Bengals 2017 Season in Review: Week 5
By Jack Lane
Can last year tell us anything about this year? In this series, we’ll look at the Bengals schedule game by game, analyzing the good and bad from each week.
The Bengals finally got their first win of the season against Cleveland, but needed to string together a few victories to get back into contention. Beating the Browns is one thing, but the Bengals needed to prove themselves against a real team. The Bills had shockingly won 3 of their first 4 games, and seemed poised to make an improbable playoff run. If the Bengals were going to turn this season around, they needed to beat fringe playoff teams like the Bills. For the first time in 2017, they did.
The game was close from beginning to end, although the Bengals made a big splash early. On the second drive of the game, Andy Dalton and AJ Green connected on a 77 yard bomb to put the Bengals up 7-0 early. The teams traded field goals in the second quarter to put the Bengals up 10-3 at the half. In the second half, the Bengals struggled to generate offense, though, and the Bills scored a quick ten points to go up 13-10. In the fourth quarter, the Bengals finally put together a drive, ending with Joe Mixon’s first career touchdown. Up 20-16, the Bills had a chance to win, but George Iloka made the game-clinching interception.
The story of this game wasn’t individual performance by any means. Fortunately, the Bengals found a way to win when not everything was clicking. They got just enough out of Dalton, Mixon, and their defensive stars to edge out a win over a legitimate team in Buffalo.
Dalton didn’t have quite as good a game as he did against Green Bay or Cleveland, but he still had a good performance. He threw for his highest yards total of the season (328), although he did throw 2 interceptions as well. Like the Bengals as a whole, Dalton did just enough to get the victory. On the touchdown drive to put Cincinnati up for good, Dalton threw four consecutive incompletions before launching a bomb to AJ Green to set up Mixon’s touchdown. It wasn’t his best game, but it was good enough.
On the topic of AJ Green, he put together one of the best games of his career. With 7 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, Green showed why he’s one of the NFL’s best. His 77 yard touchdown was a work of art as he toasted the entire Buffalo secondary. He also showed up in the clutch by setting up the go-ahead touchdown. Each article has brought up Green in some capacity because he continues to be a centerpiece of the team’s success.
The other big star of the game was the defense, especially the veterans. The unit was impressive, holding the Bills to just 221 yards and a 33% third down conversion rate. Vontaze Burfict returned against Cleveland, but he showed up big time against Buffalo. Burfict led the team in tackles with 13 and had a sack. Geno Atkins had his fourth sack of the season, pacing Carl Lawson, who recorded his third and a half sack of the year. Long-time Bengal Michael Johnson led the team with two sacks of Tyrod Taylor, though.
Turnovers were also a key part of the defense’s success. As I mentioned above, George Iloka had the game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. He also added 5 tackles to his first interception of the season. Carlos Dunlap didn’t have a sack in Week 5, but he did force a fumble of LeSean McCoy. It was encouraging to see a lot of the Bengals’ veterans share in on the team’s success against Buffalo.
Next: Season in Review: Week 4
A home win over Buffalo usually doesn’t mean much, but in 2017 it was huge. Not only did it get the Bengals to 2-3 – a respectable record – but it was also their first win over a playoff team. Little did they know that they would send Buffalo to the playoffs later that year, but for the time being, the hard-fought win was enough for the Bengals.