Bills lose to Bengals 24-18; Fall to ninth in AFC

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Buffalo Bills entered their prime-time matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals holding an early playoff spot in the AFC.

Another inconsistent offensive performance in a 24-18 loss Sunday night dropped the Bills (5-4) out of postseason position — and gave them more regular-season losses already than they had all last year.

Still, Sean McDermott isn’t concerned about the confidence level of his team.

“These guys are invested,” the Bills coach said. “It’s tough to win in the NFL. When you go up against a good football team, you have to do things right. We didn’t do enough things right tonight to win.”

And it cost the Bills a chance to tie the Dolphins for first place in the AFC East after Miami lost to Kansas City earlier Sunday.

It was a rematch of last season’s AFC divisional playoff round when the Bills, who went 13-3 in the regular season, lost 27-10 to the Bengals. This one got off to an encouraging for the Bills, who drove 85 yards in seven plays on their first possession. A 2-yard touchdown run by Josh Allen tied it at 7.

But Allen, who has thrown an interception in each of his past five games, and the Bills’ offense couldn’t keep up with the Bengals’ resurgent offense and a healthy Joe Burrow.

“We’ve got to continue to coach and continue to play and play hard,” McDermott said. “You have to find ways to win. It starts up front on both sides of the ball. Right now, it’s too inconsistent.”

The Bills haven’t gotten much production from the receiving corps outside of Stefon Diggs and tight end Dalton Kincaid.

On Sunday, Diggs and Kincaid combined for 167 of the Bills’ 258 yards receiving.

“Last week, we spread the ball around and tonight not as much,” McDermott said. “There was times when Josh had time back there, but nobody was open. We need to look at that.”

On defense, the Bills haven’t had an interception since their game against Miami on Oct. 1.

“More times than not, interceptions happen when you can affect the quarterback,” McDermott said. “We weren’t able to affect (Burrow) enough, especially on third down.”

Sunday night’s matchup represented a huge opportunity for both teams to improve their position in the AFC playoff picture. But Buffalo isn’t making the most of its opportunities.

If the Bills need a frame of reference for a late-season run, they can look back to the 2021 season when they started 6-4 and then went 5-2 down the stretch to reach the playoffs.

“Realistically … you need 10, maybe 11 wins to get into the playoff picture in the AFC,” Allen said. “We’ve got eight games left. We’ve got five wins. The math isn’t pretty.”

The Bills’ schedule is daunting, with road games at Philadelphia, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers, and a home game against Dallas.

“Losing is never fun. Losing sucks,” Allen said. “We’re not going to let this divide us. We’re going to come together. We’re going to figure it out. I’ve got a lot of faith in the men in this locker room.”