- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- There's still about three months until the start of the regular season.
Still, it isn't too early to start previewing the Cincinnati Bengals' year by looking at the past and seeing how they previously fared against the teams they will be facing. Whether they last saw their upcoming opponents one year ago or four, and whether they faced them in the regular season or in the playoffs, there could be something to learn from those meetings.
We began with the first team on the Bengals' 2015 schedule, the Oakland Raiders. Next came the San Diego Chargers. Next came the Baltimore Ravens. Next came the Kansas City Chiefs. Next came the Seattle Seahawks. Now, we continue with team No. 6, the Buffalo Bills.
In their most recent outing against the Bills, the Bengals staved off a late Buffalo rally and held on in overtime, thanks to kicker Mike Nugent's 43-yard field goal:
Date of 2015 meeting: Oct. 18, at Buffalo
Bills' 2014 record: 9-7
All-time series: Bills lead 15-13
Last time Bengals faced Bills: Cincinnati won, 27-24 (overtime), on Oct. 13, 2013
How the game was won: Nugent was the hero of this game that ended only when his 43-yard try sailed through the uprights. It was the first of two straight Bengals wins that were decided by his right foot. A week later, in Detroit, in the closing seconds of regulation, Nugent nailed a 54-yarder that led the Bengals to their third win in a four-game early-season winning streak.
Before Nugent's dramatics, the Bengals rode a strong passing performance from quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Although it ultimately came up just short of a field goal try, Dalton's first drive of the overtime was rather impressive. He was 4-for-4 passing for 55 yards, leading the Bengals from the shadow of their goal line to just across midfield before they were forced to punt. It was after Kevin Huber's subsequent punt pinned the Bills deep that the Bengals had the game won. Starting from their own 11, the Bills barely advanced the ball and logged a three-and-out before punting to Bengals punt returner Brandon Tate.
Say what you will about Tate's overall impact on the Bengals during his first four seasons in Cincinnati, but had it not been for his 29-yard punt return following Buffalo's three-and-out, his team may not have won this game. Tate's return included a trio of missed tackles and a series of key blocks from his protectors that led him toward the Bengals' sideline. After three consecutive BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs to center the football, Nugent nailed his game-winning attempt.
This year's key storyline: Much has changed for the Bills in the two years since Nugent's overtime winner. For starters, they likely will have a different quarterback than the one who was behind center that day (Thaddeus Lewis). EJ Manuel, for the moment, appears in line to be their starter this fall. Buffalo also has a new head coach in former Jets coach Rex Ryan. Known for being a defensive guru, the last time one of Ryan's defenses faced the Bengals it gave up 49 points (a 49-9 Bengals win over the Jets two weeks after Nugent's overtime kick). It will be interesting to see what adjustments Ryan makes when facing a Bengals offense that features many of the same pieces it had on that 2013 team.