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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – On an injured foot, Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis nearly accomplished the unthinkable, going from the practice squad to producing a comeback victory in less than a week.
Filling in for injured starter E.J. Manuel, Lewis went 19 of 32 for 216 yards and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns before falling short in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Mike Nugent sealed the win with a 43-yard field goal with 6:44 left in OT.
"I think I did OK," said Lewis, who was wearing a walking boot on his right foot. "It's never good when you don't come out with a 'W'. That's the whole reason we play this game — to win."
Lewis said tests revealed a sprain, while adding he should be ready to play at Miami next week.
The Bills (2-4) trailed 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter, when Lewis produced 45- and 86-yard touchdown drives. They tied the score on a 40-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin with 1:08 remaining.
The Duke product showed poise despite being on his fourth team in four years and making his second career start.
"You've got to be confident in this league," said Lewis, who started in Cleveland's season-ending 24-10 loss to Pittsburgh last year. "If I was nervous in any way, shape, form or fashion the Bengals would've ate us up."
Overtime was a different story altogether. After Cincinnati (4-2) was stopped at Buffalo's 37, punter Kevin Huber pinned the Bills inside their 7-yard line and the Bengals' defense forced a three-and-out from Buffalo.
Brandon Tate set up Nugent's field goal by returning a punt 29 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Bills 33. It was another critical breakdown for the Bills, who entered the week with the league's second-most punt return yards allowed.
"We knew what was at stake, especially at that point," said Bills gunner Marcus Easley. "Punt coverage needed to make a play. I'm on the punt team, so I've got to do better."
The finish was all too familiar for a team that's been tied or leading in the fourth quarter in all four losses.
"We've lost a lot of close games and that hurts," said Bills center Eric Wood. "It stings that we're so close and we could be on the other end of some of these games. You wish you could go back and change something but you can't."
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton rediscovered his groove on the road, going 26 of 40 for a season-high 337 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. He bounced back after a two-game touchdown drought, and led the Bengals to their first road win of the season after losing their first two away from Cincinnati.
Cincinnati improved to 16-11-1 in overtime games, and snapped a six-game losing streak at Orchard Park, dating to 1985.
For Lewis, it was an unlikely performance by a relative unknown at quarterback against a defense that ended Tom Brady's consecutive-game touchdown streak at 52 in 13-6 win over New England last weekend. In its three previous wins this season, Cincinnati's defense limited Brady, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger to a combined 64 of 118 for 692 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
And the Bills were playing minus their top receiving threat, Stevie Johnson (back injury). T.J. Graham had four catches for 74 yards.
Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap had one of the team's five sacks, and also forced Lewis' fumble that was recovered by linebacker Vontaze Burfict to open the third quarter.
Dalton had his first three-touchdown game since he threw three in a 34-10 win against Oakland last Nov. 25.
AJ Green scored on an 18-yard reception. Running back Giovani Bernard scored on a 20-yard shovel pass, and Dalton's 10-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones came early in the third quarter.
Green finished with six catches for 103 yards receiving.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org