CAPACCIO: Bills-Bengals: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

October 9, 2017
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Sometimes after road games I begin writing this column on the plane on the way home. But this week, I had to wait until after I got home and settled in. That's because that's how long it took for me to dry off. The remnants of Hurricane Nate made for a tough afternoon of weather in Cincinnati. A Bills loss made it even tougher. Let's get to ‘em…..

 

ARROW DOWN


Finishing drives

If you get three turnovers on defense and only turn the ball over once on offense, you should win the game. If you have twelve possessions and the average starting field position is your own 35 yard line, you should score more than 16 points. If you start at the opponent's 23, 36, and 12 yard lines, you should come away with more than 10 total points. Add all of that up and it's pretty incredible the Bills did not score more touchdowns, more points, and come away victorious. But that's exactly the case because they couldn’t finish drives with six points. The offense was set up in great shape time and time again but came away empty-handed or without much to show for it. 


QB Tyrod Taylor 

It's absolutely fair to say Taylor did not have any weapons coming into the game, and then even lost his best, most reliable target in TE Charles Clay in the first quarter. But he's still the QB of the team and had several opportunities to put points on the board that never materialized. He also held on to the ball too long a few times causing him to take a sack. He was taken down six times overall.  Taylor finished 20-for-37 for 166 yards, one TD pass and one interception.


Running game

It's getting time to worry about the running game. After leading the league for the past two seasons, the Bills simply can't get anything going on the ground through five games.  A total of 82 yards rushing. Only 3.4 yards per carry. That marks the third time in the last four games they finished with less than 100 yards and the fourth straight game with less than 4.0 yards per carry. LeSean McCoy has yet to find the end zone. In this one, yards were tough to come by once again. They came in spurts as the Bills started to get some of them using the power run game, but it was short-lived.  Not good enough.  Again.


CB Tre'Davious White's first quarter

The rookie was picked on early and often, and the Bengals, and particularly AJ Green, beat him. Three of the first six Bengals plays were passes to Green. He caught all of them, the last for a huge 77 yard touchdown with White trailing in coverage. 


2nd half 3rd down defense

The Bills defense put themselves in good shape with chances to get off the field plenty of times. But the Bengals converted half of their third down opportunities (4-for-8) in the second half to keep drives alive. 


Lack of WR involvement in passing game

This is a recurring theme every week now. The Bills simply don't throw to their wide receivers very much, and the position doesn't make much of an impact. In this game, out of 20 completions by Tyrod Taylor, only three of them went to wideouts. Brandon Tate had two, including one for a TD, and Zay Jones had the other.  That's it. 


Injuries 

This obviously isn't for anything or anyone on the team did wrong. It's on this list simply because it's a negative coming out of the game. After getting through the first three weeks fairly healthy the Bills have now had a run of some serious injuries to key players the past two weeks. They came into this one already banged up at wide receiver and cornerback, among other places, then lost their leading receiver, TE Charles Clay, to a knee injury. They also lost starting nickel CB Leonard Johnson to a hamstring injury. Neither status is known at the time I write this. 


Overall pass defense

Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw for 328 yards. It would've been more if not for his wide receivers dropping passes or letting them go off their hands.  


2nd half offense

The Bills had a total of 36 yards in the entire second half.  They had six drives.  Three ended in punts and another with an interception. They had 32 of those 36 yards on one drive. The other five drives combined for 4 yards! 

 

ARROW UP


P Colton Schmidt and punt coverage team

I put both these together because it really was a combined effort to do a great job to continually pin the Bengals deep on punts.  Schmidt struck the ball well and there was some terrific tackling down the field, too. Here are the starting drives for Cincinnati after Bills' punts: OWN 23, 14, 20, 20, 28, 12, 15. 


Opportunistic defense

Leslie Frazier's group continued to take the ball away with three more in this one. Two interceptions that both came off balls that went off Bengals' receivers' hands, and one fumble recovery after a huge hit by Lorenzo Alexander. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer had the picks. It's the second game this season both players had an interception in the same game. Hyde now leads the league with four interceptions on the season. 


CB Tre'Davious White after the first quarter

Just like he did a few weeks ago against the Denver Broncos, White did a great job of bouncing back after being beaten a few times early (see above). After allowing AJ Green to catch a few passes, including the long 77-yard TD, White did a great job of coverage most of the rest of the way, finishing with a game-high three passes defended. 


CB Shareece Wright 

Wright was pressed into starting duty when EJ Gaines couldn't go due to a groin injury. Then, he had to move inside to play the slot after Leonard Johnson went out with a hamstring. There were some plays given up by the secondary, but Wright battled all day and did a fine job given his circumstances. He finished with two passes defended and as the team's leading tackler with 11 total. 


TE Nick O'Leary

O'Leary had to play a lot more than anticipated after Clay went out with his knee injury. He stepped up in a huge way, collecting five catches for a team-high 54 yards.


WR/PR Brandon Tate

Tate was the only Bills' wide receiver to catch more than one pass. One of those was for a 12 yard touchdown that tied the game late in the first half. He also had a huge punt return of 41 yards in the fourth quarter that set the Bills up at the Bengals 12 yard line and led to a field goal. 

 

THE BIG PICTURE

3-2 going into the bye is not bad. It's probably even better than most anticipated. But it's frustrating because the Bills absolutely had many opportunities to win this game and didn't.  They had been living life on the edge, winning with solid defense and field goals recently. That wasn't sustainable Sunday in Cincinnati. There's plenty of reason to be concerned, mostly with the offense and both their inability to run the football or get the wide receivers involved in the passing game. There are also a lot of positives still going on. For one, this team still had a chance to win on the final position despite all of the injuries, backup players playing, and lack of finishing drives throughout the game. But also, look around. 3-2 it's still the second best record in the entire AFC. The Bills, Patriots, and Jets are all tied for the division lead - and the Bills are actually in front due to tiebreakers.  They're even still the No. 2 seed in the entire conference behind only undefeated Kansas City.  The bye week could not have come at a better time for this team. They are very banged up and need to get healthy. They also need to regroup and figure out how to get better in the areas they're struggling. They have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to Buffalo in two weeks. That's a winnable game.  There will be frustration and anger by a lot of fans on Monday and throughout the week over this one. But the bottom line is the Bills are still in a good position overall, especially considering how average the rest of the conference looks around them. It's a long season. Just remember that when it's a long week thinking about the missed opportunities in Cincinnati.

 

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