Sal's Sticks: Bengals at Bills

August 26, 2018

I’m not even sure where to begin this week.

That was certainly not the performance anyone wanted. Not head coach Sean McDermott, not Buffalo Bills assistant coaches, not their players, and definitely not their fans. Aside from a nicely played stretch in the third quarter, it was just a poor showing on too many fronts Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

So, let’s start with the negative after the 26-13 loss:


  • Starting offensive line

I had been saying all camp that the one area of concern, for me, with this line was pass protection, and that deficiency showed up in a far too big of a way Sunday afternoon. Starting quarterback Josh Allen was sacked five times, and when he wasn’t being sacked, there was just too much pressure. Not every sack or pressure was the fault of the line. Allen could have gotten the ball out sooner, but it was clear from the very first series that they were having trouble blocking the Bengals front. I could write about several players specifically, but they all shared blame here. Something, or someone, or multiple things or people, have to change quickly if this offensive line is going to go to Baltimore Week 1 and keep Ravens defenders off their quarterbacks’ backs.

  • QB Josh Allen

As mentioned above, it’s tough to completely evaluate Allen or blame him for a lot of the troubles because of the poor pass protection. However, he contributed himself to some of the issues by not diagnosing the defense and / or getting rid of the ball fast enough. It certainly wasn’t the first professional start he wanted. On the day, the rookie finished 6-for-12 for 36 yards in one half.

  • Pass defense

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton got a terrific and warm welcome from the New Era Field faithful for the pass that helped put the Bills into the playoffs last year, and his generous donation to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, then promptly went out and diced up the Buffalo starting defense. Long passes, short passes, intermediate passes. A touchdown on the very first play of the game. Dalton got whatever he wanted and, in some cases, defenders weren’t even close to being around a completion. Even Cincinnati backup quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel had success when they came in. Cincinnati’s final pass totals: 24-for-39 for 367 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Pass rush

The overall pass defense is obviously connected to the lack of pass rush, as well. And so far this preseason it’s been fairly non-existent. Zero sacks by Bills players on Bengals quarterbacks.

  • Penalties

Just when it look like the Bills were on the right track as far as limiting penalties against them, they go out and commit 13 of them for 125 yards marched off!

  • CB Vontae Davis

The veteran has been inconsistent, at best, this preseason and was beaten a couple of times early on, including the very first play of the game when he allowed John Ross to get behind him, then slipped trying to recover. He was even replaced by Philip Gaines at one point in the second quarter, signaling his starting spot may not be safe.


  • QB Nathan Peterman

Another strong outing by the Bills quarterback may have put him in the driver’s seat to start Week 1. Peterman went 16-for-21 and is now hitting at a terrific 80.5-percent completion rate through three preseason games. Albeit he was playing mainly against second- and third-team defenders most of the time he was out there, but the offense just ran much more smoothly and he showed an ability to anticipate passes and put the ball on target once again.

  • RB Marcus Murphy

Another week, another appearance for Murphy on the positive side of the ledger here. For the third straight game, he was the team’s leading rusher, collecting 58 yards and 11 carries for a 5.3 yards per-carry average. Murphy is averaging 6.0 yards per-run through three preseason games.

  • LB Tremaine Edmunds

After two underwhelming performances this preseason, Edmunds showed the type of play that made him the 16th overall pick in last year‘s draft. After a bit of a slow start, he was noticeable on almost every defensive play. At one point, over a six-play stretch, the rookie made four tackles and had a pass breakup, which if he had held onto the ball would have been a pick-six.

  • TEs Jason Croom and Logan Thomas

The duo combined for six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Croom had the touchdown and on the play showed terrific athleticism, breaking a tackle to get the first down and then diving over a defender into the end zone for the six points. They both proved to be excellent match-ups and targets for Peterman, who found them throughout the second half. Both did a great job of running after the catch, as well.

  • Run defense

The run defense was a concern after last week in Cleveland, but not on Sunday against Cincinnati. A great bounce-back in that area. The Bills held the Bengals to only 68 yards in 27 carries, a 2.5 yard per-run average.



The preseason doesn’t count, but coaches and players say it matters. And if it does matter, there’s plenty to be concerned about after this one.

Right from the get-go, the Bengals had more energy and far better execution. Sean McDermott said several times after the game that he needs to go back and watch the tape. I’m sure when he does he won’t like a lot of what he sees. That was easy to tell just from watching inside the stadium or at home on television. Offense, defense, special teams. All three phases had issues show up in this game that don’t make you feel good about opening the regular season in Baltimore in two weeks.

That said, the team should also look quite different that day. LeSean McCoy, Dion Dawkins, Trent Murphy. All of them should be back on the field playing, and helping. And hopefully Kyle Williams, as well. Four very valuable players to what this team does.

McDermott may want to wait until after the fourth preseason game this Thursday at Chicago to name a starting quarterback for the regular season. However, Peterman has clearly been the best of the group so far and is now most likely the favorite.

The good news is it didn’t count, there are still two weeks left, and it will only be four days from now that some of the players (most likely not the starters) can help get that taste out of everyone’s mouth and regroup and prove they’re better than what they showed Sunday. Also, other than a nose injury to Julian Stanford and tackle De’Ondre Wesley going out of the game late, the Bills appear to have come out of this one healthy. That’s good because they’ll need all hands on deck on September 9 in Baltimore.

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