“Stalling throughout the game,” Allen said. “Can’t win football games that way.”
There was an emotional quotient to this game that was impossible to ignore. Snow was falling. Damar Hamlin was in the house. Everything seemed to point their way from a storybook perspective.
But in reality, the Bengals set the tone right after the kickoff and never let up. They were clearly the more physical and focused team.
“They had a good game plan,” Allen said. “We were expecting their best punch, and they came out and they punched us.”
After the first quarter, the Bengals had 10 first downs … while the Bills had run a mere seven plays. Cincinnati’s defensive line got the best of the Bills early and often, whether it rushed three or five. Allen took a beating all game. Although the Bengals were credited with only one sack, two more were wiped out. For the game, the Bengals were credited with hitting Allen eight times, but it felt like more.
The weather conditions — and the Bengals’ defensive game plan — also made it a designed-run game for Allen, as he carried it eight times, with at least half of those by design. Other than the touchdown, Allen had limited effectiveness with his legs, netting only 26 yards.
In short, the Bengals forced the Bills out of their regular stuff. That meant fewer chances for Stefon Diggs and company – and Diggs made it clear he wasn’t happy about it on the sideline, raising his arms late in the game in the direction of Allen, who had his head buried in a tablet that likely revealed another failed drive.
After the game, Diggs bolted from the locker room early. Allen wasn’t about to bail on his best weapon now, calling him after the game “a fiery competitor” who just wants the ball.
All season long, Allen was the Bills’ best player, covering up some of their flaws with his rare and freaky playmaking ability. But Allen also was the player whose fast-and-loose style often put the Bills in tough spots. Sunday wasn’t his most damning example of the latter, but it was far enough away from the former for the Bengals to keep the Bills at arm’s distance for the majority of the game.
“I thought Josh did some good things,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said after the game. “Like we all want some plays back as well. Sometimes we try do just too much overall and we all have to grow from this. Right now, just being in the moment this strings like I said. Josh is a heck of competitor as you guys know. And I’ll take him any day of the week. I love how competitive he is and these are things you got to learn from. We have to make the adjustments, the proper adjustments we need to make to move this organization to continue to move forward. That’s the direction we are headed.”