Monday, October 14, 2013

Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Buffalo Bills 24 (OT) - October 13, 2013

After six weeks on this trip, I had seen five teams twice and each of those clubs had gone 1-1 in the games I saw. Chicago split a pair on the road, while the Eagles won at Washington and lost at home to KC, while Baltimore, Cleveland, and New England won at home and lost on the road. Following this pattern, I fully expected Buffalo (who lost at Cleveland) to beat Cincinnati (who knocked off the Patriots) in the only NFL game I would see in Week 6.

I arrived at Ralph Wilson Stadium around 8:30 am for the 1pm start. The official parking lots open at 9 and charge $25, but I knew there were cheaper options in the area and sure enough, just 200 yards down Southwestern Boulevard there was a private lot charging $15. As one of the first entrants, I was parked right next to the sidewalk, which meant I could drive right onto the street after the game. The red car is the NFL Road Trip-mobile, a Ford Focus with Colorado plates.

As you can see, people are already tailgating, but it is too early for me to imbibe, so I toured the grounds. A couple of pictures are below, the first one was actually taken the day before when it was a beautiful day, the second one is on game day, when it was cloudy and cool.

The stadium is surrounded by a continuous chain link fence that is covered with pictures of past legends, making it less of an eyesore.

With tailgating going on, there is really no pre-game party. There is something called the Scoreboard Tailgate Party, but there is no beer for sale, so few people bother to show up. There are a few food trucks and some games, such as the one below in which you try to flick a toy football through the license plate. You get two attempts, with winners receiving a Bills t-shirt, while losers (such as myself) get a face tattoo.

I had a media credential so I was able to enter the stadium early, which allowed me to take several pictures before fans were allowed in.

The upper deck is entirely benches but still very close to the field as the club level is quite small.

The panorama shot from the top of the stadium.

The stadium is far away from the city and there is beautiful forest with fall foliage surrounding it; the picture below was taken from the top deck.

I also got to see some players warming up. That's Bengals QB Andy Dalton, known for his red hair, getting ready.

This is Thad Lewis, who was on the practice squad when E.J. Manuel was injured in Cleveland. He was the starter, and he did not look out of place. Looking on is Bengals' punter Kevin Huber.

Bills' safety Aaron Williams dyed his Mohawk pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Mike Nugent gets in a few practice kicks.

This is what the stadium looks like when packed with fans.

The first three quarters of the game were marked by several long drives that took time of the clock. As examples, Dalton (#14 below) led the Bengals on an 8-play, 88-yard drive for a touchdown in the first quarter and followed that up with a 9-play, 98-yard march for another that gave them a 17-7 lead midway through the second.

The Bills had a 16-play drive in which they gave up the ball on downs, and a 10-play possession that led to a field goal. At the half, it was 17-10 Cincinnati, but each team had only had the ball four times. That's BenJarvus Green-Ellis (#42) below, finding a hole to get the Bengals away from their own end zone.

The third quarter was more of the same, with each team having just two possessions. Lewis fumbled the ball on the first, which led to another Cincinnati touchdown, and the Bills punted on the second, allowing the Bengals a 17-play drive that took 8:26 off the clock but resulted in a missed field goal. Below is C.J. Spiller (#28) busting one down the sideline for 19 yards, the longest run of the day for the Bills.

Cincinnati certainly seemed in control, but Lewis had other ideas. The Bengals tried to milk the clock, but the Buffalo defense stood strong for an important stop, and Lewis led the Bills down the field, converting a 4th-and-8 with a beautiful touchdown pass to Scott Chandler to make it 24-17.

Cincinnati could not get anything accomplished on their next two possessions, and Buffalo took over on their own 14 with just 2:40 left. Amazingly, Lewis converted a third down play, then connected with Chandler on a 25-yard pass to put the ball at the Bengals 40. On the next play, Lewis found Marquise Goodwin behind coverage for the tying touchdown with 1:14 on the clock. It was the most exciting play of the trip, and sent the game to overtime.

Cincinnati won the toss, and started with a pass to A.J. Green (#18 below), who finished with 6 catches for 103 yards and a TD. In this case though, Green was guilty of pass interference, and the Bengals had a 1st and 20 from their own 13. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Dalton converted with a 12-yard pass to Green and an 10-yarder to Mohamed Sanu, but the drive stalled and the Bengals were forced to punt.

Buffalo just needed a score to win, but a false start penalty on their first play made it that much more difficult, and they punted after just three plays. Brandon Tate returned the punt 29 yards to the Bills 33 and that pretty much sealed it. Three runs gained 8 yards and Nugent came in to kick the game-winning field goal (below).

The very depressing final score. It was the second week in a row that Buffalo scored 24 only to lose to a team from Ohio.

This was a great game, especially given that expectations were low with Lewis starting. They shouldn't have been. As Bills' coach Doug Marrone said later, "If you didn't know Thad Lewis you might have been surprised. No one on the team was surprised (at his performance)".  I look forward to seeing the Bills in New Orleans in a couple of weeks.



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