CINCINNATI – The Buffalo Bills lived to fight another day.
That’s about the best thing that can be said after Sunday’s 16-12 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Pro Football Hall of Fame won’t be calling for a copy of the game tape any time soon, but the Bills aren’t in a position to be picky about how they win.
Buffalo’s win moves them to 5-5 and up to 10th in the AFC, tied with Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, but behind those teams based on conference record. The Dolphins at 6-4 are in seventh place, while the final two playoff spots are held by the Chiefs (7-3) and Broncos (7-3). The Bills may very well have to run the table to make the postseason, but at least that conversation can be held through Thanksgiving. A loss Sunday would have prevented that.
Here’s a look at whose stock is rising and whose is falling after Sunday’s win.
• Kyle Williams: The box score shows just four tackles, one of which went for a loss, but doesn’t fully explain who dominant Williams was against the Bengals. The 33-year-old was consistently in the back field, disrupting Cincinnati’s offensive attack.
• Mike Gillislee: The Bills’ running game didn’t miss a beat after LeSean McCoy went out in the second quarter with a thumb injury, and Gillislee is a big reason why. He carried 14 times for 52 yards – a 5.1-yard average carry – and converted in power situations. The analytics website Pro Football Focus credited Gillislee with breaking a pair of tackles.
• Dan Carpenter: His 54-yard field goal in the third quarter gave the Bills a 13-12 lead and was his 14th field goal of 50-plus yards with the Bills, setting a new team record. Carpenter also added field goals of 20 and 26 yards to go with a successful extra point. That shouldn’t go overlooked on a day when Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed two extra-point attempts and league wide there were 12 misses.
• Tyrod Taylor: So much for that performance in Seattle being a turning point for the Bills’ quarterback. He went back to looking like the player he’s been much of the season. With a chance to basically put the game away late in the fourth quarter, Taylor badly overthrew receiver Percy Harvin on a simple out route. It was the type of throw a journeyman quarterback should make – never mind a franchise passer. Throughout the game, it felt like Taylor bailed from the pocket at the first hint of pressure. His interception near the end of the first half, which came with the Bills in field-goal range, was the type of bad decision Taylor has generally avoided.
• Robert Blanton: Unlike defensive end Jerry Hughes, Blanton isn’t good enough to take brainless personal fouls, but the safety did just that against the Bengals. He also lost snaps during the game to newcomer James Ihedigbo, who signed less than a week ago. To make matters worse, Blanton was hurt on the final drive of the game, and left the locker room on crutches.
• Justin Hunter: He played 21 snaps, but didn't get a single target. That's not good. If Robert Woods' knee injury is as serious as it looked and Sammy Watkins isn't able to make it back soon, the Bills will need receivers to step up, Hunter included.