ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- How's that for a home opener?
Fans packed New Era field on Sunday as the Buffalo Bills held off a late Cincinnati rally, beating the Bengals 21-17 for their first 3-0 start to a season since 2011. After building a two-score lead in the first half, the Bills temporarily lost control of the game in the second half.
But once again, late-game heroics from quarterback Josh Allen prevailed -- setting up a matchup between unbeaten teams in Week 4, when the New England Patriots come to town. It was Allen's fifth game-winning drive.
Describe the game in two words: Killer instinct. Or, rather, a lack thereof. Buffalo jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half, only to coast in a similar fashion to last week against the Giants. This time, however, its opponent took advantage of the myriad opportunities, as Cincinnati rattled off 17 unanswered points and nearly stole its first victory of the season. The Bills have yet to prove they've eclipsed the "up-and-coming" stage, but they must learn how to put teams away if they're going to take the next step toward contention.
QB Breakdown: Allen has shown flashes of brilliance over the past three weeks, but he still hasn't put his "hero ball" days fully behind him. He escaped a few collapsed pockets in the first half and made some confidence-boosting but logic-defying throws -- but that luck eventually ran out. His interception on the run was an immediately regrettable decision that led to the Bengals' first touchdown of the game. He nearly threw another the following drive when he either didn't see or thought he could beat a safety playing deep middle-third.
But when it mattered the most, Allen led a seven-play, 78-yard go-ahead scoring drive, during which he repeatedly kept plays alive and left the pocket to pick up yards. The process of finding the balance between reason and heroics is still ongoing; at least the Bills are winning games as he figures it out.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: John Brown and Cole Beasley were brought to Buffalo for their ability to separate -- whether it's vertically or across the middle. However, the duo averaged 1.95 and 2.72 average yards of separation at the time of a catch or incompletion, far below their season averages of 2.4 and 4.3 yards, respectively.
Promising trend: Tre'Davious White's first interception of the season marked the third straight game in 2019 in which the Bills' defense has forced a turnover -- five games total, extending back to the 2018 season. Nothing good came of it for Buffalo, however, as its offense turned the ball over three plays later. His second interception, however, sealed the victory in the fourth quarter.