The classic “Let Josh Cook” gameplan didn’t work in the playoffs
There isn’t much to be said, Bills Mafia. Our Buffalo Bills got dominated by the Cincinnati Bengals from the moment the ball was kicked off. The Bills now have the whole offseason to find a way to get over the hump — whether that’s upgrading via the draft, or changing the identity of the team.
Either way, the results were unexpected, devastating, and flat-out embarrassing. The Bengals were the more physical team, and it simply felt like they wanted it more. Buffalo seemed to be going through the motions, as if there were no practices the whole week leading up to the game.
Let’s take a look at ESPN Analytics and its win probability metrics, and dive into what went wrong for Buffalo to see why this season ended in gut-wrenching fashion.
First quarter, 11:40 remaining — BUF with a 52.5% win probability: Even after the Bengals drove down the field with ease to start the scoring, the win probability metrics still favored the Bills. But in typical fashion, they went three-and-out on their first two drives, while the Bengals found the end zone twice. This game was doomed from the start.
Second quarter, 7:25 remaining — CIN with a 58.3% win probability: Cincinnati just scored their second touchdown, and the game was already looking like it was going to be a long one. But, Josh Allen did Josh Allen things, and single-handedly put points on the board for Buffalo. The run game was weak and the receivers weren’t getting open, but Allen found a way to keep them in the game, cutting the lead to 14-7.
2nd quarter, 0:40 remaining — CIN with a 73.9% win probability: This was the prime opportunity to start the double-dip, but Buffalo punted from the Bengals’ 41-yard line. Yes, you read that right. Down 10 points and moving the ball quite well through the air, the drive stalled. A holding call on Dion Dawkins and a drop from Devin Singletary halted all momentum, but head coach Sean McDermott opted to punt the ball. This was just mind-boggling, considering the position to double-dip and the fact that it’s the playoffs. To add insult to injury, the Bills nearly let the Bengals get into field goal position before half, anyway.
3rd quarter, 7:42 remaining — CIN with a 69.6% win probability: As mentioned before, the Bills had a prime opportunity to double-dip before and after halftime, but they didn’t. Instead, they took off over seven minutes of clock on their opening second-half drive just to kick a field goal and bring the score to 17-10. They never scored again, while Cincinnati still kept consistently moving on offense. It simply felt like the Bills just gave up from here.
3rd quarter, 1:17 remaining — CIN with a 93.6% win probability: After the field goal drive for the Bills, they just disappeared. Conservative McDermott returned, and the Bills officially clocked out. Buffalo let the play clock go all the way down to zero after a three-and-out, bascially showing that there was no more trying to win. The defense wasn’t playing with much intensity, and the offense couldn’t sustain drives. The Bengals scored their final points of the game with a touchdown to bring the score to 24-10. The Bills tried to get something going in the fourth quarter, but of course, the season technically ended on an Allen interception.
It’s devastating to see Allen’s prime being hindered by poor game planning and an underwhelming supporting cast. Onto next season.