It was a second half in which the Buffalo offense would be without their most productive wide receiver and their most productive running back. The Bills were trailing by two and their defense was struggling to get off the field on third down. But for the second straight game the Buffalo defense went into lockdown mode and Kyle Williams was a major factor in the effort that led to a four-point victory.
After allowing just 40 net yards of offense to the Seahawks in the second half of their Monday night loss in Seattle, Buffalo's defense gave up just 37 to Cincinnati over the final two quarters, until the Bengals last ditch effort drive when the Bills were giving up yardage for time on the clock.
"We made a couple of adjustments at halftime," said head coach Rex Ryan. "We tightened up a couple of things and our guys had a good feel for it, and we stopped fouling which was key for us."
At halftime the Bills had eight penalties for 70 yards. Come the second half there was just one infraction assessed against Buffalo for five yards. But more important than the ability to play within the rules, was the way in which the Bills defense rendered the Bengals offense powerless.
Cincinnati's five-play drive for 23 yards, after Buffalo's field goal drive to start the second half, the Bills defense sent the Bengals attack three-and-out on four consecutive possessions.
"We didn't waver at halftime," said Kyle Williams. "We knew we had to clean up some things, penalty-wise and make some adjustments and we were able to do that and played much better in the second half."
Williams may have only racked up four tackles, including one for loss along with a quarterback hit, but it was when those plays came that made an impact.
He had a big tackle for loss on Jeremy Hill on the Bengals second possession that set up Buffalo's first three-and-out of the second half. Williams also collapsed the pocket on Dalton on a 3rd-and-5 play to force an incompletion and another punt off a three-and-out possession.
"Dude is amazing," said Ryan of Williams. "I'm glad he's been healthy all year because he is what our Buffalo fans and the community--that's him-- he represents everything we are all about."
On the final drive the Bills were willing to trade yards for time on the clock knowing the Bengals were out of timeouts. It was the only time Cincinnati converted on third down in the second half as they did so twice. Zach Brown made tackles on four consecutive plays to minimize gains by Giovanni Bernard on underneath throws to the middle of the field.
"We were playing conservative defenses so obviously they were going to get plays," said Corey Graham, who chipped in six tackles and a pass breakup. "It was basically cover two all the way down the field. They hit the check down and that's what you give away in that defense. We were trying to take away the deep ball obviously with the defenses we called. We knew they wouldn't have a lot of time. And they had a chance at the end, but you just have to make a play."
Buffalo knocked down Andy Dalton's final pass attempt to the end zone as time expired to preserve the victory.
Duplicating their second half performances of late in the first half is the next step, but Stephon Gilmore credits the coaching staff for making the necessary adjustments to shut down opposing offenses over the final two quarters.
"We've been mixing it up more once we figure out what they're doing," Gilmore said. "Most teams don't really change in the second half. Once we figure out what they're doing we make the adjustments at halftime and we've been doing pretty good."