Buffalo Bills: ORCHARD PARK

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."

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