CINCINNATI – Observations from what was a dismal – to put it kindly – performance from the Buffalo Bills' offense Sunday.
1. For as good as the Bills’ win in Atlanta was in Week Four, this is equally as bad. The reality is, a 3-2 record at the bye week would have been better if the wins came against the Jets, Broncos and Bengals, because that would have given them the first tiebreaker over the last two teams, and AFC victories are much more important when it comes to the second playoff tiebreaker, which is conference record. Now, the Bengals are just a game behind the Bills and have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo.
2. There are a handful of players the Bills simply cannot afford to lose this season. Tight end Charles Clay is on that list, but unfortunately for the Bills, that’s what happened. Clay suffered a left knee injury late in the first quarter after being tackled by Bengals safety Shawn Williams at the end of a 24-yard gain. If Clay’s injury is long term — and seeing him carted off wasn’t a good sign — the Bills will be down to Nick O’Leary, Logan Thomas and little-used Khari Lee at tight end. That’s trouble.
3. Without Clay, it’s a crisis for the Bills’ passing game, because there might not be a worse collection of wide receivers in the NFL. Buffalo’s receivers combined for just three catches and 36 yards. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 20 of 37 for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating of 63.6 is the third worst of his career with the Bills.
4. What more can be said about the Bills’ safeties? Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer each recorded an interception, while Poyer recorded a fumble recovery in the third quarter. The interceptions were fortuitous in that they bounced off the hands of Bengals receiver A.J. Green’s hands each time, but that doesn’t take away from the outstanding production the Buffalo safeties have provided through five games.
5. John Miller being inactive was a surprise before kickoff. Miller has started all 32 games in his career over two-plus seasons. With the running game not being what it has been the last two years, though, the move wasn’t a total shock. Veteran Vlad Ducasse had a tough summer, but he’s clearly a favorite of offensive line coach Juan Castillo from their time together in Baltimore.
6. A bigger surprise was Cordy Glenn being active, but not starting at left tackle. Instead, the Bills went with rookie Dion Dawkins. Glenn has missed the last two games because of ankle and foot injuries, but was obviously healthy enough to play. That’s a sign that coach Sean McDermott wanted to make another change along the offensive line. Glenn counts $14.2 million against the Bills’ salary cap this season. He lined up at second-team right tackle behind Jordan Mills during warmups.
7. Zay Jones had another drop. The Bills’ rookie receiver couldn’t bring in a low pass in the first half. We’re reaching the point where any Jones’ catch is cause for celebration. He was targeted six times, but finished with just one catch for 9 yards. The Bills have a huge problem on their hands with Jones at the moment.
8. Shout out to Brandon Tate. The Bills' receiver/return man made a great catch for a touchdown, and also had a 40-yard punt return that gave Buffalo great field position. The offense couldn't punch in a touchdown on a drive that started from the 12-yard line of Cincinnati.
9. Penalties were a huge issue Sunday. Although each team took six penalties for 71 yards, it felt like each time the Bills were flagged it came at the most inopportune time possible. That meant giving the Bengals' offense a first down or negating a good offensive play of their own.
10. The bye week has arrived at a good time for the Bills. A team that was remarkably healthy through the first three games has really gotten beat up the last two games. In addition to Clay, cornerback Leonard Johnson was lost for the game Sunday because of a hamstring injury. That meant the team finished the game with just three healthy cornerbacks.