ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis started to chuckle when asked what he knew about Thad Lewis, the Buffalo Bills new interim starter.
"Heh, heh. Well, I know Thad Lewis has a big day ahead of him," Lewis said, referring to the quarterback preparing to make his second career NFL appearance on Sunday, when Cincinnati (3-2) plays at Buffalo (2-3).
What made no difference to the Bengals coach was how Thad Lewis arrived at this juncture. Lewis was promoted off Buffalo's practice squad Monday after rookie starter EJ Manuel sprained his right knee in a 37-24 loss to Cleveland.
"Well, I don't care where he came from," Lewis said. "It matters what you do once you're here."
Nevertheless, the Bills quarterback faces a daunting challenge against a stout defense that's already contained three Super Bowl winners. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New England's Tom Brady have gone a combined 64 of 118 for 692 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
In a 13-6 win over New England last weekend, the Bengals ended Brady's consecutive-game touchdown streak at 52, and held the Patriots out of the end zone for the first time in four-plus years.
"No nerves," said Thad Lewis, who was acquired in a trade with Detroit on Aug. 25
And it makes no difference that some might be doubting his chances.
"I can't worry about what people say," he said. "It's just about the guys in this building. As long as we believe and trust in each other and go out and play to our best, we will be all right."
Here's five more things to look for as the Bengals seek to end a six-game losing streak at Orchard Park:
STALLING CINCINNATI: Quarterback Andy Dalton is having difficulty pinpointing Cincinnati's struggles on offense. The Bengals have scored just one touchdown in two games, and have as many turnovers (11) as touchdowns this season.
"It's not one thing we're doing wrong," said Dalton, who's thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions. "We've got to be more consistent."
Opponents have taken away Dalton's favorite target, A.J. Green. After opening the season with 162 yards receiving and two scores in a 24-21 loss at Chicago, Green has 199 yards and a touchdown in his past four.
BILLS ON THE RUN: C.J. Spiller likes it when others have discounted the Bills' chances of running the ball against some of the NFL's top defenses. He expected to hear the same thing in facing a Bengals unit that's allowed 90 yards rushing just once this year.
"They said we weren't going to be able to run against Baltimore and Cleveland," Spiller said, noting the Bills had 155 yards rushing against the Browns last week, and 203 in a 23-20 win over the Ravens. "We've been able to prove everybody wrong."
Buffalo's 763 yards rushing is the fifth-best total through five games in team history.
DB REINFORCEMENTS: Two-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is set to make his season debut after missing the first five games with plantar fasciitis in both feet. And there's a good chance starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore (broken left hand) will also make his debut. Despite their absences, the Bills have a league-leading nine interceptions, four by rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso.
ROAD WOES: Already 0-2 on the road, the Bengals open a stretch in which they'll play four of their next five, and five of seven, away from Cincinnati.
"It's only a problem if we don't win this week," Lewis said, before noting how Cincinnati went 6-2 on the road last year. "Last year, (the media) was blowing smoke up our butts, telling us how good we were on the road. I'm waiting for you to do that again."
MORAL SUPPORT: Thad Lewis has already received support from his former coach at Duke, David Cutcliffe, and former teammate, Lions starter Matthew Stafford.
"I'm thrilled," Cutcliffe said, noting he has texted Lewis and Bills coach Doug Marrone. "Thad lights up a meeting room and certainly a football field. He's one of the tougher young men that I've ever known."
Lewis started in Cleveland's season finale against Pittsburgh last year, and went 22 of 32 for 204 yards with a touchdown and interception.
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