The Buffalo Bills may be a second half team after all. In a season where the Bills have been beaten up in the third quarter by their opponents, the Bills used the third quarter to continue their second half of the season resurgence, besting the Bengals 49-31 in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Despite managing their first touchdown on an opening drive this season, the Bills played an awful first half. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions, and had one called back after a roughing the passer penalty. When Fitzpatrick threw an interception to Johnathan Joseph that he returned for a touchdown, the score 28-7 in the second quarter. The Bengals’ offense did whatever they wanted in the first half, as Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson had their way with the Bills’ defense. The Bengals took a 31-14 lead into halftime, and appeared poised to put the Bills away without much difficulty.
In the second half, both the Bengals and Bills appeared to be different teams. Ryan Fitzpatrick converted three third and longs on the Bills’ opening possession, leading them to a 28-yard Steve Johnson touchdown, making the score 31-21. The Bengals answered with a Cedric Benson fumble on the second play of their first drive of the third quarter, which Drayton Florence returned 27 yards for a touchdown. The Bengals seemed to recover and marched down the field once again, with Carson Palmer throwing what appeared to be a 31-yard touchdown to Terrell Owens that was nullified by a Bengals’ holding penalty. The Bengals recovered again to drive down to the Bills’ 5 yard line. Then Carson Palmer showed what has been the Bengals trademark during their seven game losing streak, throwing an interception in the end zone to George Wilson, that Wilson returned 56 yards into Bengal territory. The Bills didn’t look back, and ended up outscoring the Bengals in the second half by a whopping count of 35-0.
Stevie Johnson, who sat most of last season due in large part to the Bills’ acquisition of Terrell Owens, outplayed his former teammate and was the star of the day. Johnson had 8 catches for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. Owens managed to haul in three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Johnson also did his best Ochocinco impression, lifting his jersey after his first touchdown to reveal an undershirt that read, “Why so serious,” a play on the Dark Knight’s Joker. To complete the character, Johnson placed eyeblack on the sides of his mouth.
Ryan Fitzpatrick looked absolutely awful in the first half. He was inaccurate and making poor decisions into traffic which led to turnovers. Fitz recovered to have a wonderful second half, taking advantage of the Bengals’ shorthanded secondary. He finished with 21 completions in 34 attempts, for 316 yards, with 4 touchdowns and the 2 first half interceptions.
Freddy Jackson played another great game for Buffalo, mustering 116 yards on 21 carries and two more touchdowns.
The Bills’ defense, which had been dominated in the first half, shut the Bengals out in the second half, forcing two turnovers and producing a touchdown of their own.
While the Bills played a great second half, you couldn’t help but notice watching the Bengals implode in the second half. It seemed to be that at the first sign of adversity, the Bengals were all too ready to concede defeat. On one hand, it is great to see the Bills are a team that doesn’t quit. They play hard, they never give up, and their coach appears to be getting the most out of a team that has obvious deficiencies in key areas. On the other, when you watch teams like the Bengals just quit, or watch other bottom-feeding teams in the league show absolutely no grit, you begin to see why the Bills will have trouble getting the first overall pick in the draft. I don’t know if a team can have too much character, but the Bills are playing their way out of the league’s basement. I can’t root against the Bills while watching them play, but are they playing their way out of a franchise player, and what would ultimately be the best for the future of the team?