ORCHARD PARK -- After Mike Nugent missed a 34-yard field goal late in the third quarter, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton walked over to the kicker and told him to keep his head up.
"I told him he was going to come back and kick a field goal to win the game for us,'' Dalton said.
Sure enough, that's exactly what happened as Nugent redeemed himself with a 43-yard field goal with 6:44 remaining in overtime to give the Bengals a 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson.
The win was the Bengals' first in three road games this season and improved their record to 4-2. The Bills dropped to 2-4.
After two straight games without a touchdown pass, Dalton had scoring strikes of 18 yards to A.J. Green, 20 yards to Giovani Bernard and 10 yards to Marvin Jones. He finished 26 of 40 for 337 yards and was picked off once by safety Jim Leonhard. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 86 yards on 18 carries and Green had six receptions for 103 yards. The Cincinnati defense also rose to the occasion, recording five sacks and forcing a fumble.
But on this day, the special teams would bail out the Bengals. After neither teams capitalized on its first possessions in overtime, Brandon Tate returned a Bills punt to the Buffalo 33 to set up the winning field goal.
"That's really the play that won the game,'' Nugent said. "He put us into scoring position by making several people miss. It was a great return."
Nugent actually would have been credited with a field goal rather than a miss late in the third quarter, but Alex Smith was called for holding on the play and the three points were taken off the board. Nugent missed the re-kick from 34 yards.
"I was angry with myself, but I've learned you have to forget about those things quickly,'' Nugent said. "I really was hoping I'd have an opportunity to make up for the mistake I made. Andy told me they were going to need me and he was confident I'd come through, and fortunately everything worked out."
Nugent's kick put a damper on Thad Lewis' Bills debut. Promoted on Monday from the practice squad to replace injured quarterback EJ Manuel, Lewis played well in just the second NFL start of his three-year career. The free agent from Duke completed 19 of 32 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He also was sacked five times and lost a fumble.
Despite playing on a strained right foot that he injured early in the game, Lewis calmly guided the Bills on a seven-play, 86-yard drive with less than three minutes remaining that was capped with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin to tie the score at 24-24. Earlier in the quarter, Lewis threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler.
"It was a great job by the coaching staff,'' said Lewis, who started the Cleveland Browns' regular-season finale in 2012. "Coach (Nathaniel) Hackett calling up plays, the offensive line protecting and the running backs doing a great job running the ball, and obviously the receivers and the tight ends. So, it was a team effort."
Cincinnati was unable to move the ball into field goal range in the final minute of regulation and the game went into overtime.
What the Bengals said
"I thought (Andy Dalton) played well. ... As long as he doesn't worry about what everybody else says about him, he's fine. Let the ball go where the coverage dictates, and that's the most important thing. Get it there accurately and on time." -- Coach Marvin Lewis
What the Bills said
"It was very disappointing. 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." -- Bills safety Jairus Byrd
What we learned about the Bengals
1. The Bengals are a much better offensive team when Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are in synch. Green was targeted 11 times and caught six passes for 103 yards and one score. That opened up things for the other receivers as Dalton completed 26 passes to nine different players for 337 yards.
2. Cincinnati's run game is emerging nicely. A week after gaining 162 yards vs. the Patriots, the Bengals rushed for 165 yards on 41 carries, a 4.0 average. BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the way, running for 86 yards on 18 carries, including a long of 25.
What we learned about the Bills
1. There isn't much of a dropoff from rookie EJ Manuel to third-year quarterback Thad Lewis. Lewis throws a better deep ball than Manuel and moves well under duress. Yes, he was sacked five times, but there also were several occasions when he escaped the relentless pressure to make chain-moving plays.
2. The Bills have some speed to burn in their receiving corps. T.J. Graham averaged 18.5 yards on four receptions, while rookie Marquise Goodwin, averaged 25.5 on his two catches. This bodes well for the future.