A route through the Bengals exposed a Bulls team that may be regressing.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sitting glumly at a table inside the Bulls’ practice facility on Monday, quarterback Josh Allen had trouble grasping how much his team had accomplished and what it was all about. Overcame, just to get nowhere near the Super Bowl.

More troubling for Allen and the Bulls — a day after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10 in the divisional round of the playoffs — is the prospect of taking a step back.

“The recent prejudice from that last game, I know everybody’s going to lose their minds, but we did a lot of good things this year,” Allen said.

Yet after Buffalo matched a franchise record with 13 wins, won its third straight AFC East title and finished a half-game behind top-seeded Kansas City, Allen still felt the season was his own. Finished, as he put it, “sick to my stomach.”

“It feels like you’re close and can’t quite make it,” he added. “It’s been a very similar last three years. We’ve got to keep moving forward and find a way to get over the hump.”

This hump, plural, may now also be for Buffalo.

The Bulls made it to the AFC Championship Game after the 2020 season, losing in Kansas City. Last year, they fell on the road to the Chiefs again, this time in the divisional round. Now, Buffalo finds itself ahead of Joe Burrow and the Bengals in the AFC pecking order.

Unlike a year ago, when Allen took a three-point lead in the final seconds of Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo’s 42-36 overtime loss, the Bills outscored the Bengals 14-0. First quarter and responded gently.

The Bengalis exposed many of the buffalo’s weaknesses. Among them: an injury-depleted defensive front missing Von Miller, a young and battered secondary and an offense overly reliant on Allen and Stefon Diggs.

“I believe in who you are in the last game of the season, in terms of what you saw on the field. And that’s what you have to address. And obviously, we weren’t that good yesterday. ” said coach Sean McDermott, acknowledging the gap between the Bulls and the AFC’s elite has narrowed in a conference loaded with quarterback talent.

“That’s why and why we have to continue to improve, and we have to answer the question of whether we can compete at this level,” McDermott said. “Can we handle these quarterbacks? And who should we help do that?”

The Bills will need to retool with less salary cap space and a roster with 21 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents. That group includes middle linebacker Tremaine Edmonds, starting safety Jordan Poyer and running back Devin Singletary.

Singletary was so stunned by the loss of the buffalo that he said he did not think about his future.

“To be honest, I didn’t think the season was going to end, so I thought I still had time to think about it,” the fourth-year player said.

Emotionally dry

Offensive lineman Roger Seefold admitted the Bills were emotionally spent after a season that saw their schedule disrupted twice by winter storms and their Jan. 2 game at Cincinnati. was canceled when safety Demar Hamlin suffered a heart attack and had to be resuscitated on the field. .

“We haven’t been able to take a breather since the Damar situation, and it’s really weighed on a lot of people,” Seefold said, noting that he finally caught up with the team on Sunday. “It was almost like living in quicksand, as the harder you fought, the deeper you sank.”

Hamlin was healthy enough to participate in the game and go to the locker room on Sunday.

It doesn’t have to be dug up.

Running back Duke Johnson took over in pursuit of a frustrated Diggs, who bolted from the locker room shortly after the loss and before McDermott had a chance to address the team. Johnson convinced Diggs to return.

“I think Diggs needs more credit than me because Diggs didn’t need to listen to me,” Johnson said.

“He’s disappointed like we all are,” McDermott said. “That was me today. He and I talked, and I’ll leave it at that.

Diggs did not make himself available to the media. However, he tweeted: “Do I want to be okay with my level of play when it’s not up to standard? No.”

Surgical Updates

Allen said he would not need surgery after spraining a ligament in his throwing elbow during a 20-17 loss at the New York Jets on Nov. 6. Allen said he was feeling fully recovered a few weeks ago.

Defensive tackle Jordan Poyer said he will need surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, which caused him to miss two games in December. With no risk of aggravating the injury, Phillips played in Buffalo’s final three games.

Almost back

Safety Micah Hyde said he would have been cleared to play this weekend if the Bulls had advanced. Hyde returned to practice two weeks ago after sitting out Week 3, when he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Fueling Hyde’s desire to return was the chance to line up with Poirier in the secondary for at least one more game. Hyde and Poyer bonded when they signed with Buffalo on the same day in free agency in 2017.

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