Tied at 20 with 4:09 remaining it was once again on Buffalo's offense to pull out another victory for the Bills, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense could not sustain the drive leaving it to Buffalo's defense. With the ball at their own 19-yard line and 1:48 remaining rookie quarterback Andy Dalton moved Cincinnati into field goal range with four seconds remaining. Mike Nugent's 43-yard attempt was good as time expired lifting the Bengals to a 23-20 come from behind win handing Buffalo their first loss of the season.
"That's the worst way to lose it," said Fred Jackson. "We had an opportunity to put the game away and we didn't take advantage of it. Chan alluded to it after the game. We didn't finish with fundamentals. We didn't execute when we had plays called, and it got away from us. We didn't make plays when we had the opportunity."
"It's gut wrenching," said Bryan Scott. "It's gut wrenching."
"That was a game of playing average the first half and poorly the second half," said head coach Chan Gailey. "We have to do a better job of executing on offense. We've got to stop the run and stop the big plays on defense. We didn't do either one of those enough to win the ball game."
Buffalo's offense had the ball with four minutes left in a tie game (20-20), but the Bills could not convert on a 3rd-and-5 at their own 37-yard line, forcing them to punt it back to Cincinnati with just under two minutes left on the clock.
Cincinnati's run game led by Cedric Benson, who was held to 17 rushing yards on eight carries in the first half, was more productive in the second half as Benson rumbled for 87 yards on just 11 carries. The Bengals averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the game.
"The second half they did come to the run a little more," said Scott. "They did some things to try to scheme us a little bit in the second half, but we made adjustments. It really just comes down to execution. It comes down to tackling and the fundamentals that we didn't do in the second half."
Buffalo once again got off to a sluggish start offensively as they were unable to convert on third down in the first quarter. The Bills went five-and-out, three-and-out and three-and-out on their first three possessions missing on a 3rd-and-7, and a pair of 3rd-and-4s.
Cincinnati had field position advantage early and finally put together a field goal drive late in the first quarter. Bengals QB Andy Dalton actually had a shot at a touchdown on 3rd-and-5 at the Bills 13, but his fade pass, which was intended for an open A.J. Green in the front right corner of the end zone was overthrown out of bounds. Cincinnati settled for a 31-yard Mike Nugent field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Buffalo answered with a field goal drive of their own on the ensuing possession thanks to a couple of pass plays. Targeting David Nelson on a 2nd-and-6 at their own 24, Ryan Fitzpatrick pass was deflected right into the arms of Naaman Roosevelt, who went 28 yards into Bengals territory. Three plays later Ryan Fitzpatrick found Brad Smith for a 17-yard pickup and a first down at the Cincinnati 31. But the drive stalled from there and the Bills took a 43-yard field goal from Rian Lindell to tie the score at 3 early in the second quarter.
The Bills appeared to take the lead when on a 3rd-and-6 at the Cincinnati 24, Bengals QB Andy Dalton was sacked by Chris Kelsay and Dalton fumbled. The loose ball was scooped up by Bryan Scott, who returned it 13 yards for a touchdown.
Upon review however, Dalton's arm was ruled to be coming forward invoking the tuck rule making the play an incomplete pass and Buffalo's touchdown was taken off the board keeping the 3-3 tie intact.
Later in the quarter however, Scott would have an opportunity at redemption. Dalton threw a 2nd-and-10 pass from the Bengals 41 that was intended for Bubba Caldwell. Caldwell was trying to pull the ball in, but it was ripped out of his hands by Scott. As Caldwell fell to the ground, so did the ball, but it bounced up off Caldwell's foot before hitting the ground. Scott came up with the interception and raced 43 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
Rian Lindell's extra point made it 10-3 Buffalo with 3:10 remaining in the half. Cincinnati tried to answer and moved deep into Buffalo territory after a 58-yard hookup between Dalton and A.J. Green. But two plays later Dalton's pass over the middle for Caldwell was picked off by George Wilson at the Bills 19-yard line.
