Bengals celebrate Sunday Night Football win 24-18 over Bills
CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) -The Cincinnati Bengals are past the point of proving themselves and measuring the quality of the team against other contenders. When they beat the Buffalo Bills, 24-18, on Sunday Night Football at Paycor Stadium, the Bengals played the type of game that they’ve been winning for three years now.
Efficiency, accuracy and aggressiveness from quarterback Joe Burrow? Check. A standout performance by a star wide receiver? Check. A complex defensive game plan executed to near perfection? Check. A clutch turnover in the red zone? Check.
It doesn’t matter anymore that it’s a primetime game against an elite quarterback and a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
In front of a sell-out crowd, the Bengals outclassed the Bills.
Cincinnati stormed out to an early 14-point lead. When the Bills were on the verge of making a comeback in the fourth quarter, linebacker Germaine Pratt punched the ball out and forced a fumble in the red zone from Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid.
Burrow carved up the Bills’ defense in the first half. In the second half, wide receiver Tee Higgins made physical contested catches and Ja’Marr Chase caught a deep ball that gave the Bengals a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Bills made it a one-score game, and Burrow responded with a 32-yard throw to Tyler Boyd that put the game away.
Over the last four weeks, the Bengals have looked like a team that can do anything.
On the first drive of the game on Sunday night, Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. levitated over Bills All-Pro Jordan Poyer and reeled in a toe-tapping touchdown in the back corner of the end zone. On the Bengals’ final drive before halftime, blocking tight end Drew Sample juked around two defenders and dove into the end zone.
One week after the Bengals’ offense had one of the most efficient performances in the history of the franchise, the unit showed that it has even more ways to win. Smith and Sample joined in on the party.
As they took a 14-point lead into halftime, eight different receivers caught passes. Tight ends who have hardly given the team any production all year made game-changing plays. Burrow was playing through a cracked fingernail, and he still made some of the most accurate throws of his career.
None of this is supposed to look easy for the Bengals. When they faced the Bills on Sunday Night Football, the Bengals matched up with another Super Bowl contender and the best quarterback they’ve faced all year in Pro Bowler Josh Allen.
What The Bengals’ offense wasn’t close to its sharpest in the first half. False starts, holding penalties and a delay of game wiped a potential 14 points off of the board. The Bengals still took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Head coach Zac Taylor opted to take the ball after the Bengals won the coin toss, and they marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. Burrow picked the Bills apart over the middle of the field, and then he threw a perfect ball to Smith for a leaping 7-yard touchdown catch.
One drive later, the Bengals faced 3rd and 10 on the fringe of field goal range. When the Bills sent a blitz, Burrow showed the poise, confidence and accuracy that make him one of the best players in football. He led wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a 15-yard corner route toward the sideline, and Boyd dragged both feet in bounds to keep the drive going.
In that situation, most quarterbacks succumb to the pressure. Most quarterbacks try to escape the pocket and fail. Most quarterbacks can’t fit a pass into a 1-yard window where only the wide receiver can catch it.
Burrow isn’t like most quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ defense made one of the biggest stars in the NFL uncomfortable all game. In the second quarter, Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt read Allen’s eyes perfectly and made a pick as he backpedaled down the sideline. The Bills’ offensive line has been a strength of the team this season, and the Bengals’ defensive line constantly put Allen under pressure.
On the Bills’ first possession, they scored on an 85-yard touchdown drive. On their other four possessions in the first half, the Bills netted 37 total yards without scoring. The Bills entered the game with the second-best scoring offense in the NFL, and the Bengals’ defense was in control all game.
The Bengals’ offense missed a few chances in the third quarter to ice the game. The Bengals opened the second half with two scoreless drives, including a fourth down throw that was 1 yard short of the sticks. But after Pratt’s forced fumble, the Bengals continued their trend of closing out teams as well as anyone in the NFL. A field goal from Evan McPherson put the Bengals up by 14 points with 8:08 left in the game.
Last week, the Bengals picked up a statement win over another Super Bowl contender in the San Francisco 49ers. Burrow’s efficiency, the star power on the Bengals’ offense and the clutch playmaking on the Bengals’ defense validated the team’s high expectations for the 2023 season.
Back at home on Sunday, the Bengals took care of business against and outplayed another one of their peers.
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