Buffalo Bills: 2013 Week 6 CIN at BUF

Bills defense porous against Bengals

October, 13, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Quarterback Thad Lewis held up his end of the bargain. The Buffalo Bills' defense didn't.

That's one way to look at the Bills' 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Lewis -- coming up from the practice squad to start in place of an injured EJ Manuel -- dazzled on his first drive, completing a 47-yard pass to T.J. Graham before scrambling for a 3-yard touchdown.

But as Lewis steadied the Bills' offense, the defense struggled to contain Andy Dalton and the Bengals attack. Specifically, the Bengals were able to break four plays of 25 yards or more in the first half, mostly on catch-and-runs.

The size of A.J. Green and the shiftiness of Marvin Jones, two of the Bengals' top receivers, proved difficult for the Bills to match. Each player had a touchdown grab, while running back Giovani Bernard juked several Bills defenders en route to his own score.

Buffalo's defense allowed 284 yards in the first half, a total they gave up only twice last season, in losses to the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

The Bills would rather not look back towards last season's defensive unit, which was dismal. But despite gains made under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine this season, it's hard not to draw the comparison.

"It was very disappointing," safety Jairus Byrd said. "We knew, based on the situation that we were in, we were going to rely on our defense, and we didn't answer the call."

Byrd, who did not start but was rotated into the secondary, played in his first game this season. Same for cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who played with a large club on his left hand that limited his tackling ability.

"I give him a lot of credit," coach Doug Marrone said of Gilmore. "I think it's a very tough situation. Here is a guy that wants to come back, wants to get out there. Obviously he's not as comfortable as he wants to be."

Among healthier players, the Bills defense also struggled, especially early in the game. Defensive end Mario Williams' only contribution to the stat sheet came on a half-sack in the third quarter.

"They disguised it pretty well as [far as] quick passes, dinking and dunking," Williams said. "They did something a little different from what was expected on our defensive side."

The encouraging sign for the Bills' defense was that, after the Bengals did not punt through three quarters, the Bills forced Cincinnati to punt on their final five possessions prior to their game-winning field goal.

"We definitely put ourselves in a hole," Williams said. "But then even at the end of the game we still had a chance to win. So I wouldn't say it's discouraging, especially the way we came back."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When the Buffalo Bills decided to promote Thad Lewis from the practice squad and start him Sunday, it was easy to write-off the former Duke quarterback.

But Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, who played against Lewis in college, warned his teammates against overlooking the Bills' newest signal caller.

"I told them he wasn't a pushover," Johnson said. "[There's] a reason why he's still in the league. [There's] a reason why he was able to do what he did in college."

[+] EnlargeBuffalo's Thad Lewis
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesThad Lewis passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns in his first start for the Bills.
Lewis completed 19 of 32 passes for 216 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals.

His first pass of the game -- a 47-yard completion to T.J. Graham -- was the Bills' longest play of the season. Soon after, Lewis scrambled up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown.

"It felt great," he said. "Coming into the game you've got to be confident in this league. If I was nervous in any way, shape, or form, Cincinnati would've ate us up. That first pass let the defensive backs know that our receivers were coming to play."

The rest of Lewis' day wasn't spectacular, but all things considered -- including being without top receiver Steve Johnson -- it was a solid performance by Lewis in just his second career start.

However, Lewis' status going forward is unclear. He was limping in the locker room after the game, wearing a walking boot on his right foot. Lewis said his injury is "just a sprain" and that X-rays came back negative.

The Bills did not appear to change their offense much in the absence of rookie EJ Manuel, who started the first five games of the season. With Lewis at the helm, Buffalo ran a heavy dose of the zone read, with Lewis running seven times for 17 yards.

One of those runs, early in the third quarter, was Lewis' low point of the game. He was hit by defensive end Carlos Dunlap and fumbled. The Bengals recovered and marched 53 yards for a touchdown.

"I thought he was trying to do too much," coach Doug Marrone said. "He just has to put the ball away and not turn the ball over. That would be the one thing I was disappointed in."

Lewis was also sacked five times and wasn't able to connect with Chris Hogan on a third-and-6 pass in overtime, which set-up the game-winning Bengals field goal.

"It's never good when you don't come out with a 'W'," Lewis said.

For the Bills, though, they have to be satisfied with Lewis' performance. All eyes now turn to his injury, which leaves his status up in the air for the moment.

"I'm sure if he gets his opportunities like he is now, he's going to take advantage of them," Johnson said. "He's going to be pretty tough to deal with."

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

October, 13, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

What it means: The Bills couldn't overcome a rocky start by their defense, which allowed 284 yards in the first half. Buffalo got a solid performance from Thad Lewis, starting in place of an injured EJ Manuel, but the offense sputtered in overtime. The Bengals won the field position battle in the extra frame, winning the game on a 43-yard Mike Nugent field goal. Another tough home loss for the Bills, who dropped a similar game in Week 1 to the New England Patriots.

Lewis proves capable: Lewis, making his second career start, wasn't spectacular against a stout Bengals defense, but more than proved he should keep the job going forward. Lewis' first pass was a 47-yard completion, the Bills' longest offensive play this season, and he capped the opening drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Lewis finished 19-of-32 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, better than most of Manuel's performances this season. On the negative end, Lewis fumbled on a third-quarter scramble, which the Bengals turned into a touchdown.

Stock watch: Rising -- the punt unit (in regulation). The Bills swapped out second-year punter Shawn Powell for veteran Brian Moorman last week, a move that shored up a reeling punt unit. Moorman averaged 47 net yards on his four punts in regulation, two of which were downed inside the Bengals' 5-yard line. The longtime Bills punter received loud cheers when he stepped onto the field. However, Moorman's 51-yard fourth-quarter punt, with the Bills backed up against their end zone, was returned 29 yards by Brandon Tate, setting up the game-winning field goal.

Gilmore, Byrd quiet in returns: The Bills had two of their top defenders back, but neither made an impact in the game. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore played with a large club covering his injured left hand and struggled at times tackling. He rotated at cornerback with Aaron Williams. Meanwhile, safety Jairus Byrd was limited in his first game this season. Byrd served as the third safety behind Da'Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard, who came away with the Bills' only interception of the game.

What's next: The Bills fall to 2-4 as they prepare for back-to-back road trips to face the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints to close out the first half of their season. After Sunday, the Bills will play just three more times at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season, and only twice before Dec. 22.