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Bills Defense Makes it Tough on Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals' Nick Vigil (59) tackles Buffalo Bills' Zay Jones (11) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Cincinnati Bengals' Nick Vigil (59) tackles Buffalo Bills' Zay Jones (11) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - While holding the Bengals without a first down until 1:57 left in the first half, the Bills built a 14-0 halftime lead by holding the ball for nearly 23 of the half's 30 minutes.

By the time Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard forced a fumble recovered by middle linebacker Preston Brown at the Bengals 11 with 7:23 left in the first half, quarterback Andy 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 wide receiver Tyler 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

Check out game action photos from the Week 3 contest against the Buffalo Bills.

That left Dalton 4 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. Andre Smith was called for a false start and that left Dalton trying to do something with wide receiver Auden Tate, but all they got was a 33-yarder caught in front of the Bills defense. That's how Dalton finished the half 5 of 13 for 64 yards. The only semblance of offense was from running back Joe 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 Bills quarterback Josh Allen's knees as Allen 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.

The Bills then got the touchdown on the next play on Allen's one-yard flip to tight end Dawson 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 cornerback Darius 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.

Left end Carlos 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 running back Frank 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.