The Buffalo Bills lost 24-18 on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football, falling to 5-4 on the season.
A late comeback attempt fell short after the Bengals ran out the clock following a late touchdown from the Bills that threatened Cincinnati's lead.
The Bengals won the coin toss and started with the ball with tight end Irv Smith finding the end zone. Quarterback Joe Burrow is 21-2 when he scores on the game's first drive.
Quarterback Josh Allen answered, leading an 85-yard drive that ended with him running for a two-yard touchdown.
Despite looking sharp on their opening drive, the Bills would not score again until the first drive of the second half. In all, the Bills only passed the 50-yard line on five of their nine drives and struggled to win the field position battle with the Bengals, starting drives behind their own 15-yard line four times.
When the Bills finally did get in the end zone again, it was too late. Facing a 24-10 deficit, Allen used his feet and made short but effective passes before finding Stefon Diggs for a 17-yard touchdown, capped off with a two-point conversion catch from Diggs.
However, the Bengals were able to control the ball on the following drive and, after picking up a first down, were able to line up in victory formation and earn the win.
The Bills had already burned two timeouts before Cincinnati's final drive and were unable to prevent the seconds from ticking off the clock. One timeout came early in the second half to avoid a delay of game penalty and the other came after the Bills unsuccessfully challenged an incomplete pass to receiver Trent Sherfield.
A key missed opportunity came as the Bills approached the red zone late in the third quarter. After catching a pass from Allen and turning up field for extra yards, rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid was flipped in the air by a pair of Bengals defenders. Linebacker Germaine Pratt punched the ball out of Kincaid's hands, setting up a field goal drive for the Bengals.
Kincaid finished with 81 yards off of 10 receptions, which led the team.
Diggs, who leads the NFL with 70 receptions, was only targeted three times in the first half but saw more action in the second. The Bills receiver finished with 86 yards and a score. Gabe Davis was targeted twice, including once in the end zone on a key third-and-9 play, but finished with zero catches.
Despite middle linebacker Terrel Bernard exiting with a concussion acquired late in the first half, the Bills defense allowed only three points in the second half, giving the offense multiple chances to capitalize on the Bengals' scoring drought.
The defense again was effective in mitigating the damage from Allen's interception, which was intended for Davis, gave the Bengals a good chance to go up two touchdowns early in the second quarter, but the Buffalo defense stood tall near the red zone. During the drive, newly signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph made a huge play on second-and-1, picking Burrow up and stopping him from picking up a first down. Despite Cincinnati making it up to the Bills 23-yard line, they committed four penalties – including a false start on a field goal that Evan McPherson made as the play was blown dead – and were forced to punt.
Cornerback Dane Jackson, one of many Bills defensive backs faced with the tough task of covering the Bengals talented group of receivers, finished with three pass breakups. Rasul Douglas, who the Bills acquired from Green Bay earlier this week, split time with Jackson, playing 40 percent of snaps compared to Jackson's 56 percent. Douglas finished with two tackles and a pass breakup of his own.
The Bills will have a long week to prepare for their Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos.
Key Stats and Facts to Know
- Josh Allen's first quarter rushing touchdown was the 44th of his career, breaking a tie with Steve Young for the second-most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Cam Newton's 75 are the most among any NFL quarterback.
- The Bills offense only possessed the ball for 8:54 in the first half, the lowest time of possession in Josh Allen's career.
- Dalton Kincaid's 10 receptions were the most in his short career. Kincaid has caught 88.8 percent of his 45 targets, the fifth-highest rate in the league.
- Stefon Diggs' fourth quarter touchdown catch broke a tie with Elbert Dubenion to own the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in team history with 36.
- The Bills' loss marked the first career loss on Sunday Night Football for head coach Sean McDermott and Josh Allen.
- Joe Burrow finished with 348 passing yards and two touchdowns in his first regular season matchup against Bills quarterbacks coach Joe Brady, who was on the LSU coaching staff that won the 2019 National Championship with Burrow at quarterback.
9:18 1Q | BUF 0 CIN 7 | Joe Burrow pass short left to Irv Smith for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN
6:03 1Q | BUF 7 CIN 7 | Josh Allen rush short right for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN
0:35 1Q | BUF 7 CIN 14 | Joe Mixon rush short left for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN
1:37 2Q | BUF 7 CIN 21 | Joe Burrow pass short right to Drew Sample for 22 yards, TOUCHDOWN
10:21 3Q | BUF 10 CIN 21 | Tyler Bass 34-yard field goal is GOOD
8:08 4Q | BUF 10 CIN 24 | Evan McPherson 20-yard field goal is GOOD
3:31 4Q | Josh Allen pass deep right to Stefon Diggs for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Josh Allen pass short right to Stefon Diggs for 2 yards, two-point conversion attempt is GOOD