CINCINNATI -- Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 16-12 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday worked out:
1. Pounce early on a tired, sore, mediocre team working on a short week of preparation. Check. The Bengals came out looking very much like a team that was still reeling from last Monday night's loss against the New York Giants. They were flat and somewhat disoriented.
After not allowing Cincinnati to get past its own 26-yard line on the game's opening drive, the Bills put together an impressive, eight-play, 75-yard march that ended with LeSean McCoy running seven yards for a touchdown. The series included three of the Bills' longer offensive plays of the day – a 21-yard run by McCoy, an 18-yard reception by Reggie Bush and a 24-yard gain by Robert Woods after a short completion.
Unfortunately for the Bills, after losing Woods and McCoy to second-quarter knee and thumb injuries, respectively, there wouldn't be much more spark than that for their offense. And it was mainly up to their defense to allow them to hang on for dear life the rest of the way.
2. Find a way for the offensive line to at least pick up some of the slack left by Eric Wood's season-ending broken leg. Check. Ryan Groy mostly held his own at center. The shortcomings of the Bills' offense had more to do with the inability of receivers to get open and Tyrod Taylor's inability to find them at times – or misfiring on some throws.
The Bengals' defensive strategy was to make sure Taylor didn't kill them with his feet (he had 39 yards on nine carries), so they were focused primarily on containment more than bringing pressure up the middle.
3. Take advantage of the physical tendencies of the Bengals' defensive backs. Check. The Bengals constantly tried jamming the Bills' receivers at the line, and Woods, as expected, was getting open ... until he suffered a knee injury that caused him to leave the game midway through the second quarter.
The bigger problem with the Bills' receivers was, once Woods was out of the game, no one did a particularly good job of creating separation from defenders.
4. Clamp down on A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. Check with an asterisk. Green was only on the field for three snaps before suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him the rest of the game. He had only one pass thrown his way, on that play he was injured, and it was broken up by Stephon Gilmore.
Eifert was targeted six times, but finished with only three receptions for 37 yards. Once Green left the game, the Bills were able to concentrate on shutting down Eifert, while taking their chances with Cincinnati's remaining mediocre receivers.
5. Pressure Andy Dalton into mistakes. Check-plus. Dalton threw two interceptions, both to Gilmore.
Dalton never looked comfortable in the pocket, although it had less to do with any extreme measures the Bills took to pressure him with blitzes than it did with their often dropping seven and eight defenders into coverage to give him fewer openings in which to throw. For the most part, the strategy worked because the Bills were able to generate sufficient heat with four and three pass-rushers.