Lewis passes test in first start with Bills

ORCHARD PARK – Despite the Buffalo Bills losing in overtime, 27-24, Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, quarterback Thad Lewis proved head coach Doug Marrone and his coaching staff made the right choice by promoting him from the practice squad to start against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I think I did OK,” Lewis said. “It’s never good when you don’t come out with a ‘W’. That’s the reason you play this game, to win. But we did ok; we’ve seen some things that we can do better as a team. We’ll watch the film and correct the mistakes but we’re right there.”

Lewis finished 19 of 32 on the afternoon for 216 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the fourth quarter with the Bills down 24-10.

“He did,” Bills’ running back Fred Jackson said of whether or not Lewis showed poise with Buffalo trailing in the fourth quarter. “That’s the thing about him; he’s been in this offense since training camp, so he knows what he’s doing. He got an opportunity to take us down the field, score some points and send this thing into overtime. And he seized that moment. We just came up short. That’s not on him, that’s on us as a team. We have to make a few more plays and give us a better chance to win the game.”

Lewis’ first touchdown throw went to tight end Scott Chandler up the right seam on a 4th-and-8 at the Bengals’ 22-yard line in the fourth quarter when the Bills were looking for anything to keep them in the game.

“We had four verticals,” Lewis said of the play. “It actually was all out, so we slid the line where we thought the blitz was coming from, which was (Reggie Nelson), and we picked it up. He had a defensive lineman on him (or) defensive end, so I saw the mismatch and I slid to the right because I knew my line was sliding left when I saw the guy drop. And I gave him a pass and he did the rest of it.”

Early on Sunday, Lewis showed that he was capable enough to lead the Bills’ offense down the field, as he engineered a seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive – highlighted by his 3-yard plunge into the end zone – that gave the Bills their only lead of the game.

“I had some great sleep (Saturday) night,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day it’s football. It’s a game I love to play. It’s a game I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. I wasn’t nervous at all because I knew the coaching staff and the guys there with me had my back. It’s not a one-man sport. It is 11 guys on the field at one time.”

Down 24-17 with 2:40 remaining in the game and the Bills starting at their own 14-yard line, Lewis again showed why Marrone and his coaching staff went with him rather than undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.

Facing a 3rd-and-6 at his team’s 28-yard line, Lewis connected with Jackson for seven yards and again with Chandler for 25 more, before completing the biggest pass of his young career, a 40-yard bomb to rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin, that helped Buffalo tie the game.

“I (saw) (cornerback Terence) Newman peaking in the backfield and he peaked for a second,” Lewis said. “Marquise released inside. You want to get the ball to one of the fastest guys on the field. I threw the ball and he made a great catch.”

“He was off coverage,” Goodwin added of his defender on the play. “And I knew he was going to jump outside, because that’s what he had been doing the whole game. (I) squeezed it inside of him and just ran for the ball and it was a perfect ball by Thad.”

At the end of the day, Lewis, his teammates, Marrone and all of the coaches know that in order for the Bills to turn the proverbial corner, there are still things all involved can do better.

“It’s hard to stand up here and try to talk about a positive because at the end of the game you win and that’s what you want to do, you want to be able to win,” Marrone said. “To say that we did some things well managing the third down … I would say yes, we did some things that are encouraging, but at the same time, we didn’t do enough things to win the game. There are some encouraging signs there.”