Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has digested the Buffalo defense and come away impressed with the Bills' energy, one of the tell-tale signs of an effective group.
“They play really hard, and they give you so many different looks, and different things that they do, so they make you prepare for a lot of different things," said Dalton, the NFL's second-leading yardage passer in the league's second-ranked offense.
The unbeaten Bengals (5-0) visit Buffalo (3-2) for a 1 p.m. showdown at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills are 16th in the NFL in total defense (356.2 yards). They are third in rushing defense (82.2).
But the Bengals need to be careful. Veteran safety Corey Graham is third in the league with 48 tackles, a robust average of 9.6 per game. Defensive end Mario Williams is still around, with a pair of sacks to his credit.
"Their front four is really good, and we understand that," Dalton said. "That's a big part of his (Bills head coach Rex Ryan's) style of defense. Being able to have those types of guys up front. It's going to be a good test for us.”
"I think we've got a really good plan in place in how we're going about doing things, and it's been paying off big-time for us," Dalton said. "We just need to keep this roll going.”
He said the pieces are in place, and in one piece, after last year's injury-marred season that claimed Eifert and receiver Marvin Jones for most of it and Green for the bulk of five games.
“We have everybody back now, and this is kind of how it was in 2013," Dalton said. "We had our crew going. So we've been very fortunate offensively to not have anything that's taking guys out. We obviously understand the nature of the game, and things are going to happen, but if you can stay healthy, that definitely puts you at an advantage.”
Eifert's return, especially, has been a boon to the passing game, Dalton said.
“Tyler's such a special player, so he allows us to do a lot of different things. He matches up well against a lot of different players that they try to put on him," said the quarterback. "Sometimes, it's a corner. Sometimes, it's a safety. Sometimes, it's a linebacker. You never know. But we feel like just his presence out there can change things up. It showed in the game on Sunday (against Seattle). He was able to get open in the seam a couple times for two big scores that we needed to have. Last year, we had different guys. We also had Jermaine (Gresham). So we kind of had two threats out there at the start of the season, and we lost Tyler early on. We're real fortunate to have him back, and playing the way he is.”
Mohamed Sanu re-emerged last week, adding to Dalton's receiving options.
“It's play-by-play. That's one thing that this team, this offense knows, and all the skill players know it: Different guys are going to get involved at different times, and they understand that," Dalton said. "Sometimes it could be a two- or three-catch game, and other times you could have five, six, seven, eight catches. You just never know. The good thing is that we have a lot of guys who are team players and understand that, and they know that when their time is called, they're going to make plays. I think that showed with Mo last week. I think he had more catches in the game than he had in any other, but it was a crucial part to get him involved in those situations.”
Sunday's game against Seattle gave the Bengals a big win over a respected team in the closing minutes of overtime. What could this Sunday in Buffalo have in store?
“The importance of this one is even bigger, knowing we have a week off next week," said Dalton. "So, the fact we have the bye after this one, you have to push really hard this week. Prepare more than you ever have for this one, because you know you get a little more time after this week.”