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.
The Bengals took a 3-0 lead on a 46-yard field goal by Nugent 2:46 into the game. The score was set up by a 34-yard run on a reverse by Jones.
Buffalo answered with 3-yard touchdown run by Lewis less than three minutes later. A 47-yard completion -- the Bills' longest of the year -- from Lewis to T.J. Graham put Buffalo in scoring position at the Cincinnati 20.
The Bengals regained the lead on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Green with 5:26 left in the first quarter. Jones had another big play on the drive, turning a short pass into a 42-yard gain to the Buffalo 28.
Buffalo then drove from its 23 to the Cincinnati 2, but the Bengals' defense stopped three runs by Fred Jackson and a fourth-down attempt by Lewis to take over on downs.
After the goal-line stand, the Bengals drove 98 yards in nine plays and increased their lead to 17-7 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Giovani Bernard. The key play in the drive was a wide-receiver screen to Green that resulted in a 54-yard gain to the Bills 31.
Buffalo cut the lead to seven points on a 51-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter with 4:14 left in the half.
The Bengals took command of the game early in the second half after Carlos Dunlap stripped Lewis of the ball and linebacker Vontaze Burfict recovered at the Cincinnati 47. Nine plays later, Dalton threw his third touchdown pass, a 10-yard strike to Jones to put the Bengals up by 14.
Buffalo cut the gap to seven points with 10:13 left in the game on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to tight end Scott Chandler.
NOTES: Bills leading receiver Stevie Johnson (20 catches, 254 yards, two touchdowns) missed the game because of a back injury. Robert Woods started in his place. ... The Bengals won for the first time in three games on the road and for the first time in its last seven visits to Ralph Wilson Stadium. ... Cincinnati's goal-line stand in the second quarter marked the first time in 16 tries this season that the Bills failed to come away with points in the red zone. ... Bills owner Ralph Wilson bought the final 5,000 tickets to ensure the game would not be blacked out.