjective, and some other penalties can’t be avoided. But the unsportsmanlike/personal foul crap looks like it’s not going away (I’m looking at you today, Ron Brooks). And, to no surprise, Buffalo’s penalty issues led to another loss at home. Perhaps being on the road helps calm this team down? Buffalo had 8 penalties for 93 yards in this game.
- This Buffalo defense is getting worse under head coach Rex Ryan. Two weeks ago on WBNY’s Buffalo Blitz, I was cautioned not to go that far by fellow Blitz team member James Bittler, as well as Rob Quinn of BillsMafia.com after the loss to the New York Giants. However, it’s become more obvious that Ryan’s scheme doesn’t fit this roster’s talents. Don’t get it wrong, the Bengals have a great offense that is healthy and rolling. But if the defense was elite, why is it getting carved up? This is mostly the same roster that forced Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers into 0 TDs and 5 INTs last year in consecutive games, and gave up no touchdowns in the 2 quarters Tom Brady played to end the 2014 season. This same defense has been lit up by Brady, Dalton and Eli Manning in 2015. Great defenses can hold off good quarterbacks, Buffalo did it to Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck.
- Dalton’s game against Buffalo is different from Brady and Eli Manning’s. Dalton’s Bengals rely on a big play element, which would allow Buffalo’s pass rush a chance to hit the QB. However, Dalton’s only moments of pressure he caused by feeling “phantom pressure” (assumed pass rush that hasn’t arrived yet,) to begin with. Otherwise, Dalton had a clean pocket. Bills’ defensive end Mario Williams spoke about the issues with the usage of the defensive line as well, speaking to the players’ recognition that something isn’t right.
- There is one saving grace for Buffalo’s poor defensive performance: the injury to safety Aaron Williams. Bacarri Rambo didn’t look for a lob pass to Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert when everyone in the building knew it was coming. Rambo has often been lost in coverage, something Williams helps shape up more often than not. But one man’s injury doesn’t excuse the defense completely, not even close.
- Buffalo’s offense played admirably without Taylor, Watkins (for the second half), wide receiver Percy Harvin, right tackle Seantrel Henderson and reserve running back Karlos Williams. Manuel, McCoy and company led the Bills to 21 points, which is usually enough to help Buffalo to a win. Offensive depth has been key for this team, and they haven’t used the injury excuse. This team has enough offensive talent to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in London next week, thanks to the depth on offense.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Bills (3-3, 1-1 AFC East) hop on a plane after this loss to fly “across the pond” to London for a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5, 0-2 AFC South).