Mike Schopp made the point first early in the week. How much of a drop off will the Bills really suffer at quarterback with Thad Lewis in place of rookie EJ Manuel? A practice squad journeyman taking the place of the 16th player drafted last April.
As the week wore on I became fond of looking at it like this. Really, Manuel hadn't given the Bills a great or even really good game yet. What we've seen for the most part was Manuel making a couple of good throws a game. So my approach to Lewis starting against the Bengals became this.
Can I get a couple of throws out of him?
Well there was quite a bit of time in between, but we got a few instead of a couple. On the Bills opening possession Lewis hit T.J. Graham in stride and in bounds along the sideline for 47 yards and couple of plays later they were in the end zone. Before hitting some nice throws in the 4th quarter it seemed to me like the more Lewis played the less accurate he became. Balls sailed on him. Lewis seemed to have trouble pulling the trigger at times.
A couple of great throws changed that. Trailing by two touchdowns in the final quarter, Lewis first hit tight end Scott Chandler with a nice touch pass from 22 yards out for a TD. Then Lewis found rookie Marquise Goodwin from 40 yards out for another score and just like that, Thad Lewis had brought the Bills back to tie the Bengals.
It would probably be a good idea at some point here to mention that the Bills ended up losing the game in overtime. That still matters of course and the Bills now stand 2-4 on the season. But I am going to have a hard time tearing them up for losing this game.
These Bills are down to their 4th quarterback option, if you count Kevin Kolb and I think I want to. These Bills were down by 14 points in the 4th quarter to a Cincinnati team that has been in the playoffs the past two seasons and came back to tie. I see signs of progress. This game had the feel of all too many Bills games from the past 5, 10, 13 seasons where it eventually just gets away from them and the score ends looking pretty stupid.
That didn't happen today. After struggling most of the day the Bills defense pulled it together and kept the game close enough for Lewis and the offense to come through and force overtime.
Stevie Johnson missing the game left the Bills very inexperienced at receiver and the running game, while going for 130 yards, never really looked dangerous. C.J. Spiller still seems to be struggling with a bum wheel.
All that and still there they were, in overtime. Very early on during the post game show a caller asked us if we'd consider this a moral victory. I'm not much of a fan of that phrasing myself. What I do see are signs of progress. The Doug Marrone Bills seem to dig in where other editions would pack it in. Because of that, I want to say I see growth. It's not the kind of growth that gets you wins right now so there's nothing victorious about it.