From there Buffalo's offense finally shifted into gear. Fred Jackson ripped off a nine-yard and 21-yard run to move the Bills into Cincinnati territory. Ryan Fitzpatrick then hit Stevie Johnson on a slant pattern on the right side and Johnson almost reached the end zone. Johnson was taken down at the two-yard line, but Jackson finished off the drive as he waltzed into the end zone from two yards out thanks to solid lead blocks by Corey McIntyre and Andy Levitre. The score put Buffalo up 14 with less than a minute to go in the half (17-3).
Cincinnati again got a big play from Green on their first drive of the second half. Following a 28-yard run by Cedric Benson to the Bills 47, Dalton again hit Green on a 40-yard pass play, with Green making an unbelievable catch at the Buffalo seven.
The Bills defense held however, on a 3rd-and-goal at the two-yard line with Dalton's fade pass intended for Green going long and out of bounds over the left sideline. Cincinnati was forced to take a 21-yard field goal from Nugent to make it 17-6.
After Buffalo's offense went three-and-out, Dalton and the Cincinnati offense had their most consistent drive of the game. The Bengals started breaking off yards in big chunks with gains of 11, 5, 9, 11 and 18 yards. After a one-yard gain by Benson to set up a 2nd-and-9 at the Bills 17, Dalton dropped a well-thrown pass over the shoulder of Jermaine Gresham in the front left corner of the end zone. The pass beat good coverage and Gresham pulled the ball in initially with one hand and then secured the pass for a 17-yard touchdown grab pulling Cincinnati to within four (17-13) with five minutes left in the third.
Fitzpatrick and company responded with their longest drive of the day. Entering the drive Buffalo had converted just one of their eight third down attempts, but the Bills made good on three third downs in a row. Fred Jackson converted a 3rd-and-1, C.J. Spiller converted a 3rd-and-7 with a big nine-yard reception on a slant pattern and Spiller again had a big nine-yard bob and weave carry to set up 1st-and-10 at the Bengals 12-yard line.
Unfortunately Buffalo could only get six yards on the next three plays forcing them to settle for a Lindell field goal from 23 yards out to put them up a touchdown 20-13. What was more important was the Bills took more than nine minutes off the clock with the 17-play drive giving their defense a well deserved rest. In the end Buffalo's quarterback knew a touchdown would've meant more.
"It's really disappointing, coming out from halftime and not being able to put some more points on the board," said Fitzpatrick who was 20-34 passing for 199 yards. "I guess there are different types of winning and different situations. The last few games we've done a good job of coming from behind and this time with the lead we've got to be able to do what we did the first week and continue to put the pressure on them and continue to score points and we didn't do that."
Buffalo's defensive unit did forced the Bengals offense three and out, but the Bills ensuing possession lasted just three plays. Stevie Johnson's third down catch for a first down was ruled an incomplete pass by the officials. Chan Gailey challenged, but the call was upheld.
"I was a little shocked at the call because I had a pretty decent vantage point," said Gailey. "You've got to be strong enough and good enough to overcome that. We've been in worse situations that that before and played better. So you've got to be able to handle that."
Cincinnati marched an impressive 80 yards on 10 plays. Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham pulled in passes of 25 and 18 yards to help set up 1st-and-goal at the three-yard line. The Bengals then spread Buffalo's defense out with a five-wide look and Andy Dalton scrambled three yards to the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point tied the game at 20 with 4:09 remaining.
"It was a run all the way," said Dalton. "They spread everyone out and it was a good look for it."
The Bills however, could not sustain a drive when they needed it most. Facing a 3rd-and-5, Ryan Fitzpatrick was flushed from the pocket and tried to hit Fred Jackson down the left sideline, but the ball was a bit high and Jackson couldn't come down with it.
"It was one of those days where we couldn't get anything going in the run or pass game," Fitzpatrick said.
Brian Moorman, who was booming punts all day, hit a 53-yarder to the Bengals 10, which was returned to the 19-yard line. Three plays later Cincinnati facing a 3rd-and-3 at their own 43 had a play break down forcing Dalton to scramble. He did not get the first down on the initial spot of the ball, but a review advanced the ball to the 46 for a first down.
From there Cincinnati moved into scoring territory for the game-winning field goal attempt. With the loss Buffalo fell to 3-1 on the season and now begins a string of games against NFC East opponents, beginning with Philadelphia at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday at 1 pm.