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From the booth: Bengals at Bills

Posted Oct 15, 2013

Some observations from the radio broadcast booth after Buffalo’s overtime loss to the Bengals Sunday.

-Cincinnati got the jump on the Bills early in the game with some outstanding play design offensively. The Bengals came in determined to make Buffalo pay for its’ aggressive, attacking defense with screens and reverses aimed at making the Bills attacking style work against them.

It started early, on the third play from scrimmage, when Marvin Jones got loose on a 34-yard end around. The Bills blitzed safety Da’Norris Searcy on the play and although he eventually recovered to help out on the tackle downfield, Jones had already done the damage. The Buffalo defensive line bit on the fake to the defensive left and Jones was able to take advantage of their over pursuit.

The Bengals screen game figured prominently in their early success and the shovel pass for the touchdown to Gio Bernard was another example of Buffalo’s over-aggressive pass rush getting caught upfield. On some screen plays, Cincinnati lined its’ big tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, in cluster formations, putting them in excellent position to block for the wideouts who were the targeted receivers.

And the Bengals blocked the screens very effectively. Two minutes into the third quarter, they picked up a third and eight play, when wide receiver Jones threw a great block in front of the receiver, Mohamed Sanu.

Going into the season, we knew Mike Pettine’s defense could be high-risk/high reward with its’ blitzing and aggressive pass rush. In the Bengals game, the risks caught up with the Buffalo defense.

-If the Bills went into the season hoping their no-huddle, up-tempo attack would generate a high play count, they’ve succeeded in the first six games. Buffalo has run 432 offensive plays through the first six games, an average of 72 per game. That’s more than any other NFL team, including the up-tempo Philadelphia Eagles who average 68 plays per game. The next closest number to Buffalo is the 71.6 plays per game averaged by the San Francisco 49ers.

And even though none of the running backs, including C.J. Spiller, have run enough to be sick to their stomach, the Bills continue to be one of the league leaders in rushing attempts. Buffalo runs the ball 49-percent of the after the first six games. Only Seattle, with 54-percent, runs the Ball more often. The Bills lead the AFC in percentage of rushing attempts and they’re tied with Carolina and Philadelphia with runs on 49-percent of their plays. The NFL average for all 32 teams is 41-percent running plays.

-The most effective running attack the Bills had against the Bengals was in a drive that produced no points. The 76 yard drive that started in the first quarter and ended on the Bengals one yard line featured 15 running plays for Buffalo, and just one pass. Spiller had some success getting the edge on the Cincinnati defense and the Bills ran the ball with Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Thad Lewis and even Marquise Goodwin on the drive. Unfortunately, the run game stalled at the one yard line, when the Bills were unable to punch it into the end zone.

-After struggling with penalties through the first five games, the Bills had their best day of the season avoiding the yellow flags on Sunday. They finished with four penalties for 27 yards, and some of the calls were dubious at best.

The third quarter Taunting-Unsportsmanlike Conduct call on Kyle Williams was the worst of the lot. Williams watched his teammate Kiko Alonso get drilled on a possibly illegal peel-back block by the Bengals running back Gio Bernard, and he responded by accosting Bernard and getting in his face.  Taunting?  Not even close. Flag-happy referee Ed Hochuli reached for his flag and game the Bengals 13-bonus yards on the penalty call. A good referee would have warned Williams to take it easy and kept his flag in his pocket.

-Yes that was Western New Yorker Jim McNally on the Bengals sideline Sunday, all decked out in Bengals sideline gear.  McNally spent 15-years as Cincinnati’s offensive line coach, before moving on to the Giants and finishing his career with four years coaching the Bills O-Line. The Kenmore native now lives in Orchard Park and he’s a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He obviously considers his years with the Bengals the highlight of his long career.