Immediate Reactions: Cincinnati Bengals 34, Buffalo Bills 21

Sometimes you hate being correct.

Looking over the Bengals roster before this game, I not only understood why the team is 5-0, I worried that the Bills would be blown out.

The receiving weapons at Andy Dalton’s disposal would open up the Bills front seven to big runs. At the very least, the Bengals would consistently find yards in clumps.

That’s exactly what happened against E.J. Manuel and a short-handed Buffalo offense. Rex Ryan’s defense was taken apart from the get-go, more or less, and the offense didn’t have enough big play potential, especially once Sammy Watkins went down with another injury, to beat a quality team (even at home).

And when you throw in no sacks, no turnovers and poor tackling (again) from this elite defense… woof.

When it’s all said and done, given the potentially long-term injuries to Kyle Williams and Sammy Watkins, this could very well be a major pivot point on the path to the playoffs.

— Manuel was Manuel, and probably above-average when graded on his own curve. Not as accurate as you need to be average, but not as poor as he’s painted by our quarterback-starved community. The perceived gulf between him and Taylor — at current experience levels — isn’t massive. Throw in the fact by the end of the game his arsenal of receiving weapons was two butter knives and an above-average tight end, and you have a recipe for disaster.

— Lost in any takes about how the Bills defense “wore down” as its offense failed over the course of the game is the truth that Andy Dalton was quite inaccurate in the first half. Had he carried his rich vein of form throughout the first half, this could’ve been even uglier.

— LeSean McCoy was very good for the Bills, heading directly to holes on inside runs and hastening to open field when going outside. Running backs are largely replaceable, but McCoy reminded us that he’s a cut above the rest of the Bills stable of backs.

— Manuel had a miserable third drive, lofting a long pass down the right sideline that may’ve been intended for a large swath of turf, and then being picked on a well-underthrown attempt to Chris Hogan. At this point, it was another sign that he is who we thought he was.

— Chris Gragg played a lot.

— Bacarri Rambo’s ‘coverage’ of Tyler Eifert on the tight end’s touchdown was comically bad, but Stephon Gilmore’s attempt to intercept a long ball to Marvin Jones was under-the-radar poor. Granted I want my lockdown corner to go up and get that, but a knockdown is preferable. In writing this paragraph, I’ve begun to doubt my certainty here. Gilmore’s been consistently solid this year.

— Cincinnati is a legitimate threat to come out of the AFC, and I think — eternal NFL caveat: if their defense stays relatively healthy — the Bengals could be a match-up problem for New England.

The big question: Will Watkins travel to London?

The bigger question: If he doesn’t, do they fly a new player to London to join the team, or just sign a player from the Rugby World Cup?

Three stars…

1. LeSean McCoy
2. Mike Modano
3. Lindy Ruff

Three things that troubled me…

1. Watkins’ and Kyle Williams’ injuries
2. The pass rush’s drop in effectiveness as the game wore on.
3. The seeming inevitably of the loss, at home, to drop to 1-3 at the Ralph.

Game ball(s)…

McCoy

 

Next week…

To London, and then a bye week. They slip by Jacksonville, 20-17, with Tyrod Taylor back at QB. And we get to spend 14 days analyzing the schedule.

 

Email: nick@fcbuffalo.org

Follow @NicholasMendola

9 Responses to Immediate Reactions: Cincinnati Bengals 34, Buffalo Bills 21

  1. I haven’t watched the game rewind yet, but I’ll comment, especially on Manuel which seems directed at my ilk.

    EJ has never been a poor QB. His stats and efficiency aren’t poor. He’s a solid, proven mid-6s YPA passer. His scoring rate and various ratings, they’re all like solid below average. I agree that the gulf between EJ and Tyrod isn’t huge. My point is that EJ is a waste of time. He’s limited in 2 big ways: 1) accuracy isn’t good enough, and 2) he only reads ‘half’ the field and doesn’t trust his reads for whatever reason. He’s received top QB coaching for over a decade in offenses similar to the NFL. He’s not going to be good.

    I’m also not impressed by McCoy. Yes, he’s better than Boobie Dixon and Boom Herron. Otherwise, meh. He’s not breaking special runs.

    And how Rambo is ever covering Eifert is a criminal offense.

    • What she said.

      Since my ilk and her ilk are bff’s, I must concur.

