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Bengals roar past Bills on ‘Sunday Night Football’: How Joe Burrow guided Cincinnati to fourth straight win

By Paul Dehner, Joe Buscaglia and Tim Graham

The Cincinnati Bengals roared past the AFC-rival Buffalo Bills 24-18 on “Sunday Night Football.” Here’s what you need to know:

  • Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Irv Smith Jr. on the first drive of the game. Burrow went 31-of-44 passing for 348 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Bills quarterback Josh Allen went 26-of-38 passing for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Bengals defense had two takeaways.
  • Bills linebacker Terrel Bernard exited the game in the second quarter with a concussion and didn’t return. In the fourth quarter, Bills safety Micah Hyde left the game with a stinger.
  • The Bengals improve to 5-3 on the season while the Bills fall to 5-4.

Joe Burrow has ten passing touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games.

He is now 5-1 vs. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in his career.

— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) November 6, 2023

Bengals utilize tight ends

The Bengals spent the last three weeks feeding targets to Ja’Marr Chase with three of the four highest usage rates of his career. On Sunday, they intentionally went to the direction of the forgotten and criticized position on the roster, the tight ends. Cincinnati entered the game with 20 receptions for 132 yards and zero touchdowns among the four tight ends on the roster.

Against the Bills, they contributed 10 receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. If able to mix real production out of that position to the already long list of threats for Burrow, the possibilities of this offense come into full bloom. — Paul Dehner Jr., Bengals beat writer



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Cincinnati continues to start fast

Fast starts continue to fuel the Bengals’ success. This team knows how it wins game. No team has closed games better the last three years. The Bengals opted to take the ball after winning the toss and ripped off back-to-back touchdown drives. Over the last four games, the first two drives have netted seven touchdowns and one field goal. This is the first time since 2012 that the Bengals have scored a touchdown on their opening drive in four straight games.

Credit Zac Taylor and the offensive staff for doing a great job scripting early plays. Then the Bengals defense followed the script as well with another red zone stop and turnover to limit the damage. Playing from ahead is making all the difference. — Dehner

Bengals unbeaten with Burrow fully healthy

The Bengals are 4-0 with Burrow at full health, currently in the playoffs if the season ended today and in the thick of race to finish atop the toughest division in football. Sweeping the trio of Seattle, San Francisco and Buffalo establishes Cincinnati on the list of championship contenders at the midpoint, right where they expected to be. The uphill slog of chasing Baltimore in the AFC North are on the mind now. A Thursday night showdown against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in 10 days will be a must-win for the chances of a third consecutive division title. — Dehner



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What went wrong for the Bills

The Bills defense struggled as soon as it got on the field, with the Bengals generating repeated first downs and sprinting out to two early touchdowns on two drives. Slowly but surely, the defense settled in and managed to hold the Bengals to just 10 points the rest of the game, despite some meaty opportunities for Cincinnati to score points.

On the opposite side, the Bills offense averaged a whopping 12.1 yards per play on its opening drive and punched it in for a touchdown, but struggled mightily the rest of the way. The Bills didn’t find their way back into the end zone until late in the fourth quarter, down two touchdowns. The offense, despite all of its talent and potential, has left a lot to be desired in four of the last five games. — Joe Buscaglia, Bills beat writer

Evaluating Dalton Kincaid’s performance

Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid has officially become quarterback Josh Allen’s security blanket. Since Buffalo lost incumbent starting tight end Dawson Knox to wrist injury late last month, Kincaid has established himself as one of the best players on the roster, with the rookie posting a 10-catch, 81-yard performance on only 11 targets against Cincinnati.

Although Kincaid did have a costly fumble after getting flipped into the air in the red zone with the Bills mounting a comeback, the Bills went right back to him on the next series. Kincaid has established himself as a staple of the offense, and if they’re going to get out of their current doldrum state, he’ll need to continue playing a major role. — Buscaglia

The Bills’ defensive woes

Buffalo’s defense is in shambles. It’s getting increasingly banged up and decreasingly reliable when it matters most. With the Bills desperately in need of a stop after Allen and Stefon Diggs woke up and cut the lead to six points with 3:32 to go with a touchdown and two-point conversion, the Bengals bled the clock.

Already down several quality players, the Bills lost linebacker and signal caller Bernard to a head injury early. That left rookie Dorian Williams and the mostly disappointing Tyrel Dodson to patrol the second level against one of the NFL’s savviest offenses. Micah Hyde had to leave the field in the second and fourth quarters. Cornerback Dane Jackson had to come off with 2:37 left.

New defensive tackle Linval Joseph made a dramatic first impression, theatrically stuffing Burrow on a second-and-inches quarterback sneak to trigger a sequence that morphed an almost certain field goal into a punt. But the Bills’ defensive front was ineffective more plays than not.

Von Miller remains invisible. He recorded no stats. He had a chance to record his first tackle at a crucial time. Needing a stop on third-and-3 at the two-minute warning, Miller could’ve dropped Joe Mixon in the backfield for a loss. Mixon juked past him for a 5-yard gain to ice the game. — Tim Graham, senior Buffalo writer

Bengals outclass Bills

Buffalo was outclassed. Yes, the Bills experienced a couple of bad officiating breaks and made a late rally, but Cincinnati was the better team by far, scoring on the game’s first possession and never trailing the rest of the way.

The Bills had a chance to retake the AFC East lead, but they’re now 2-4 in the conference and getting into serious tiebreaker trouble with a grueling schedule ahead.

Allen led Buffalo 85 yards for a touchdown on its first drive but then fell apart the rest of the first half. The slow-start story arc curved right back into existence because the Bills’ other four possessions lasted 14 plays and traveled 45 yards. At halftime, Allen had completed nine of his 15 throws for 120 yards and an interception.

Allen went without a completion from the 6:00 mark in the first quarter to the 1:30 mark in the second quarter. The stretch included his interception and a sack.

Allen and the offense were excellent in the second half. He went 17 of 23 for 138 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion, both to Diggs. Allen also ran seven times for 42 yards after halftime.

But it was too late.

Oh, Gabriel Davis got two targets: the interception and an end-zone overthrow. — Graham

Highlight of the game

Free Samples in the end zone

📺: #BUFvsCIN on NBC
📱: Stream on #NFLPlus

— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2023

Key stat

The Bengals have now scored opening-drive touchdowns in four straight games after scoring a total of three points on opening possessions in their first four games combined.

Required reading

(Photo: Jeff Dean / Getty Images)

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