The entire defense doing snow angels in the end zone following Cam Taylor-Britt’s game-sealing interception was a fitting image for the Cincinnati Bengals dominant 27 - 10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. It was a snow day in Buffalo - but the Bengals were the happy kids out of school; the Bills were the angry adults stuck in traffic.
Heading into the game, the Bengals found themselves in a familiar spot: as the underdogs. Despite riding a nine-game winning streak, despite a hard-fought win over the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round, despite being the defending AFC Champions, the Bills were widely viewed as the superior team. Josh Allen was the yeti/cyborg quarterback who would not be denied. As it turned out, it was the Bengals - yet again - who would not be denied.
Behind the always cool and collected Joe Burrow, the Bengals offense carved up a very talented Bills defense like Thanksgiving turkey. After a lightning-fast, six-play drive that culminated in a Ja’Marr Chase touchdown, the Bengals took a 7 - 0 lead that they would never relinquish. The Bengals played like a team out to send a message. Hopefully the rest of the NFL finally takes notice - for their sakes, anyway.
To be fair, there were a lot of reasons the Bengals were considered underdogs in this matchup. The Bills were preseason favorites. The Bengals were a last-season surprise. The Bills had a lively group of pass rushers. The Bengals had an injury-ravaged offensive line. On paper, it was a mismatch.
Of course, "on paper" doesn’t mean much anymore, not with Burrow and the Bengals in the house. And we shouldn't be surprised when the Bengals are underdogs heading into Kansas City, even with Patrick Mahomes hobbled with an ankle injury. On paper, that makes sense. In the world we live in, we should know better by now: the Bengals will find a way.
There were a lot of heroes for the Bengals in this one, but no unit deserves more praise or recognition than the offensive line. All week, a narrative permeated that the Bengals line was too decimated to mount a resistance against the Bills. Joe was going to be running for his life, we were told. And somehow, the complete opposite happened. The Bengals offensive line dominated.
It was an incredible performance, especially considering the circumstances. The Bengals were missing three-fifths of their rebuilt line. The guys sliding into starting roles were the same guys who failed to mount much resistance in the playoffs last year. This time around, those players were ready for the moment.
Jackson Carman at left tackle, Max Scharping at right guard, Hakeem Adeniji at right tackle…they each had a career-defining performance. The snow might have slowed the Bills pass rush some, but that doesn’t explain the consistently beautiful pockets Burrow had to operate in all day. Or the massive rushing lanes for Joe Mixon and Semaje Perine. It was arguably the most impressive performance for the line all season - and it came in their most vulnerable moment!
The defense, too, stepped up in a massive way. Allen made a handful of plays, but nothing the Bills did on offense looked easy. The Bengals consistently took away Allen’s first read. Running the ball was out of the question. They only sacked Allen once, but they pressured him throughout the game.
Making the Bengals victory even more impressive was that Allen didn’t even have a particularly bad game. Sure, he threw a desperation interception to seal it, but he was extending plays and finding receivers late to keep the Bills offense moving. It just wasn’t enough. The Bengals were too much. The Bengals would not be denied.
It was the most complete performance for the Bengals all season. They were elite in their execution in all facets of the game. Run game and pass game, defense and special teams, first half and second half…every unit was impeccable. So now, the Bengals move on, and the Bills season comes to an end. The whole NFL world watches in stunned amazement, but Bengals fans know better: this is who the Bengals are.