It’s amazing what one year can do, isn’t it?
A year ago, when the Bengals went up 24-10 most fans would’ve know what was coming. An inevitable loss due to any number of contributing factors that likely included poor quarterback play, vanilla defense or even uninspired play calling.
Fast forward to a new regime, new quarterback(s) and a new outlook and Sunday’s 27-24 loss stings in a different way than the losses from previous seasons.
Don’t mistake this as a celebration of silver linings in a game that dropped the Bills to 2-4. There are plenty of shortcomings the Bills are enduring and they came out in Sunday’s loss. However, the Bills are playing an exciting, entertaining brand of football that is looking likely to become a trend in coming seasons.
Thad Lewis stepped in as perhaps the most unexpected roster move experienced by the Bills this season, and performed admirably. He hit TJ Graham on a deep ball early that served as a bit of foreshadowing for the team later in the game.
Lewis was as effective as he needed to be as the Bills again leaned on Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to help drive the bus for the Bills offense. Where the wheels came off this week was on defense.
As the Bills work to get healthy again, they reintroduced Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd to the defense after the pair missed each of the first five games. Unfortunately neither added much to the effort as the Bengals screened their way to a number of long scoring drives in the first half. Give credit to the Bills defensive staff, as a whole, for scheming well enough to snuff out some of Cincinnati’s more effective plays in the second half. Those adjustments truly aided the Bills in working towards the tie.
Lewis’s bomb to Marquise Goodwin followed an equally impressive fourth down touchdown pass to Scott Chandler to bring the Bills back on even terms in the fourth. However, poor punt coverage again served as the Bills Achilles Heel as a 30 yard return set up the Bengals for the winning field goal.
For one week, at least, Kiko Alonso was just a linebacker. The box score says he was in on 22 tackles, but a great many came downfield and he simply wasn’t the explosive playmaker he had been previously. Before I come across like Sal or Sully calling for a Mario Williams sack each play, I understand Alonso will have spotlight and pedestrian games. He was good on Sunday, just not as dominating as in previous weeks.
Two of the biggest losses the Bills have suffered in recent years was Bobby April leaving for Philadelphia and the departure of Rusty Jones as their strength coach. Brian Moorman is a strong enough punter to avoid most big returns, but in the past few years, the big run backs have added up. April’s units were always locked down on kick coverage and his overall contributions were seriously overlooked.
If you need any more evidence for why the Bills are missing a competent strength staff, just look at their injury list the past few years. Going back to JT Allaire in 2007 this franchise has suffered a massive run of odd injuries. How many are preventable is anyone’s guess, but it seems like something is missing in that department lately.
It feels like Stephon Gilmore was rushed into action a bit too soon. For a corner who thrives on press coverage, I have to think he is seriously limited in comfort and effectiveness while playing with a club. I understand the need to get him back into action, but I wonder if they’re a little too soon getting him back on the field.
A simple switch of Colin Brown for Doug Legursky seems to have brought some benefit. While I’m unsure that Legursky is the answer at left guard, it certainly appears as if he’s the man for the job moving forward. If that means a stronger, more consistent performance from the line, I’m all for it.
Nice, thoughtful recap. I couldn’t agree more about missing Bobby April. Special teams are one of those things where it’s invisible if it’s working well and good coaches don’t get a lot of credit, but it becomes really really obvious when it’s not working well (as seen last week against Cleveland and then this past weekend, when punt coverage breakdowns ended up making the difference between winning and losing).