Forcing turnovers and preventing the big play have been the trademarks of the Buffalo Bills' defense this season.
The Bills again played take-away Sunday but couldn't prevent two difference-making long-gainers in their 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Buffalo was one of only three NFL teams that had not allowed a pass play of 40 or more yards through the first four weeks of the season. That streak came to an end early at Paul Brown Stadium. Here were 10 plays that shaped the game:
1. Beating the blitz. A 47-yard catch and run by A.J. Green on the last play of the third quarter set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier called a rare seven-man blitz, including both safeties, on the third-and-10 play from the Bengals' 48. Rookie corner Tre'Davious White had tight coverage on Green, but the 20-yard throw from Andy Dalton was pin-point. Green made a nifty reaction at the last second, then ran 27 yards after the catch to the Buffalo 5. The Bengals scored on the next play.
The Bills blitzed – rushed five or more – only 22 percent of the time the first month of the season, well under the league average of about 28 percent. They only have blitzed six or more about a dozen times. It was not a bad time to gamble to try to get the Bengals off the field. It didn't work.
2. Beating the rookie. Green beat White for a 77-yard TD on the Bengals' fifth play from scrimmage. White bit on a hesitation-and-go move down the sideline. It happens. It didn't appear that White was supposed to have help. Jordan Poyer, the safety to that side of the field, had stepped up a couple of steps toward the line before the snap.
3. Key injury. The Bills lost tight end Charles Clay to a knee injury just 13 minutes into the game.
Let's face it: Even with Jordan Matthews and Clay, the Bills' cast of receivers is among the bottom four in the NFL (with the Jets, Browns and 49ers) if not the worst in the league. Matthews is out indefinitely after thumb surgery.
Clay's departure from the game was a giant blow, much bigger than the Bengals losing both starting cornerbacks to injury in the first half. Both of the Bengals' backup cornerbacks are first-round draft picks.
4. T doesn't stand for trigger. The sack Tyrod Taylor took on the first play of the Bills' final drive was a classic example of his hesitancy to pull the trigger.
It was a play-action fake to the left. Kaelin Clay was running an intermediate in-cut down the right side. It was a tight window, but he was open 20 yards down field against cornerback William Jackson if Taylor made a precise throw.
It appeared that's where Taylor was looking first. Zay Jones ran a 15-yard hitch to the left. He was open, too, against Josh Shaw. Taylor didn't see him break open initially but he still might have hit Jones on a contested pass. Instead, it was a 5-yard sack.
The Bills' QB leaves throws on the field.
5. Hit of the day. Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander made a hustling play to force a fumble by Green in the third quarter. Alexander was in underneath zone coverage. Green caught a slant against Greg Maybin 20 yards downfield at the Buffalo 19 but Alexander blasted Green from behind. Jordan Poyer recovered to stop what would have been a scoring drive by the Bengals.
6. Bills TD. Taylor showed nice touch on the 12-yard TD pass to Brandon Tate, who cut inside Shaw on a third-and-10 play late in the second quarter. The pass protection was perfect. Tate did a good job getting both feet in bounds.
7. Diving INT. For the second week in a row, Hyde did an impersonation of Troy Polamalu, the former Steelers great, by making a diving interception. Dalton made a mistake. His pass on a quick slant for Green was too high and caromed off the receiver's finger tips. Hyde caught the deflection at the Bengals' 36 and returned it to the 23.
8. Big punt return. Brandon Tate's 40-yard return of a poor Kevin Huber punt set the Bills up at the Bengals' 12 in the fourth quarter.
9. Tackle for loss. Bills tackle Dion Dawkins missed his edge block on defensive end Michael Johnson two plays after the Tate return. LeSean McCoy was tackled for a 4-yard loss, and the Bills settled for a field goal.
10. Opportunistic INT. Poyer intercepted an on-target Dalton pass that bounced off the chest of Green in the third quarter. Poyer's 13-yard return set the offense up at the Bengals' 36 but Taylor & Co. could not take advantage.