      “I agree that the gulf between EJ and Tyrod isn’t huge. My point is that EJ is a waste of time.”

      Preach, sister. This is exactly why I wanted Manuel cut 8 months ago, like I said here. Every snap he takes is a waste of time. He is nothing but a tease.

      Let him go enchant another team, asap.

      And, right now, Tyrod is only marginally better. A bit more accurate, and a better runner. And that is all that Taylor may ever turn out to be: nothing more than “slightly” better than EJ Manuel. And if so, we need to move on from him, too.

      But, I need to see a little more from Tyrod (get healthy!) before I make that final judgment. Right now, I am not optimistic. Come January, it’s quite probable that the Bills will need to find a new starting QB.

      Sigh.

    • No, wasn’t directed at you, unless you’re someone who thinks the Bills lost on Sunday because their QB failed their defense, which was honestly below-average. I know the Bengals have weapons and I like their long-term chances, and the Bills could’ve still lost if their defense was functional, but they left gaps all over the field for a Dalton to exploit. And it’s not like he found razor-thin margins, he had an easy time of it. Maybe one turnover flips the script right back.

      Manuel is not a horrible backup quarterback, but I was bristling at how many people think the defense “kept them in it” until they could’ve hold Manuel up any longer.

  2. I could have defended that TD pass better than Rambo. What a pathetic effort he made. This is the last year I buy into the idea that the Bills will be good. No heart at all.

  3. Well, so much for listening to one’s gut.

    Butterflies in the belly can feel good, but the brain knows better. Logic insisted that Cincy was the far better team, and they proved it so. It was, basically, the same old song for the Bills: An overrated defense, a mediocre QB, penalties and injuries.

    It started well enough, though. Good opening drive. EJ Manuel made a few easy throws, and used his legs a bit. But he was somewhat lucky on that badly thrown big completion to Clay. Even after the review, I disagreed, and thought that Clay trapped that ball on the ground. But, the stripes gave it to him, and EJ ran for a TD.

    After that drive, however, the Bill offense stalled. Except for McCoy, whose shiftiness in the open field is fun to watch, there wasn’t much to get excited about.

    Cincy had good field position early but didn’t quite take full advantage. They seemed overly determined to use some trickeration. But once they realized that they were the better team, they got down to their meat and potatoes, and put up points.

    Good last drive for the Bills to end the half. TD to Sammy. EJ was scrambly, and let loose a mediocre throw for a TD. Watkins caught it, but got hurt – again. Sigh.

    2nd half – Not much to say. Cincy imposed their will, and breezed to victory. Bills got one late garbage time TD, but that was it.

    And so, again, a top-tier QB comes into OUR HOUSE and has his way with our “great” defense. Can we now officially explode the myth of this Bills D? It’s not great. Never was. These numbers were tweeted earlier, but they bear repeating…

    “In the Bills last three home games, Tom Brady, Eli Manning and Andy Dalton have thrown for 921 yards, 9 TD, 1 Int. and have a 105.1 rating.”

    And even though I never expected them to maintain their level from the past two seasons (the Leelee Theory is in full bloom now) I had hoped that they’d be better than this.

    Rex is a GENIUS after all!

    Also, and sadly, the injury bug bites again. Hard. Henderson, Goodwin (surprise, surprise), Sammy, and Kyle. (Ugh.)

    I feel bad for Meatball. But he is getting up there, with lots of wear and tear, so it can’t be too surprising. As for Goodwin – frailty is thy name – a useless draft pick and player. And for Sammy, this is now, what, his 7th injury in his brief career? Very, very troubling. His talent, which is great, is meaningless if his body continues to break down.

    Of course, it’s already becoming the built-in excuse for what may be another failed Bills season. At his presser, Rex talked and talked about injuries. And the homer apologists are eating it up.

    Me, I’m already bracing myself for the owner’s reaction: For I’m sure Terry Pegula will be more than happy to swallow what Rex is dishing, and thus preach patience for…next year.

    Just you wait, next year when we are healthy, things will be different!

    And, is it okay to cut EJ Manuel now? Or do we have to give him another chance next year too? I mean, another year is all he really needs, right? Truth is, this game was probably the best that EJ can play. And it’s nowhere near good enough for a “franchise” guy.

