The Bengals looked as if they were headed for another loss Sunday, when as suddenly as they were behind, they had put together a comeback for the ages.
At one point down 17-3, the Bengals rallied as Mike Nugent kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Bengals to a 23-20 victory and hand the Bills their first loss of the season.
The previous two weeks, the Bills were the team that had orchestrated comebacks. This time, they were ones to blow a lead.
Buffalo became the first team in NFL history to post back-to-back wins in games in which they trailed by 18 or more points. On Sunday, the Bills (3-1) squandered the 14-point advantage at halftime.
Andy Dalton threw interceptions on consecutive series late in the second quarter for the Bengals. Both turnovers resulted in touchdowns for Buffalo, but the Cincinnati rookie quarterback played far better in the second half, throwing a touchdown pass and running for the tying score with 4:09 to play in regulation as the home team erased a 17-3 deficit.
Dalton’s first career rushing touchdown — a three-yarder on a QB draw — capped a 10-play drive that began at the Cincinnati 20.
The Bengals got the ball back at their own 19 with 1:48 left when Buffalo was forced to punt. Dalton hit Jerome Simpson for a 17-yard gain on first down and a seven-yard run by Brian Leonard set up a 2nd-and-3 at the 43. After an incompletion, Dalton dove for the first-down marker along the right sideline on a scramble and was initially ruled short. A video review gave the Bengals a first down. Leonard then followed a 15-yard reception with a 14-yard run to the Buffalo 25, setting up Nugent’s winning kick.
Dalton finished 18-of-36 with 298 yards for Cincinnati (2-2), which snapped a 10-game losing streak against Buffalo. The Bengals hadn’t beaten the Bills since the AFC Championship Game following the 1988 season.
Cedric Benson, who on Tuesday appealed a three-game suspension issued for his offseason arrest, carried 19 times for 104 yards in the win.
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 20-of-34 passes and totaled 199 yards for Buffalo.
“Offensively, we played very poor today,” Fitzpatrick said. “You have to give a lot of credit to them, to their defense.”
As the second half got underway, Benson broke off a 28-yard run to the Buffalo 47. A.J. Green then made a leaping grab for a 40-yard gain on the next play. The Bengals, though, were forced to settle for a 21-yard Nugent field goal.
After the Bills went three-and-out on their first series of the third quarter, Dalton finished off a seven-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham in the left corner of the end zone, trimming Cincinnati’s deficit to 17-13.
Buffalo then put together a 17-play drive that extended into the fourth quarter and consumed nine minutes of the clock. The Bills stalled at the Cincinnati five and a 23-yard field goal by Rian Lindell made it 20-13 with 11:22 to play.
A 31-yard Nugent field goal summed up all the scoring in the opening 15 minutes.
Buffalo tied the game when Lindell converted on a 43-yarder, then capitalized on a pair of Dalton interceptions.
Bills safety Bryan Scott, who returned a Dalton fumble earlier in the second quarter only to have the touchdown wiped out because of the tuck rule, picked off Dalton and sprinted 43 yards to the end zone. The pass was intended for Andre Caldwell, who kicked the ball as he was falling right to the Buffalo defender.
Following a 58-yard completion to Green, George Wilson picked off Dalton. Two straight runs by Fred Jackson placed the ball at the Cincinnati 46, and after a pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson for a 44-yard gain. Jackson scored on the next play.
“In the first half, we did little to aid our own cause on offense and continued to shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis.