The Buffalo Bills had a good season. They went 13-3. They won their third AFC East title in a row and one playoff game.
Not important. Not even a bit. This was the season when everything was in order for the Bills to finally win a Super Bowl. Going into the season, they were favorites to win the Super Bowl. And they didn’t even make it to the last four in the NFL.
The Cincinnati Bengals started fast against the Bills and finished Buffalo’s season in the divisional round with a 27-10 win. The Bengals are moving into the AFC championship game to face the Kansas City Chiefs, who were relieved to be hosting that game instead of playing on a neutral ground against the Bills.
The Bills started the season fast but didn’t look so good in the second half of the season. The Bengals were the better team from the beginning of November. Cincinnati was clearly the better team on Sunday. Josh Allen was not very good and was overtaken by Joe Burrow. It didn’t help much. Buffalo’s defense did not take advantage of the scrimmage injuries for the Bengals, who moved the ball at their will. It wasn’t just Buffalo that lost. The bills weren’t even close. A discouraging way to end a season that started with high hopes.
The problem the Bills faced this season was that they had nowhere else to go but the Super Bowl. Anything less than going to at least the Super Bowl would be seen as a failed season. Even with a good core and a star quarterback, a Super Bowl window can close quickly. The Bills finally got a big shot at bringing a Super Bowl to Buffalo. Then the season ended abruptly, long before Bills fans had hoped.
Bengals got off to a great start
Fans who entered the game on CBS got a nice treat, with a layer of snow on the ground and the snow continuing to fall as the game started. The Bengals were not offended in the least.
The Bengals looked like they were on a clean court when the Bills defense was on an ice rink. On Cincinnati’s first drive, Joe Burrow hit all four passes for 65 yards and scored a goal against Ja’Marr Chase. The bills went three-and-out and the Bengals went to the lower right field again. On the third and seven, Burrow hit Hayden Hurst wide open in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. The Bengals took a quick 14-0 lead. They had 146 yards and nine first defeats, and the Bills had only played three games. Then Bills went three-and-out again. The Bonds didn’t get their first defeat until the second quarter.
Bills came alive on that trip to start the second quarter. Josh Allen quarterback for a touchdown resulted in sneak. The Bengals were up 14-7 but felt the Bills were back in the game. They were not. Burrow led the Bengals to right-back with little resistance from the Bills. Buffalo were supposed to crush the Bengals’ offensive line without three starts, but the snow seemed to slow their passing pace. The Bengals line held up well the entire game and Burrow kept getting what he wanted. So is Cincinnati’s running game. Chase landed a touchdown in a controversial replay, but the Bengals still took a field goal and took a 17-7 lead.
The Bills were catching up from the first run of the game and the Bengals weren’t going to let them close the gap.
Bills season ends in frustration
The Bengals gave up a long drive to start the second half, but the Bills’ drive stalled inside the 10-yard line and Buffalo decided on a field goal. Cincinnati responded with a long drive that ended with a Joe Mixon touchdown. The Bills couldn’t trade field goals for goals.
After Mixon’s goal, Allen found Gabe Davis in third and two. Davis caught the pass in his arms and dropped it. Such was the day for Buffalo. The Bills never returned to the game after that. It’s hard to say what was more disappointing for Buffalo, a defense that played well all season but didn’t see any pressure against the Bengals and couldn’t stop anything Cincinnati did, or an offense that seemed to have no idea how to act. Ball against the Bengals defense.
It’s a tough ending for the Bills. Buffalo was in line for the #1 seed before their game against the Bengals was canceled due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac emergency on the field. The top seeded Bills would take a bye and play with the Jacksonville Jaguars on the division tour. Instead, they were half a game behind the Chiefs for the top seed. But from what we saw on Sunday, the Bills probably wouldn’t have beaten the Bengals that Monday night in the regular season either.
The end of the Bills season was sudden and not entirely satisfying. Buffalo could go to the Super Bowl next season. Gems are in place and Bills will continue to be aggressive in adding players. But the league changes quickly, and you never know when the opportunity has passed. On a snowy day, a long holiday season kicks off in Buffalo.