The Buffalo Bills fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 24-18 on Sunday Night Football. The loss drops the Bills to 5-4 on the season as their late comeback attempt came up short.
Josh Allen’s rushing touchdown tied Steve Young’s career mark for quarterbacks, but the Bills offense struggled to find consistency. Allen and the passing game could not get in sync during the first half.
Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid had a career-high 10 catches, but a critical fumble nearing the red zone gave the Bengals a key field goal.
Stefon Diggs was quiet in the first half before finishing with a touchdown to keep his hot streak going. New defensive tackle Linval Joseph made an immediate impact with a run stuff, and the defense clamped down in the second half to give the offense a chance.
But missed opportunities ultimately doomed the Bills’ comeback bid as they failed to capitalize on the Bengals’ second half scoring drought.
Josh Allen’s Rushing TD Ties Steve Young But Bills Offense Struggles
Josh Allen’s two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the 44th rushing score of his career. This ties Hall of Famer Steve Young for the second most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. Only Cam Newton has more with 75.
However, this would be the only time the Bills reached the end zone in the first half. The Bills possessed the ball for just 8:54 over their first five drives. This was the lowest time of possession in the first half for Josh Allen in his entire career.
After their opening touchdown drive, the Bills offense struggled to find consistency. They did not cross midfield again until late in the second quarter. Too often they were pinned deep in their own territory, starting drives inside their own 15-yard line.
This lack of favorable field position made it difficult to sustain drives and get into scoring range. Allen and the passing game could not get into a good rhythm before the break.
Rookie Kincaid Has Career Day But Critical Fumble
Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid enjoyed a career day for the Bills, hauling in 10 passes for 81 yards. He quickly became Josh Allen’s favorite target, leading the team in catches.
But Kincaid’s breakout performance was marred by a critical fumble in Bengals territory. After catching a pass and fighting for extra yards, Kincaid was flipped in the air by Cincinnati defenders.
Linebacker Germaine Pratt knocked the ball loose, and the fumble was recovered by the Bengals. This gave their offense a short field, and they capitalized with a field goal.
The lost scoring opportunity was a pivotal turning point. At the time, it kept the Bills from potentially taking their first lead of the game late in the third quarter.
Diggs Kept Quiet in First Half But Finishes Strong
Star wide receiver Stefon Diggs entered Sunday leading the NFL with 70 receptions. But he was curiously absent in the first half, drawing only three targets from Josh Allen.
The Bengals secondary made limiting Diggs’ damage a focus of their game plan early on. But the Bills made a concerted effort to get Diggs more involved after halftime.
This paid dividends, as Diggs finished with a team-high 86 receiving yards. His 17-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter also brought the Bills back within one score late.
The touchdown was Diggs’ 36th since joining Buffalo, passing Elbert Dubenion for fourth-most in franchise history. He continues to build chemistry with Allen and cement himself as one of the NFL’s premier receivers.
New DT Joseph Makes Immediate Impact
The Bills signed veteran defensive tackle Linval Joseph last week to reinforce their banged up interior line. Joseph wasted no time making his presence felt.
On a second and short in the second quarter, Joseph exploded into the backfield and stood Joe Burrow up for no gain. This key run forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal after they had driven inside the Bills’ 25-yard line.
Joseph’s ability to clog running lanes and take on double teams shored up a position hit hard by injuries for Buffalo. The four-time Pro Bowler showed he still has gas left in the tank for a defense that leaned on him in his first game.
Jackson and New CB Douglas Split Snaps
Second-year cornerback Dane Jackson drew the tough assignment of covering the Bengals dangerous receivers. He held his own, breaking up three passes on the afternoon.
Newly acquired corner Rasul Douglas also saw significant playing time in his Bills debut. Douglas played 40 percent of defensive snaps and made a couple nice plays, including a pass breakup.
The Bills corners were tested often by Joe Burrow, who threw for 348 yards on the day. But Jackson and Douglas battled, splitting snaps to try containing Cincinnati’s offensive weapons.
Bills Defense Locks Down in Second Half
The Bills defense allowed 21 first half points and struggled containing Joe Burrow early on. But they made excellent halftime adjustments and dominated the second half.
Cincinnati scored only a field goal over the final two quarters. This despite the Bills losing middle linebacker Terrel Bernard to a concussion late in the second quarter.
The defense held strong with several stops to keep the team in striking distance. This gave Josh Allen and the offense multiple chances to capitalize on the Bengals’ second half scoring drought.
Unfortunately the Bills offense could not take advantage and cut into the lead until it was too late. But the defense did its part, clamping down when it mattered most.
Critical Missed Chances Doom Comeback Bid
The Bills nearly battled all the way back from their 18-point second half deficit. But ultimately too many missed chances earlier in the game cost them.
Dalton Kincaid’s red zone fumble and an unsuccessful challenge on a Josh Allen incompletion proved very costly. These errors took potential points off the board for the Bills.
Despite the defense shutting Cincinnati down after halftime, the Bills offense failed to capitalize. Their first three second half drives ended in a punt, a turnover on downs, and a missed field goal.
When they finally started moving the ball consistently it was too little, too late. The late Allen touchdown drive cut the lead to six, but the Bengals offense was able to run out the clock.
Key Stats and Facts From the Game
- Josh Allen’s 44 career rushing TDs tie Steve Young for 2nd all-time among QBs
- Bills had season-low 8:54 time of possession in the first half
- Dalton Kincaid set career highs with 10 catches and 81 receiving yards
- Stefon Diggs passed Elbert Dubenion for 4th-most rec TDs in Bills history
- Linval Joseph had key run stuff on 2nd & short in Bengals red zone
- Dane Jackson broke up 3 passes covering potent Bengals receivers
- Defense allowed just 3 points in second half to keep game within reach
What This Loss Means for Bills Going Forward
The Bills are now 5-4 after back-to-back losses to key AFC opponents. With the defeat, they surrender first place in the AFC East to the Dolphins.
But all is not lost. The Bills now have extra time to correct mistakes and refocus during their Week 14 bye.
They still have talent on both sides of the ball, and remain in prime playoff position. The AFC East race remains tightly contested.
The Bills need to get back on track in a Monday night showdown with the Broncos. This loss will sting, but the Bills remain capable of making noise come playoff time.
Dalton Kincaid – The rookie tight end emerged as a weapon, setting career highs across the board. If he can limit mistakes, he can become a valuable part of the offense.
Stefon Diggs – Despite a quiet start, Diggs made his presence felt when it mattered. He continues to perform at an elite level.
Linval Joseph – The newly signed defensive tackle made an immediate impact with a key run stuff to limit red zone damage.
Dane Jackson – The young corner battled against dangerous receivers. His development is key for the secondary.