Cincinnati, OH– The Cincinnati Bengals wore all black against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Perhaps representing their funeral for the rest of 2016; a year that started with a heartbreaking 18-16 playoff loss to rival Pittsburgh in January.
ceremony –game– started with wide receiver AJ Green going down with a hamstring injury on the second play of the contest. He would not return and was carted off the field. Early signs pointed to a season-ending issue for the five-time Pro Bowler, but after the MRI results came out on Monday, it appears he will miss just a few weeks with a strained hamstring. He is just 36 yards away from a sixth-straight 1,000-yard season, a feat only Randy Moss has achieved.
Without his number-one wide out for the first time since a 2014 playoff loss to Indianapolis, Andy Dalton struggled to find momentum through the air. After a pair of interceptions in the first half, Dalton and the offense went three and out on four consecutive second-half possessions.
The Red Rifle was not absent from the end zone on Sunday, though. His third rushing touchdown of the season put Cincinnati on the board in the first quarter. Then, his one-yard touchdown toss to rookie Tyler Boyd at the 3:10 mark in the second quarter gave the Bengals a 12-10 advantage heading into halftime.
Dalton finished the afternoon 24 of 43 for 207 yards, two touchdowns (one rushing) and two picks. His 30.3 QBR was the lowest in a home game since a win over Denver in 2014. It was his first multi-interception performance since last season’s road victory over the Steelers.
Issues continued for veteran kicker Mike Nugent. The seventh-year Bengal bonked both of his point-after attempts off the right upright, keeping two meaningful points off the board.
Three weeks earlier, Nugent missed an extra point in London against the Washington Redskins that proved to be the difference in a 27-27 tie. On Sunday, two successful PATs would have made the score 16-14 when the Bengals drove to the Buffalo 27-yard line in the final seconds of the game. Instead of a game-winning field goal try, Dalton was forced to loft a Hail Mary into the center of the end zone as time expired. The pass fell incomplete and Cincinnati dropped to 3-6-1.
With Sammy Watkins out and Robert Woods missing most of the game with a knee injury, Buffalo’s offense relied heavily on their AFC’s best rushing attack.
The Bills pounded out a season-high 183 rushing yards on 34 attempts. Buffalo’s lone touchdown came on a seven-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy to cap off a 75-yard drive after the Bengals punted to start the game. It was the sixth opening-drive touchdown surrendered by Paul Guenther‘s unit in 10 games this season.
McCoy left the game with a thumb injury, but third-year back Mike Gillislee chimed in with a team-high 72 yards on 14 attempts, helping Buffalo own the time of possession battle in the second half by over 11 minutes, 20:37-9:23.
Tyrod Taylor was 29th in the NFL in yards per attempt coming into the game and didn’t need to do much to pick up his fifth road conference victory in the past two seasons. Despite having a rushing touchdown called back in the first half, Taylor finished the day 19 of 27 for 166 yards and an interception.
Ex-Bengal Brandon Tate, who was released in the preseason after five seasons, was Buffalo’s leading receiver with two catches for 48 yards. His 34-yard reception in the second half was the longest play of the game by either team and set up Dan Carpenter‘s third field goal of the game, which made it 16-12 early in the fourth quarter. Tate added 99 yards on five total returns.
Dre Kirkpatrick provided the defense’s lone takeaway of the afternoon. Jumping in front of Marquise Goodwin at the one-yard line to spoil a Buffalo scoring opportunity with 55 seconds left in the second quarter.
- The Bengals had possession in Buffalo territory on their first two drives of the second half. Both drives resulted in punts
- Tyler Boyd caught six passes for 54 yards and his first career touchdown.
- Jeremy Hill ran for 62 yards on 16 carries. He is on pace to fall three yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark this season.
- The Bengals were shutout in the second half for just the fifth time in the past six regular seasons.
- Nugent missed five extra points in his previous 12 seasons in the league. The former National Championship-winner has now misfired on three PATs this season.
- Battling a nagging injury, linebacker Vontaze Burfict tallied a team-high 13 tackles and a sack.
- Tyler Eifert hauled in three receptions for 37 yards, but a pass attempt late in the first half ricocheted off his left arm and was intercepted by Stephon Gilmore.
- Taylor was held under 200 yards passing for the 12th time in the last two seasons. He ran for 39 yards on nine attempts.
To add injury to insult, Giovani Bernard suffered a torn ACL on the Bengals’ final possession of the ball game. The fourth-year, duel-threat running back’s injury will keep him out for the rest of the season.
At 3-6-1, the Bengals’ season is on life-support. They are not mathematically out of the postseason race, trailing Baltimore and Pittsburgh by 1.5 games, but they will now have to travel to M&T Bank Stadium without Green and Bernard to battle the first-place Ravens next Sunday.
Green and Bernard have accounted for 41.9 percent (151/ 360) of Dalton’s pass attempts this season.
The Bengals have won five straight against Baltimore dating back to 2013.