ORCHARD PARK — The mere sight of rookie tight end Dawson Knox bowling over one Bengals defender and shoving off another breathed life into a sputtering and sloppy Buffalo offense.
Knox's fearless and physical catch and rumble up the left sideline for a 49-yard gain to set up Frank Gore's decisive score with 1:50 left in rallying the Bills to a 21-17 home-opening win on Sunday also inspired their defense to rise up for one final challenge.
"Oh, he's a beast, man," safety Micah Hyde said of Knox, who opened the scoring with a 1-yard catch.
"When you're a defense and you see that stuff coming from the offense, I think everyone jumped off the bench and was excited," he added. "The crowd went wild."
Buffalo improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and only third time in 26 years. The Bengals fell to 0-3.
It just so happened, Hyde had a hand in sealing the victory in a game the Bills squandered a 14-0 lead.
With Cincinnati facing third-and-5 at Buffalo's 28 and 20 seconds remaining, Hyde tipped Andy Dalton's pass intended for Auden Tate over the middle. The ball was then intercepted by Tre'Davious White, his second of the day.
"We won and that's all that matters," said White, referring to how the Bills were forced to come from behind after allowing the Bengals to score 17 points on three consecutive possessions spanning the third and fourth quarters. "We're blessed."
The Bengals responded a week after being blown out in a 41-17 home-opening loss to San Francisco. And yet, they still managed to come up short in a game their Andy Dalton-led offense combined for 90 yards and three first downs on its first nine possessions, then came alive.
"We dug ourselves a hole there in the first half, which is a killer," first-year coach Zac Taylor said. "We're 0-3. It sucks. It feels terrible. But I'm confident in the guys in this room."
Dalton went 20 of 36 for 249 yards with a 1-yard touchdown run, 1-yard touchdown pass to Joe Mixon and two interceptions. Mixon finally found his legs by finishing with 61 yards rushing, more than doubling the 27 yards he managed in his first two games. He also topped the Bengals' two-game total of 59 yards entering the game.
"We can't have the performance we had in the first half and expect to win," Dalton said.
The Bengals capped their 17-point surge and take the lead on Randy Bullock hitting a 43-yard field goal with 4:54 remaining.
Two plays into Buffalo's next possession, quarterback Josh Allen hit Knox, who was wide open at midfield near the left sideline. Spinning to run upfield, Knox bowled stiff-armed safety Shawn Williams out of the way, and then lowered his shoulder to bowl over Jessie Bates before finally being brought down William Jackson at the Bengals 22.
Knox chalked up the catch and run to instinct.
"As bigger guys, we don't have as many quick juke moves as a lot of guys like Isaiah McKenzie and 'Smoke,'" he said referring to two Bills receivers, including John Brown. "Sometimes you just have to lower the pads and get as many yards as you can."
For Knox, the touchdown was his first since his junior high school season in Tennessee. Though he finished with just 39 catches and 605 yards in three years at Mississippi, the Bills thought enough in his receiving abilities to trade up to draft him 96th overall.
Bengals offensive tackle Bobby Hart was ejected for making contact with an official after White's game-sealing interception. The Bengals were upset because White was never touched down and eventually got up and ran through the back of the end zone.
The officials ruled the play had ended because White had already given himself up.
Allen finished 23 of 36 for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception. He was picked off while back-pedaling on third-and-7 and threw off his back foot. The weak pass was easily intercepted by Darius Phillips, who returned it to Buffalo's 22 and set up the Bengals first touchdown.
Allen was nearly picked off two more times and almost lost a fumble before being ruled he was out of bounds.
Taylor, who took over after Marvin Lewis was fired this offseason, became the fifth of Cincinnati's 10 coaches to open his first season 0-3, and third in a row. The worst start by a first-year Bengals coach was Sam Wyche losing his first five in 1984.
