CINCINNATI, Ohio (WROC) — The Bills were firing on all cylinders on their first drive against the Bengals, waltzing down the field for a touchdown featuring a pass-heavy approach.
The next seven drives resulted in two turnovers and just three points as the Bills fell 24-18, dropping their record to 5-4 on the season.
Josh Allen completed 26 of 38 attempts for 258 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Dalton Kincaid continued his ascent, catching ten passes for 81 yards. However, a costly fourth-quarter fumble dashed a potential scoring drive.
“Too inconsistent overall,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott. “I thought we got off to a really good start in our rhythm. After that, it was tough sledding and that can’t happen.”
“It’s the old cliche. In order to win you’ve got to stop yourself from losing and we didn’t do that tonight,” said Allen. “We come out in the opening drive, had some success moving the ball and obviously, hit a lull there.”
“These guys are invested,” McDermott added. “It’s tough to win in the NFL. When you go up against a good football team, you have to do things right. We didn’t do enough things right tonight to win.”
Joe Burrow had a stellar day at the office, completing 31 of his 44 attempts for 348 yards and two touchdowns. Tee Higgins had eight catches for 110 yards, while Drew Sample and Irv Smith Jr. each had touchdown grabs.
Both teams could not be stopped on offense in the first quarter.
The Bengals faced just one third down as they went 76 yards on the opening drive for a touchdown, with Burrow connecting with Smith Jr. for a seven-yard touchdown.
The Bills answered with a seven-play drive where the only rush was an Allen scramble for a two-yard touchdown.
The Bengals countered with another scoring drive, with Joe Mixon plunging in from two yards out on third and goal for a 14-7 lead. Cincinnati faced just one third down period to the score, with Tyler Boyd hauling in a 15-yard reception on third and ten.
After both teams traded punts, Allen threw a bad interception, as Cam Taylor-Britt was waiting on a deep pass intended for Gabe Davis.
Davis was targeted just twice and failed to record a catch. The other was an attempt to the end zone later in the game where it appeared Davis had his facemask grabbed, but no penalty was called.
“Last week, we spread the ball around and tonight not as much,” McDermott said. “There was times when Josh had time back there, but nobody was open. We need to look at that.”
The Bills defense got a stop, but on their next time out the Bengals found the end zone once again. Drew Sample leaked out downfield late in the play, who had no one guarding him after Micah Hyde went in to blitz. He caught a short pass and ran in for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 at the half.
The Bills offense finally found some momentum at the start of the second half, but stalled in the red zone and had to settle for a field goal to make it 21-10.
At the end of the third quarter, the Bills got a stop on defense, turning the Bengals over on downs. Despite losing middle linebacker Terrel Bernard to a concussion, the defense played well down the stretch. After giving up the two early touchdowns, the next six drives for the Bengals ended with one touchdown, a field goal, three punts, and a turnover on downs.
The Bills got back to the passing game, with the ground game coming from Allen who had three rushes on the drive. However, Kincaid made a catch in the red zone and was flipped in the air and fumbled, squashing a crucial drive.
Cincinnati went on a 12-play, 85-yard drive but the Bills defense held up in the red zone, forcing a field goal by the Bengals to make it 24-10.
Stefon Diggs scored a 17-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive and caught the two-point conversion, which made it 24-18 with 3:32 remaining in the game.
Diggs finished with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
However, the Bills defense could not get another stop, as the Bengals were able to run out the clock. The first play of the drive was a 32-yard completion to Tyler Boyd to get into Bills’ territory. The final was a third and three run by Mixon, as the running back got past Von Miller in the backfield en route to the game-sealing first down.
The loss drops the Bills to 5-4 on the season, who are currently in 9th place in the AFC.
“Realistically… you need 10, maybe 11 wins to get into the playoff picture in the AFC,” said Allen. “We’ve got eight games left. We’ve got five wins. The math isn’t pretty.”
“Losing is never fun. Losing sucks,” he added. “We’re not going to let this divide us. We’re going to come together. We’re going to figure it out. I’ve got a lot of faith in the men in this locker room.”
The Bill will have two chances to get wins against beatable opponents at home before entering a brutal home stretch down the season. They will host the Broncos on Monday Night Football before welcoming in the Jets.