The Buffalo Bills are seeking their first 3-0 start in eight years when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Buffalo started the campaign with road wins over the New York Jets and New York Giants, and optimism is blooming as the Bills begin a stretch of hosting five of six games in Western New York.
"Well, we understand the energy of the stadium is going to be really high on Sunday," Bills quarterback Josh Allen told reporters. "We have to be able to kind of weather that and understand and play within ourselves. Coach (Sean McDermott) told us it's not where we play, it's how we play. We're going to take that to heart."
The Bills will be meeting a desperate team in the Bengals (0-2), who played well in a 21-20 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks before being trampled 41-17 at home by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.
Cincinnati gave up an astounding 571 yards -- fifth most in franchise history -- including 259 on the ground.
The shaky effort was reminiscent of the team's defensive issues last season, when the unit gave up more than 500 yards in three straight games during one stretch. The Bengals are 25th in total defense (402.0 yards) through two weeks.
"This is an isolated incident," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap told reporters. "This is not a snowball effect. ... There's no whiff of last year. We know who we are this year. We worked too hard to change this culture and create a new identity for ourselves."
First-year coach Zac Taylor is charged with the task of reshaping the squad, and the passing attack has been solid through two games.
Quarterback Andy Dalton ranks second in the NFL with 729 yards, and emerging wideout John Ross has a league-best 270 receiving yards. Chad Johnson (304 in 2007) is the only Cincinnati player who had more receiving yards than Ross over the first two contests of a season.
But the rushing attack ranks last in the NFL at 29.5 yards per game. Joe Mixon, who led the AFC with 1,168 rushing yards last season, has just 27 on 17 carries this season.
"I've been playing terrible," Mixon said. "Me personally, that's not what I do. I'm always on tip-top, A-game performance. These past two weeks, it hasn't been that. But like I said, I'll get back to doing the things that I do best, and that's running that rock. I'm going to get it popping real soon."
Buffalo ranks 10th in defending the run at 98.5 yards per game, and also ranks 10th in total defense (296.5).
That workman-like effort is providing Allen and the Bills' offense with enough room to operate successfully. Buffalo ranks ninth in total offense (379.0), and Allen has passed for 507 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions.
Rookie Devin Singletary is the leading rusher with 127 yards on 10 carries, but he strained a hamstring late in last Sunday's win over the Giants. His status will be firmed up later in the week.
Veteran Frank Gore will be looking to get untracked after gaining just 88 yards on 30 carries (2.9 average) through two games. His longest gain is 9 yards.
McDermott sees more than the numbers when he analyzes his team. And he wants the focus to be on one game at a time and worrying only about those 60 minutes.
"Honestly, we just do what we do," McDermott said. "We've been doing this for a while, and our team is going to continue to grow. I mean it's early in the season, only two games in, so the important piece for us is to continue to focus on our process, our fundamentals, our mindset, our focus and we continue to grow as a football team."
Cincinnati has won four of the past five meetings, including each of the past two contests at Buffalo.
--Field Level Media