The Bills honored late superfan Ezra "Pancho Billa" Castro during a pregame ceremony. Castro, a mortician from El Paso, Texas, regularly attended Bills games at home on the road, and died in May after a lengthy battle with cancer. Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, the Bills honored Castro's wish by bringing him to Dallas to announce their third-round selection of defensive tackle Harrison Phillips at the 2018 NFL draft.
Phillips paid tribute to Castro by wearing a Bills-themed sombrero, which Castro made famous for wearing at games.
Bengals: none reported.
Bills: Starting right guard Jon Feliciano did not return after sustaining a neck injury in the first quarter.
Bengals: prime-time matchup at Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 30.
Bills: host New England Patriots on Sept. 29.
Bengals coach Taylor remains confident despite 0-3 start
ORCHARD PARK — Bengals first-year coach Zac Taylor isn't going to let an 0-3 start — and two close calls — tear his team apart.
Though disappointed following a 21-17 loss at the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the 36-year-old Taylor remains confident there are signs of growth.
"We believe in each other and the message was the wolves are coming," Taylor said, referring to an animated postgame speech he delivered which could be heard through the locker room door.
By wolves, Taylor meant critics of a team that counts two losses by four or fewer points, including a season-opening 21-20 loss at Seattle.
"This group is too strong to allow that to happen," he added. "It's just so disappointing because we were right there at the end."
Cincinnati overcame a dreadful start and a 14-point deficit by scoring 17 points on three consecutive drives to take the lead on Randy Bullock's 43-yard field goal with 4:54 remaining.
The trouble was the Bengals couldn't hold it, allowing Buffalo's Frank Gore to score on a 1-yard plunge with 1:50 left before falling short on their final drive.
The game ended when quarterback Andy Dalton, facing third-and-5 at the Buffalo 28 and with 20 seconds left, had his pass intended for Auden Tate deflected by safety Micah Hyde and intercepted by Tre'Davious White.
"It's one of those things. It's frustrating at times the offense isn't playing well, the defense is playing well," Dalton said. "For us, it's like we've got to put it all together. ... Zac's animated, he should have been. But the biggest thing is we've got to stay together."
History stands against the Bengals, who have previously never enjoyed a winning record the 17 times they opened a season 0-2. Now Taylor, who took over after Marvin Lewis was fired this offseason, becomes the fifth of 10 coaches in team history to start 0-3.
The Bengals found themselves in a hole for the second consecutive week following a blowout 41-17 home-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which their defense allowed 572 yards — fifth most in team history.
The bright side was their defense holding the Bills to just 14 points, rather than the 24 Cincinnati allowed to the 49ers through halftime.
The downside, was the Bengals' offense managed just two first downs and 77 yards in the first half, 33 of those coming on Dalton's completion to Tate on the final play.
The turnaround didn't come until cornerback Darius Phillips intercepted a pass by Bills quarterback Josh Allen and returned it to the Buffalo 22. Three plays later, Dalton scored on a 1-yard run to cut Buffalo's lead to 14-7.
Joe Mixon then tied the game on a 1-yard reception on Cincinnati's next drive.
Dalton went 20 of 36 for 249 yards and two interceptions. Mixon finally found his legs by finishing with 61 yards rushing, more than doubling the 27 yards he managed in his first two games. He also topped the Bengals' two-game total of 59 yards entering the game.
"We put ourselves in a bind and playing from behind; you can't do that," Mixon said. "It's a tough one. Just can't do it, can't play from behind. One thing I am proud of is these boys, they fought all four quarters, especially the defense, they played their (behinds) off for us tonight."
Taylor can only look ahead, noting the Bengals prepare to face AFC North rival Pittsburgh in a prime-time matchup on Sept. 30.
"We're 0-3. It sucks, it feels terrible," Taylor said. "But I'm confident that the guys in this room, we're going to get some wins out of this thing, and it's only a matter of time and we believe in each other. That's all we can ask for right now. We've got a big one coming up next week and we'll be fired up and ready to roll."
-- By Mark Ludwiczak, AP