CINCINNATI – Look, I'm not about to crush them for this one. I felt the Bills were a good team with a chance at the playoffs, but also that they were bound to find their level at some point. It happened on Sunday.
Call it the law of averages, a regression to the mean, or an inevitable tough day for a team lacking in offensive weapons. But the Bills came to Earth, failing to capitalize on some egregious Cincinnati bumbling and losing to the Bengals, 20-16, at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was a bad loss, though, a horrible day for the offense. The Bills won the turnover battle, 3-0, extending their team record to a remarkable 19 straight quarters without turning it over. They got a long punt return from Brandon Tate in the fourth quarter. And still, they lost, falling into a tie for first in the AFC East at 3-2.
Their offense simply wasn't good enough. That should have come as no surprise, considering that they were near the bottom of the NFL in most offensive categories coming in. The running game was inconsistent and the passing game was anemic for much of the day.
Tyrod Taylor completed 19 of 36 passes for 166 yards and a pretty throw to Brandon Tate for a TD. But otherwise, his wideouts were non-existent and he made some errant throws. His weaponry took a big hit when tight end Charles Clay left early with a knee injury. That's 4.6 yards an attempt, which is simply unacceptable.
I can't put this all on Taylor, who showed more patience in the pocket than usual but frequently couldn't find anyone open down the field. Zay Jones isn't a legitimate No. 2 receiver at this point in his career, never mind a No. 1. Tate is ordinary. I can't even think of the other wideouts' names.
Taylor is now 2-16 in games in which the Bills trail by four points at any time in the game. That's significant. He's won just once in 12 games when he had to pass 30 times. Again, his offense is compromised, but a franchise quarterback has to rise up and lift his team once in awhile, and it rarely happens.
Once the Bengals took a 20-16 lead late in the fourth, you had no sense that the offense could drive the field and score. Sure enough, Taylor took a sack, threw for short yardage in the flat, and threw an interception -- the first turnover since the opening possession of the season.
Well, they're still 3-2 heading into the break, with a 2-1 record in the conference. They're in the playoff hunt, which no one expected back in the summer, and they have three of their next four at home.
By the way, did anyone notice that Marquise Goodwin had 116 yards in receptions for the Niners on Sunday?