    Too inconsistent. Too confused when his first read is covered. Bad mechanics and too much happy feet. And just too many plain bad throws:

    Under throws (several, including the interception), over throws (a few on his deeper balls), high throws (a few to Clay, which could have got him killed) and bad decisions (not throwing to the sticks, the grounding penalty) and well, you name it.

    EJ should be gone. The dream is over. Period.

    And, Doug Whaley should be right behind him, out the door. But I bet he isn’t. Doug is doing a “fine job” right, Terry? And so is Rex, yes? It’s the injuries and bad luck! Just be patient, Bills fans. We will conjure up a brand new slogan next year, so go reserve your season tickets now!

    Anyway, now we get the Jags. This should be a win. Even with EJ, if needs be. It better be a win. For if they lose this one in Merry Olde England, at 3-4, it becomes nigh on impossible for them to make a true playoff push.

    They would have to win 6 (maybe 7) of their last 9. No way that is happening.

    If they lose this next game, they will almost surely be no better than the 8-8 team I think they are. If they win, they can keep their playoff dream alive.

    For a few more weeks, anyway.

    P.S. Go Sabres! Oh, um, yeah, they’re still pretty bad, too. :(

  4. I love Hogan and Woods but I don’t think that’s a tandem that wins you any games. Even Harvin”s productivity was limited when Sammy was out. It’s really going to hurt missing Watkins. Kyle Williams and Aaron Williams are the leaders of the Defense so we are going to need someone to step up on that side of the ball as well or the penalties and yelling at each other is going to take over. Anyone else notice Rex’s boy IK Emakopula with a pop warner attement at tackling jeremy hill and letting him get in the endzone

  5. So, people are angry with Rex and the defense. No pass rush, sure.

    I mentioned previously that injuries, any injuries will likely drop a ‘great’ defense quickly. That’s what has happened at safety. Starting tandem Duke Williams and Bacarri Rambo is a big, big problem. They are poor cover safeties, long known about Rambo who was out of the league due to it. Cincy did not hide all game that they were attacking them.

    EJ was EJ. Below average offense that put up nearly average offensive stats.

    But, we’re learning this team severely lacks pass coverage skill beyond Gilmore.

  6. Agree, in general.

    But I don’t think the Leelee Theory is solely dependent upon injuries. At least, not the way I interpret it. It stands on its own merits.

    As you know, I’ve been saying since *last* season (it’s all here in previous posts for anyone to read) that this team cannot cover. It’s not a new phenomenon.

    Good QB’s shredded this team last year, and good QB’s have shredded this team this year. But, you are right, the problem is mostly up the middle.

    I’ve stated before how lukewarm I am regarding Aaron W. at safety. He’s overrated, in my view. But, the backups and the replacements are certainly not as good. No doubt.

    And, as I’ve stated previously, many times, the LB’s are generally useless in coverage. Bad pass coverage was one of my three main concerns going into this season (along with the O-line and, of course, QB). And all three, I think most would agree, have been big problems.

    (I take no satisfaction or pride in being right. Ever. It’s merely the result of 30+ years of watching professional football – and mostly without the crutch of having to see the “tape”. More on that, shortly.)

    So, unless the front four gets pressure (they have not) I continue to say (and have said) that this team cannot cover. It’s been on ongoing issue – mostly hidden by 50+ sacks last year.

    I like Gilmore just fine. He’s good, not great. And Darby has held his own, so far. Though both of them have their numerous poor moments, too. They get beat, they are out of position, they miss tackles, badly at times.

    But certain (unnamed) people, since it doesn’t fit their agenda regarding Gilmore especially, never seem to point out these mistakes when they are “dissecting” their precious ALL-22. Strange that, huh?

    If you want a good laugh, just go watch Gilmore’s “effort” and complete failure in attempting to tackle Hill at the goal line, after IK Enemkpali already whiffed on him. I saw it live, no tape needed. But, I’m sure it will be on the All-22 today.

    Look, as I’ve said before, the All-22 is a nice tool. I myself take a look at it from time to time. It’s helpful.

    But, unlike some who seem incapable of digesting what they’re seeing during the game itself without relying on the “tape”, I didn’t need to watch it for the last two years to know that EJ Manuel is an inferior QB, and, I don’t need it to know that Gilmore is good (not great) and that Darby is adequate thus far, nothing less, nothing more.

    That said, I am glad to have them both. They are the best we have, right now.