FIRST QUARTER: Green’s day
Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green has been in a mini-slump, by his standards, the past month.
That ended early Sunday. Green caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with 5:26 left in the first quarter to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead.
Green is the most elite weapon in the Bengals’ arsenal. The 6-foot-4, 207-pounder from the University of Georgia was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft. He was the first rookie receiver to make the Pro Bowl since Anquan Boldin in 2003. He made the Pro Bowl last year, too. In his first two seasons, Green had 2,407 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Green went off for 162 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opener against Chicago but has managed no more than 61 yards since. He showed off his size and strong hands in catching the TD pass over Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
“We had him one-on-one and gave him the chance to make a play and he made it,” Dalton said. “We practiced that all week and we hit it.”
Key plays: Cincinnati scored first, with a 46-yard Mike Nugent field goal. The Bills answered with a 3-yard TD run by Thad Lewis.
SECOND QUARTER: Hard stuff
A goal-line stand helped the Bengals take a 17-10 lead into halftime.
The Bills had a first-and-goal situation at the Bengals’ 2 after marching 76 yards midway through the second quarter. Buffalo powered up with a fullback and extra linemen. Runs on first down, second down and third down by Fred Jackson – all off right guard – were stuffed. On fourth down, Thad Lewis faked a run and rolled to the right. Doug Legursky was in the pass pattern and was covered. Lewis was chased down by linebacker James Harrison and sacked for a 1-yard loss.
Key plays: Andy Dalton threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Giovanni Bernard to give the Bengals a 17-7 lead. Buffalo got a 51-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter. It was Carpenter’s 12th straight successful field goal.
Big debut: Brian Moorman’s first punt in his return to the Bills was a beauty. It bounced out at the 1-yard line.
Second-guess: Ticky-tack penalty on Vontaze Burfict, who was called for unnecessary roughness on a 4-yard pass over the middle to T.J. Graham. Burfict made slight contact with Graham’s helmet. It’s hard to see what else Burfict was going to do on the play.
THIRD QUARTER: Keep away
The third quarter was about domination.
The Bengals held the ball for 11:17 to just 3:43 for Buffalo. The Bengals held an edge in first downs, 9-2.
However, the Bills stayed in the game because Cincinnati came up points-less after a 17-play, 64-yard drive. The Bengals had a first-and-10 play at the Buffalo 11. But Alan Branch stuffed a run up the middle. The Bills swarmed a second-down dump-off pass. On third down Leodis McKelvin had good coverage in the back of the end zone on A.J. Green, and Andy Dalton’s pass went incomplete.
Mike Nugent then missed a 34-yard field goal try wide to the right. Bullet dodged.
Key plays: The Bengals took a 24-10 lead on a 10-yard TD pass from Dalton to Marvin Jones. Dalton did a good job of extending the play, rolling out of the pocket after his first reads were covered. McKelvin couldn’t stay with Jones long enough.
Momentum killer: Thad Lewis was too careless with the ball on a scramble on the Bills’ first possession of the quarter. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap slapped the ball out of his hands and Vontaze Burfict recovered it at the Bengals’ 47.
FOURTH QUARTER / OVERTIME: Playing catch-up
Thanks to Marquise Goodwin’s first NFL touchdown, the Bills almost stole a victory from the Bengals.
Despite being outplayed, the Bills forced a 24-24 tie with 1:08 left when Thad Lewis hit Goodwin on a 40-yard TD pass. The score capped an 86-yard drive in seven plays.
Goodwin, the U.S. Olympic long-jumper and University of Texas product, beat cornerback Terence Newman down the right sideline. Cincinnati blitzed on the play, Fred Jackson picked it up with a good block. Lewis backed up and waited long enough for Goodwin to get open.
“He was off coverage and I knew he was going to jump outside, because that’s what he had been doing the whole game,” Goodwin said. “I squeezed it inside of him and just ran for the ball, and it was a perfect throw by Thad.”
Key play: The Bengals got a 29-yard punt return by Brandon Tate to the Buffalo 33 to set up Mike Nugent’s winning, 33-yard field goal. …. Scott Chandler caught a 22-yard TD pass from Lewis early in the quarter.
Zebra report: Bills gunner Duke Williams was knocked out of the play on Tate’s key punt return with what looked like an illegal block, but there was no call.