The Bengals didn't know what to expect.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis was an unknown, having been promoted from the practice squad last Monday with the designation to start against the Cincinnati Bengals only six days later. There was limited, if any, film worth studying and heading into Sunday's game, the Bengals defense decided to identify Lewis as a read-option quarterback.
The Bills generated 86 yards rushing in the first half with a 4.1 yard/rush average, converting six of their nine third down opportunities with two possessions that went ten plays or more. During Buffalo's opening two possessions, they reached Cincinnati's three-yard line, scoring once but deflected during a defensive stand early in the second quarter.
Something had to change.
Mike Zimmer made the decision at half-time to "ditch" the game-plan that they practiced all week, using Lewis as a "key" in the read-option, writes Paul Dehner Jr. with the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"It helped out big because it took some of the thinking out of it," said defensive end Wallace Gilberry via the Enquirer. "Guys were able to just run down and make plays. The dive was hurting us. Coach made a great adjustment and we keyed in on it. Second half we shut it down."
Buffalo's rushing game became neutralized, rushing for 37 yards in the second half; though Thad Lewis was nearly flawless in the fourth quarter, completing nine of 13 passes for 131 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 141.3.
The Bengals offense went in the opposite direction. In the first half, the Bengals rushed for 107 yards with a 5.9 yard/rush average and despite a harmless interception that didn't led to points, Andy Dalton was good, completing nine passes for 177 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Cincinnati generated 284 yards in the first half. In the second half (during regulation), the Bengals only posted 141 yards, four of ten on third downs. The fourth quarter was the worst, with the offense going extremely conservative in mistake-free mode, generating only 16 yards rushing on ten carries and 37 total yards.
But as they say; it's up to the offense to lead the game and the defense to win it.
Unfortunately, it almost didn't happen after a blown coverage allowed Scott Chandler to score a 22-yard touchdown was followed by a Marquise Goodwin 40-yard touchdown (beating Terence Newman) with just over a minute remaining in the game to tie the game at 24.
Yet, the defense and special teams highlighted the team's win in overtime. Kevin Huber punted the football to Buffalo's seven-yard line at the 10:25 mark in the fifth period, where the defense held the Bills without a first down. Brandon Tate returned the ensuing punt 29 yards and Mike Nugent converted the 43-yard attempt to win the game.