Entering the game Sunday, the Buffalo Bills' matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals had the makings to be a blowout. The Bills lost EJ Manuel for an extended period due to a knee injury and replaced him with Thad Lewis, who had spent the first part of the season on the practice squad. Cincinnati, on the other hand, was coming into Ralph Wilson Stadium off a big win over the New England Patriots and didn't allow Tom Brady to throw a single touchdown.
For most of the game, the Bengals seemed to be in control against the Bills until the fourth quarter, which saw Lewis lead the offense on two touchdown drives and force overtime. The Bills came up short in the end, though, losing 27-24 and must turn their attention to a big divisional matchup against the Miami Dolphins next Sunday.
These are the top five takeaways from the Bills' game against the Bengals.
The Bengals have one of the top defensive lines in the game, and it played a huge role in the Bengals getting the win. The line kept Lewis off balance with five sacks and 11 quarterback hits and limited his ability to scramble and extend plays. It also forced the team's only turnover when Carlos Dunlap was able to force a fumble on Lewis early in the third quarter.
The Bills weren't able to find much running room on the ground either as C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for only 85 yards. The team started Doug Legursky over Colin Brown at left guard; however, the play did not seem to improve. The front five will not have much time to rest as the team faces another good defensive front next Sunday when Buffalo plays Miami.
The Bills got their two top players in the secondary back this week with the return of Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd, but it still wasn't enough to slow Andy Dalton. The Bengals quarterback went on to throw for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
Through the first six games, Buffalo is allowing 286.6 yards passing per game. Opposing offenses have made it clear they plan to attack this part of the defense. Aside from the Baltimore game, the Bills defense has not been able to take advantage of this.
The team can only hope that as Byrd and Gilmore continue to get back into game shape, they are able to get back to playing at the level many expect and solidify this part of the defense.
Buffalo's coaching staff deserves credit for going with Lewis as the starting quarterback with Manuel sidelined with a knee injury. The team had brought in a few outside candidates last week, like Dennis Dixon and Pat White, but the team decided to go with Lewis.
Lewis finished the day completing 19 of 32 passes for 216 yards, three total touchdowns and only one turnover. He led the team on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, one of which came with two minutes left in the game.
The impressive thing that Lewis was able to do that Manuel has struggled with is connecting on deep passes. He connected on two passes over 40 yards, one to T.J. Graham and one to Marquise Goodwin, which helped to stretch the defense. Lewis showed against the Bengals he is more than capable running this offense and will keep Buffalo in games.
With the release of Shaun Powell after the Bills' loss to the Cleveland Browns, the team decided to bring back a familiar face and fan favorite with the signing of Brian Moorman. After the game he had Sunday, many fans are probably asking the question, "Why did we ever let him go?"
Moorman did a good job of keeping the Bengals pinned back with two of his five punts being downed inside the 20 and averaging 48.8 yards per punt. His first punt of the game looked like it was going to go out at about the 10 but got a home-field bounce and rolled out near the 1-yard line.
If Moorman can continue to kick like he did Sunday, he will be a huge help to the defense that has struggled stopping offenses at times this year.
Kiko Alonso had one of his best games in his early career as a Buffalo Bill. He finished the day with 22 tackles and raised his season total to 66. The Bills defense as a unit had 114 tackles against the Bengals, and Kiko accounted for almost 20 percent of those.
The rookie linebacker from Oregon has showed an incredible grasp of the defensive scheme and the physical abilities to get to the ball-carrier. He has to be one of the favorites to win Defensive Rookie of the Year in the early part of the season.
With big bodies like Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch tying up offensive linemen, it has allowed Alonso to get clean looks at ball-carriers and make plays. There is no reason not to expect Alonso to continue this level of play as he gets more familiar and comfortable with the NFL game.