The Buffalo Bills welcomed an undefeated Cincinnati Bengals team to Orchard Park in week six looking to give the visitors its first blemish of the season. Rex Ryan’s team started off on the right foot with a scoring drive led by backup quarterback E.J. Manuel on its first possession, but couldn’t keep up with the AFC North leaders falling 34-21.
Manuel had his moments but also left some yards on the field while star running back LeSean McCoy returned to action and provided the Bills offense with a much-needed spark. It wasn’t enough however as Buffalo’s defense had a tough time slowing down Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ attack. Overall, the high marks were not in abundance following Sunday’s loss as you’ll see in the individual grades below:
LeSean McCoy: Shady was the biggest positive from the Bills offense in week six as the running back showed off his trademark burst for 90 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. McCoy was able to literally cut on a dime and change direction on a few plays which sprung him for positive gains including a 33-yard scamper.
Despite his elusiveness you can tell Shady is still working his legs back to 100% as the running back slipped a couple times (weather didn’t help) when getting near top speed. Once he’s in game shape and legs are fully underneath him it should be fun to watch. Expect the Bills to rely on McCoy heavily in London. Grade: A-
Charles Clay: The playmaking tight end had another productive game as he recorded nine receptions for 62 yards including a nifty one-handed grab on a high pass from Manuel. Clay also dropped a pass in the short middle of the field but was tough to take down after the catch and has been the Bills most consistent pass catcher over the last few weeks. Grade: B+
Sammy Watkins: The second-year receiver was having himself an impressive return to the field until he sprained his ankle on a 22-yard touchdown grab from E.J. Manuel. Watkins left the game and did not return but was getting great separation from defenders before the injury.
Sammy and E.J. hooked up mostly on out throws to the sidelines and the receiver was open on a couple other occasions despite not being targeted. Watkins looks like a stud when he’s playing but he needs to stay on the field to approach that status. He caught four out of five targets for 48 yards and one score. Grade: B
Chris Gragg: The backup tight end got involved in the fourth quarter as he caught five receptions 54 yards. Carrying over the preseason rapport built with Manuel, it was a positive showing from Gragg. Grade: B
Stephon Gilmore: Gilly spent a good portion of the day covering star-receiver A.J. Green and limited him to 4 receptions for 36 yards. Marvin Jones did catch a deep pass on the cornerback but his coverage was spot on as the receiver made an amazing play on the ball.
Gilmore’s tackling is also impressive as he upended Jeremy Hill who was running along the outside. It wasn’t a great game for the defense but Stephon continues to play at a very high level. Grade: B
Offensive Line: Richie incognito had another good day at guard as he and left tackle Cordy Glenn both did their part for the offense along the left side. Center Eric Wood was also solid and despite being called for a holding penalty rookie guard John Miller held his own against a tough Bengals front. Starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson went down with a concussion with second-year and former second-round pick Cyrus Kouandijio filling in for the rest of the game.
Overall this group didn’t completely hold off Cincinatti’s line but did a good of opening holes for the running game aka LeSean McCoy and E.J. Manuel. The quarterback also had a decent amount of time to operate in the pocket but did face pressure rather quickly on other occasions. The Bengals only recorded two sacks which can be viewed as a positive and with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer returning from suspension this unit will hopefully continue to improve. Grade: B-
Ronald Darby: Darby had a hand in containing A.J. Green and had tight coverage on a couple impressive receptions by the Bengals, including Ryan Hewitt’s grab where the cornerback was all over the tight end as the pass arrived.
He did get beat on a double-move later in the game but didnt give up many huge plays. Ronald finished with six tackles but it’s hard to stop anybody when the opposing quarterback isn’t facing any pressure. Grade: B-
Corey Graham: The safety was active on defense finishing with seven tackles and looks comfortable playing the position. It would be nice to see him flying up a little faster to the ball but thats probably me just missing Aaron Williams’ style of play. Grade: B-
Duke Williams: Starting in place of the injured Aaron Williams Duke played aggressive as he finished with six tackles and a few big hits. Williams was beat along with Gilmore for a big play by Marvin Jones but had one of his better games against Cincy. Grade: B-
Manny Lawson: The outside linebacker was the best player in of his group on Sunday and finished with eight combined eight tackles. It was hia most productive game of the year. Grade: B-
E.J. Manuel: Making his first start since week four of 2014, Manuel was up and down against the Bengals. People want to put the blame on his shoulders for the loss but in my opinion, he wasnt nearly the reason Buffalo faltered.
E.J. capped an opening scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run but then tossed an interception on an under thrown pass a few minutes later. He was able to find his groove with Watkins in the second-quarter as he connected on a few passes culminating with a 22-yard score.
The rest of the day was mostly inconsistent however as the quarterback missed Watkins’ presence as well as some open targets. He was inaccurate on passes to Charles Clay and Chris Hogan specifically. Chris Gragg did get involved for some late-game production as Manuel finished with 263 passing yards on 28 of 42 attempts with one touchdown, one interception and a QB Rating of 81.7. He also pitched in 20 yards on seven carries and a touchdown but never really provided a sufficient enough threat to Cincy. Grade: C+
Marcel Dareus: Marcel continues to take up space and get penetration at the line in which allowed him to blow up a couple running plays. Dareus totaled four tackles but wasnt able to really bother Dalton with the pass rush. Grade: C+
Jerry Hughes: The defensive end made some nice plays against the run in the backfield and also got his hand on an Andy Dalton pass. Hughes finished with four tackles and was able to get decent penetration but couldn’t quite get to the quarterback. Grade: C+
Robert Woods: With Percy Harvin out and Sammy injured in the second quarter Woods had an opportunity to have a bigger game but finished with four receptions for 47 yards. He was called for two holding penalties one of which brought back a solid gain. Grade: C+
Nigel Bradham: The linebacker is on the field for just about every defensive snap but didn’t make a huge impact on Sunday. He was good in pass coverage and finished with three tackles and a nice open field takedown. Buffalo could still use more from Bradham. Grade: C+
Preston Brown: The second-year linebacker racked up nine tackles but was late in pass coverage a couple times. His run defense also struggled as Brown got caught up on the inside and subsequently let Geo Bernard run untouched for a 17-yard touchdown. Grade: C
Mario Williams: Super Mario recorded one tackle on a play where he effectively contained the outside run but couldn’t get much else going. Williams vented afterwards that he probably “set a record” for the most dropbacks into coverage of his career against the Bengals. Safe to say Mario wants to be blitzing the quarterback a bit more than the current defensive scheme includes. Grade: C
Bacarri Rambo: The defensive back only finished with one tackle and was easily beat on a short touchdown to tight end Tyler Eifert. Rambo hasn’t been great in Rex Ryan’s defense thus far and will need to step up with Aaron Williams out for most of the season. Grade: C-
Nickell Robey: The nickel/dimeback had another tough day in coverage as he was burnt a few times early by Marvin Jones. Opposing quarterbacks continue to pick on Buffalo’s other defensive backs besides Gilmore and Darby. Grade: D+