OPINION: Bills' 2022 season crashes to a halt

Dreams of a Super Bowl title will have to wait another year

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - Just so you know, the idea of a complete beatdown by the Cincinnati Bengals never crossed my mind last week.

I knew the Buffalo Bills could lose to the Bengals. In fact, I felt this would be their toughest game while trying to get out of the conference, even tougher than a potential neutral site AFC title game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I'm sure I wasn't the only person taken by surprise at how easy the Bengals made it look on Sunday in Orchard Park.

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If this was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it and given the Bengals a technical knockout long before the final round. The way the Bills offense and defense looked, the game felt like it was over at the end of the first quarter when the Bills trailed 14-0.

Nothing went right from the get go for the Bills.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense toyed with the Buffalo defense. Over their first two drives, Cincinnati had 16 plays. Nine of those 16 plays resulted in a first down. They rolled up 151 yards on those drives, both of which ended with a touchdown.

In the meantime, the Bills offense went three-and-out on its first two drives, the first time that had happened all season.

This was just the second game this season when the Bills emerged without any points from their first two possessions.

The offensive line was dominated by the Bengals' defensive line. It felt like Josh Allen was under pressure on almost every drop back.

The passing game never got going except on the one touchdown drive the offense managed to put together. Stefon Diggs was a non-factor with just four catches for 35 yards on 10 targets. Meanwhile, Allen missed on a handful of throws that would have helped the offense.

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There was also no running game to speak of. James Cook and Devin Singletary combined for 37 yards on 11 carries, with the longest run of the day being an eight-yarder from Cook.

The Bills got crushed up front when they were on defense too. It didn't matter that Cincinnati was down three starting offensive linemen, the backups did just fine.

Some of the credit goes to Burrow, who was getting the ball out super fast, but the Bills couldn't get near him even when they blitzed. Head coach Sean McDermott likes to talk about affecting the quarterback, but the Bills defense did none of that.

The run defense was also bad, and it was definitely hurt by the absence of DaQuan Jones. The Bengals, with their depleted line, averaged a robust 5.1 yards per-carry. Joe Mixon had a big day running between the tackles.

According to Next Gen Stats, the Bills allowed a season-high total of rush yards allowed before contact.

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Coaching also shares in the blame for this debacle.

McDermott was too conservative on a few decisions, including punting on 4th-and-10 at the Bengals' 41-yard line just before halftime when the Bills trailed by 10 points.

Still down 10 in the third quarter and badly needing a touchdown, McDermott called for a field goal on a 4th-and-goal from the Bengals' seven-yard line.

Late in the third quarter, now behind 24-10 and facing a 4th-and-2 on his own 20, McDermott opted against having his offense go for a first down. It appears they had a fake punt ready to go, but didn't pull the trigger since they did not get the look they hoped for from Cincinnati.

If there was enough urgency to call for a fake punt, why not just leave your offense on the field and let them give it a shot?

It all added up to, easily, the most disappointing and discouraging playoff loss of the McDermott/Brandon Beane era.

"13 seconds" was heartbreaking, but the way the loss to the Bengals played out, it now feels like the Bills took a step back this season and are further away from a Super Bowl than they were after the last two postseason exits.

The Bills are clearly no better than the third-best team in the AFC. It should lead to some serious internal discussions at One Bills Drive this offseason about how to make this team better going forward.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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