Week 5: Bengals finally find a way to win close game

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On the first play of the fourth quarter, rookie Joe Mixon scored his first NFL touchdown to give the Bengals the lead for good. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
On the first play of the fourth quarter, rookie Joe Mixon scored his first NFL touchdown to give the Bengals the lead for good. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Bengals fought adversity and the weather to beat the Bills, 20-16, on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. At 2-3, Cincinnati heads into the bye week one game out of first in the AFC North.

Andy Dalton threw for 328 yards, A.J. Green hauled in seven catches for a buck-89 and a score, and Joe Mixon scored his first professional touchdown.

On a rain-soaked Paul Brown Stadium turf, the Bengals found a way to win a game they desperately needed, beating the Buffalo Bills 20-16.

After going winless in their last nine games (0-8-1) decided by one possession dating back to last season, the Bengals gutted out a hard-fought defensive battle in the Queen City that brought hope to a 2-3 club that was recently on life support.

During the contest, though, it appeared to be a game Cincinnati was destined to drop.

Former flames, injuries and costly turnovers

-Ex-Bengal Brandon Tate caught a 12-yard touchdown and returned a punt 40 yards to set up Buffalo’s go-ahead field goal in the third quarter.

A.J. Green was involved on all three of Cincinnati’s turnovers. The Pro-Bowl receiver had two passes go off his hands into Buffalo defenders, then lost a red-zone fumble after a 20-yard catch in the third quarter.

Paul Guenther lost both of his starting corners in the first quarter. Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder) and Adam Jones (back) did not return.

Tyler Boyd did not return after a knee injury in the first quarter.

Andy Dalton came up limping in the first half, and favored his heavily-taped ankle for the majority of the game.

-Rookie Cethan Carter dropped a wide-open pass that would’ve went for 30-plus yards in the third quarter with the Bengals trailing by three.

Beating the odds to avoid disaster

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A 1-4 record with Pittsburgh next on the schedule would have been brutal. Despite all the odds, though, the youthful Bengals pulled out a close win.

Despite the early miscues, Green came up with an enormous play when Cincinnati needed it most. His 47-yard snag on the last play of the third quarter proved the “big players make big-time plays” mantra accurate. One play later, Mixon’s five-yard score put the Bengals ahead for good.

With Jones and Kirkpatrick sidelined, the secondary’s “next man up” mentality held true. William Jackson III, Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw held Buffalo’s depleted receivers to three catches for 34 yards on 12 targets.

It was the short-handed secondary that put the game away, too. Buffalo was plus-nine in turnover differential on the year after Green’s third-quarter fumble. After 54 drives without giving the ball away (going back to the first drive of the season), Tyrod Taylor’s overthrow landed in the hands of George Illoka to seal the victory for Cincinnati.

Next: What Bengals Proved

Division offers even more hope

Even more rejuvenating for the Bengals was what occurred 288 miles east. Division-rival Pittsburgh fell to Jacksonville 30-9, as Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions – two returned for touchdowns – and the Steelers surrendered 231 rushing yards.

Going into the bye, the third-place Bengals are one game out of first. After going winless through the first three weeks, Cincinnati has modified its season from unfortunate to relevant.

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