ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Bills quarterback Josh Allen's 49-yard pass to wide-open tight end Dawson Knox was a back-breaker Sunday, coming just moments after the Bengals had taken their first lead of the day with 4:54 left. That set up running back Frank Gore's third-down one-yard run over his left guard and with the help of three tight ends and a fullback for the touchdown with 1:50 left gave the Bills a 21-17 victory.
Quarterback Andy Dalton then took the Bengals from their 25 to the Bills 28, but as the clock hit 12 seconds, Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White grabbed a tipped ball on a pass Dalton threw behind wide receiver Auden Tate for the interception to end it. A tough end for Dalton, who rallied them with a 15 of 23 effort in the second half for 218 yards after throwing for just 31 yards in the first half.
Shaking off a dreadful first half, the Bengals scored 17 straight points to take a 17-14 lead with 4:54 left on Randy Bullock's 43-yard field goal that was set up on a screen pass to running back Joe Mixon that went for 33 yards.
Mixon also rushed for 61 yards on 15 carries, most of them in the comeback, and on the go-ahead drive wide receiver Tyler Boyd beat the blitz on third-and-nine with a 23-yard catch. Mixon's screen was popped by center Trey Hopkins' block on the edge.
The Bengals forged a 14-14 tie with 12:27 left in the game even though the Bills had the ball for 20 more plays and 13 more minutes.
The tying drive was all Mixon and Boyd. Mixon, breaking out with 62 yards on his first 13 carries, jump-started it with a 14-yard run that was highlighted by an Olympic hurdle. Boyd shook loose on the sideline for a 14-yarder and then converted a third-and-five on the first play of the fourth quarter when one of his vintage slants over the middle picked up 11 yards.
Then Mixon got the ball to the 1 on a 12-yard jet sweep to the left with the Bengals running some misdirection to the right. Then Andy Dalton rolled right and found Mixon all by himself for the tying TD on a one-yard fling with 12:24 left.
And the defense really stepped it up on the next series, forcing another Bills punt when left end Carlos Dunlap and tackle Geno Atkins forced quarterback Bills Josh Allen out of the pocket to force another punt.
The Bengals offense, saddled by most of the first half without a first down, got ignited by cornerback Darius Phillps' first NFL interception midway through the third quarter that he returned 27 yards to the Bills 22.
Dalton, held to 31 yards passing in the first half, then hit tight end Tyler Eifert over the middle for a leaping 18-yard catch that put the ball on the 1. Dalton's zone-read was so good on the next snap that everybody tackled Mixon in the end zone while Dalton walked in with 5:50 left in the third quarter, ending the Bengals' steak of six straight games not scoring in the third quarter
At that point, it was quite a statistical buffet. The Bills had only a 14-7 lead even though they had 280 yards to the Bengals' 122 and they had it nearly 30 minutes to the Bengals' 11:43.
The Phillips' pick was actually set up by Dalton's pick. He and Boyd weren't on the same page on an out pattern and Dalton appeared to throw it too low and inside and cornerback Tre'Davious White was able to make the play.
But then Phillips, who had a 92-yard kick return touchdown, called back in the first half, came up with his big play, an ill-advised throw by Allen since defensive end Sam Hubbard had him in a bear hug.
The Bengals slipped to 0-3 with a disheveled second half that included losing a timeout on the Bills' first series when defensive line
While holding the Bengals without a first down until 1:57 left in the first half, the Bills built a 14-0 half-time lead by holding the ball for nearly 23 of the half's 30 minutes.
By the time Hubbard forced a fumble recovered by middle linebacker Preston Brown at the Bengals 11 with 7:23 left in the first half, Dalton had completed just one of his six passes during 3:55 of possession and that was a catch by wide receiver John Ross that he fumbled away.
But when the Bengals got the ball back on Hubbard's play, it couldn't ignite anything. On first down Boyd lost three years on a screen and on third-and-10 wide receiver Damion Willis didn't fare much better and that gave way to punter Kevin Huber's 31-yard punt into the breeze. That set up Stephen Hauschka's 45-yard field goal with 2:11 left.
In the two-minute drive Dalton unleashed a 24-yard completion over the middle to wide receiver Auden Tate, but a few snaps later Ross appeared to work a good double move that gave him room on a go route down the right sideline, but the ball was overthrown.
Then, after pressure against left tackle Andre Smith resulted in a third-down sack, Huber came on for his fifth punt of the half
That left Dalton four of 12 for 31 yards, the Bengals with 44 total yards and Hauschka a chance to hit a 62-yarder with the wind at his back, but slid it by with seven seconds left.
The half ended the only way it could. Smith was called for a false start and that left Dalton trying to do something with wide receiver Tate, but all they got was a 33-yarder caught in front of the Bills defense. That's how Dalton finished the half five of 13 for 64 yards. The only semblance of offense was from Mixon, but his 18 yards came on just four carries.
Penalties devoured the Bengals' effort in the first half in a grinding 77 seconds. On the Bills' first scoring drive, defensive tackle Andrew Brown, playing one of his first NFL snaps, was called for a low hit on Allen's knees as he was hitting wide receiver Zay Jones over the middle for 23 yards. Then on the next snap safety Clayton Fejedelem was called for a personal foul when he grabbed the back of the helmet on a tackle.
Check out game action photos from the Week 3 contest against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills then got the touchdown on the next play on Allen's one-yard flip to Knox on a play that had the Bengals fooled enough that only Bills were in the frame. Then on the extra point the Bengals were called for too many men, and the Bills opted to go for two from the 1. Wide receiver Cole Beasley was open by the same margin for the two-pointer that made it 8-0 with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
Then, the most crushing flag of all, Tate was called for holding on Phillips' 92-yard kick return touchdown. It appeared Tate was in good position, but when cornerback Levi Wallace turned to go after Phillips, Tate kept his hands on him.
Dalton missed his first four passes and didn't get a lot of help on the first series. Ross' NFL-leading fifth drop on their first play on the sideline put them in a hole and on third-and-five Jerry Hughes went around Smith to prevent Dalton from getting a good throw off.
Then an illegal formation call started the next Bengals drive and Mixon got 11 of it back on first-and-15. But Dalton passed the next two plays and couldn't get the four yards. On second down he couldn't connect with tight end C.J. Uzomah on a sideline route and on third down linebacker Matt Milano came blitzing up the middle as Dalton had to hurry an incompletion over the middle to Tate.
After Allen (18 of 27 for 180 yards) killed them with a scrambling third-and-17 first down completion to wide receiver John Brown scooping up a ball of the turf in front of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, they got a big stop.
Dunlap, the man that sent Allen scrambling, got his revenge to push the Bills out of field-goal range. First, they needed a huge stop by nose tackle Andrew Billings of Gore on second-and-one. Then on third-and-one Dunlap came after Allen and got to him in time to get Allen called for illegal grounding on a pass he chucked out of bounds to force a punt.
The Bengals tried a bunch of five-man lines on defense and some three-safety looks. With the Bills running up 46 plays to the Bengals' 19, the defense was subbing liberally with linebackers LaRoy Reynolds and rookie Germaine Pratt getting some plays.
The Bengals were OK against the run, allowing 79 yards on 18 carries, but it was the intermediate passes that caused them the most problems again. Allen completed a ball of at least 10 yards to six different receivers.