ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Almost all of the Buffalo Bills' focus heading into Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals was directed at Thad Lewis, the practice squad player turned starting quarterback. And rightly so, because Buffalo's bad luck at the most crucial position seemed destined to lead to a horrific defeat.
However, Lewis was the least of Buffalo's problems in the 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals. In fact, Lewis may have given the Bills their most consistent outing at quarterback all season. Rookie EJ Manuel had some shining moments in the 4 1/2 games he played before going down with a knee injury, most notably his game-winning final minute drive against Carolina. But he had many more ugly moments. In other words, he was playing like a rookie.
Lewis, though he had played only one NFL game before Sunday, had a command of the Bills' offense, he showed some poise and obvious confidence, and he very nearly beat a playoff-contending team with a rally from 14 points behind in the fourth quarter.
"I think I did OK," said Lewis, who threw for 216 yards with two passing touchdowns and one rushing. "It's never good when you don't come out with a 'W.' That's the reason we play this game, to win. 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."
Running back Fred Jackson wasn't the least bit surprised by what Lewis was able to accomplish. Asked what he learned about Lewis, Jackson said, "That he could play. I knew what type of weapon he was having him on the practice squad. Just seeing him come out here and work every day. He got a chance to go out and showcase his abilities and I think he did a tremendous job doing that so hopefully he can continue to progress and get better."
Now the question is, will Lewis get that chance this week in Miami?
Incredibly, Lewis suffered a sprained foot against the Bengals, and though he finished he was limping in a walking boot afterward. X-rays Sunday and an MRI on Monday were negative, and Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "I feel good about him being able to play." Still, there's a concern about his being able to finish, and the Bills addressed that concern by signing free agent Matt Flynn on Monday.
The Bills brought in Flynn for a workout that had already been planned before Lewis got hurt, and the team was impressed enough to sign him and then announce that Flynn will be Lewis' backup if he can learn enough of the offense this week.
It's clear the Bills are uncomfortable moving forward with rookie Jeff Tuel as the backup quarterback, though all Marrone would say about that is Tuel is still someone they have faith in, and he will continue to be brought along as a developmental player.
Flynn served as Aaron Rodgers' backup in Green Bay for four years. He made only two starts, the second of which came in the season finale of 2011 when he threw for 480 yards and set a Packers record with six touchdown passes against Detroit. That helped convince Seattle to sign Flynn to a three-year, $20 million free-agent contract in 2012, only to see him lose the starting competition in training camp to rookie Russell Wilson.
Seattle traded Flynn to Oakland in the offseason, and he was supposed to take over the starting job after the Raiders dealt Carson Palmer to Arizona. Instead, Flynn lost out to Terrelle Pryor. Flynn did start for Oakland on Sept. 29 when Pryor was sidelined by an injury, but in a 24-14 home loss to Washington he completed 21 of 32 passes for 227 yards with one touchdown and one pick, and he was released soon thereafter.
For his career, 39 games with three starts, he has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,329 yards with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions with a passer rating of 90.4.
-- Wide receiver Stevie Johnson saw his streak of 48 consecutive starts snapped when he was ruled inactive for the game. His streak was the second-longest among active wideouts to Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona.
Johnson suffered a back injury Oct. 3 against Cleveland, and then he spent most of the practice week prior to Cincinnati back home in Oakland, where a relative passed away.
"It wasn't where we wanted it to be," Johnson said. "I'll be back at it (Monday) for treatment and be ready to go for Miami. It came down to an unfortunate situation as far as going back home and not getting the proper treatment for the week. Not getting plays, the feel with Thad (Lewis) coming in as the quarterback. There were a lot of things that weighed into it."
Johnson said Monday he thinks he'll be able to return to play in Miami this week.
-- DB Jonathan Meeks suffered a knee injury and was unable to finish the game. He was placed on IR with designation to return.
-- LB Manny Lawson hurt his hamstring in the second quarter and was unable to return. Doug Marrone said he'll be fine for the Miami game.