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Bengals Stripe Bills, 24-18, For Fourth Straight

QB Joe Burrow throws the ball during Sunday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Week 9 of the 2023 season.
QB Joe Burrow throws the ball during Sunday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Week 9 of the 2023 season.

With Joe Burrow sifting for a season-high 348 yards and the defense offering another classic, the Bengals electrified the second-biggest Paycor Stadium crowd ever with another home prime-time win, 24-18.

In front of 66,965 dressed in a memorable striped vignette of alternating sections of orange and black, the 5-3 Bengals racked up their fourth straight over the 5-4 Bills when they subdued quarterback Josh Allen on 258 yards on 68% passing (26-38), below his league-leading 71.7 and his 270 yards per game But it wasn't over until the play after the two-minute warning, when Bengals running back Joe Mixon converted a third-and-three freezing Hall-of-Fame defensive end Von Miller on the perimeter for a five-yard gain.

The Bills were driving early in the fourth quarter when Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt, who saved last week's game with a red-zone interception, performed more inside-the-20 magic as Cincy hung to a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

At the Bengals 13, safety Nick Scott upended rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid after a completion and as he was in mid-air, Pratt punched the ball out and Scott recovered with 13:18 left in the game.

It was Burrow, 2-0 vs. Allen, who hit 70% of his passes Sunday. Actually, 70.4 on 31 of 44. The Bengals kept the ball for five minutes after the Pratt play, but couldn't deliver the coup de grace even though they had a first down at the Bills 7. But when the Bengals went under center, Mixon (37 yards on 14 carries) lost three yards on a first-down sweep left and they had to settle for an Evan McPherson chip-shot field goal for the 24-10 lead with 8:08 to play.

But there were plenty of big plays to keep the clock rolling that drive. Burrow lofted a fourth-and-one first down throw to tight end Tanner Hudson, a 32-yard beauty to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase down the sideline against the blitz, for most of his 41 yards on the night and wide receiver Tee Higgins' conversion of a third-down arrow slant on the way to his season-high 110 yards.

The Bills made it a six-point game at 24-18 with 3:32 left when wide receiver Stefon Diggs, on third-and-one, ran past rookie cornerback DJ Turner one-on-one for a 17-yard touchdown. Then Diggs got loose again for the two-pointer across the back of the end zone against Turner as Allen dropped it over college buddy linebacker Logan Wilson.

The Bengals defense made a nice, typical red zone stand on the first drive of the second half when cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who had an interception in the first half, had a third-down defense of Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis in the end zone to force a field goal that cut the lead to 21-10.

The Bengals offense had a tough third quarter, although Burrow was at his scrambling best turning one third down into a first down. He did have Chase open deep down the middle, but slightly underthrew him to turn it into a contested incompletion.

The Bengals did what they did last week in San Francisco and ripped off two Seamless Joe drives for touchdowns on their first two drives, which usually bodes well for the Burrow Bengals. They are now 21-2 since 2021, including the postseason, when scoring first.

Burrow sifted his first six throws for 35 yards and converted the only third down of the drive on a third-and-two flip to tight end Tanner Hudson, just promoted from the practice squad.

Burrow made his obligatory escape early, stepping out of a sack by linebacker Tyrell Dodson and then finding Higgins up the left side for 18 yards. Burrow then found tight end Irv Smith Jr. for Smith's first Bengals' touchdown, a seven-yard catch when he got behind safety Jordan Poyer.

At one point in the first half, Burrow bloodied his right index finger, but it didn't mar his first-half passing of 18 of 24 for 181 yards and a 123.8 passer rating.  

Mixon put the Bengals up, 14-7, when he followed the double team block of center Ted Karras and left guard Cordell Volson and walked in from two yards out, marking the fourth straight game the Bengals have scored on their first two possessions.

Burrow came out throwing flames like he did last week in San Francisco, hitting 11 of his first 14 for 114 yards after starting last 17 of 19. The big play when they went up 14-7 at the end of the first quarter came on third-and-10, when Burrow beat an all-out blitz feathering an out to slot wide receiver Tyler Boyd for 15 yards.

But just like it was in 'Frisco, the tale of the tape early was first down. On the first two drives, the Bengals got 70 yards on seven first downs and on the first down of the third series they ripped off 12 more yards when Burrow found Higgins against the blitz. But the drive died on third-and-three when right guard Alex Cappa false started.

Taylor-Britt came up with his third interception of the season when the Bengals dropped eight and Allen seemed surprised when Taylor-Britt was draped on Davis at the Buffalo 32.

But on second-and-one from the Bills 22, Burrow couldn't get the first down on a sneak. Then on third-and-inches, they were called for delay of game and when Burrow scrambled for the first down, it was called back on Cappa's hold.

It was quite a contrast to last week, when the offense didn't have a penalty and put the Bengals in first place in the NFL for fewest penalties and penalty yards.

Then it got worse. When McPherson hit a 55-yard field goal, it was negated on left tackle Orlando Brown's false start, which meant they were punting despite Taylor-Britt's heroics. Brown, Cappa and their offensive line would have the final say. The Bills came into the night with the second-most sacks in the NFL and left with one. 

Left end Sam Hubbard and the tackle next to him, B.J. Hill, saved the day on the next series with one of their signature inside-outside stunts and Hill sacked Allen for their only one of the night with four minutes left in the half. Earlier, Hubbard had killed a Bills drive when he forced a holding call.

That meant when the Bengals started a drive for the second straight time, they were in Bills territory at the 45 with about four minutes left in the half. Then they needed to convert a fourth-and-one when Chase got behind the linebacker and in front of the safety for 11 yards.

Then on third-and-seven from the Bills 22, Buffalo loaded up the pass rush again, but when they backed out tight end Drew Sample released from blocking and he was wide open on his fourth target of the season. Burrow wriggled out a dump pass, Sample took off, and when he stepped out of safety Taylor Rapp's tackle at the 5, he had the second touchdown of his five-year NFL career and the Bengals had the lead at 21-7 with 1:37 left in the half.

It wrapped up quite a half for the Bengals-under-the-radar tight ends. They came in with a combined 20 catches for 132 yards and no touchdowns, but had seven for 74 and two touchdowns in the first half Sunday. Hudson had three catches for 28 yards and finished with four for 45 yards.

In an answer to Buffalo's coverage, Burrow went his to tight ends and Mixon (season-high five catches for 31 yards) didn't target Chase until his 13th pass. Chase had five targets in the half but just three catches for nine yards as the Bengals had trouble getting their screen game going.

It was another yeoman effort by the Bengals defense in the first half as it held the NFL's fourth-highest scoring to just seven points and 122 yards. It contributed to a monster 21:09-8:54 edge in time of possession.

The only blemish for the defense was a slew of missed tackles when Diggs turned a five-yard screen into 34 yards on the Bills'  lone touchdown drive of the half.