Bills get riled up, then rally past Bengals
CINCINNATI — Trailing, 31-14, at halftime, the one-win Buffalo Bills got angry.
Angry at the officials for giving Cincinnati another play to kick a field goal. Angry at themselves for getting in such a big hole.
Angry enough to pull off their best comeback in 13 years.
Former Bengal Ryan Fitzpatrick matched his career high with four touchdown passes, and the Bills rallied for their second straight win yesterday, 49-31.
“We could’ve easily folded our tent,’’ said Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, who returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown during the comeback. “It looked like they folded their tents on their sideline.’’
Buffalo (2-8) took advantage of Cincinnati’s depleted secondary for its biggest comeback since it overcame a 26-0 deficit and topped the Colts, 37-35, on Sept. 21, 1997, according to STATS LLC. The turning point came at the end of the first half, when the clock ran out but the officials ruled Cincinnati had called time out with one second to go. The Bengals (2-8) then kicked a field goal for a 17-point cushion at the break.
“In the locker room at halftime, it was louder than what their stadium was the entire game,’’ Buffalo safety Donte Whitner said.
Fitzpatrick took advantage of a defense down to four healthy defensive backs by game’s end. Steve Johnson caught three touchdown passes, including an 11-yarder that put Buffalo ahead, 35-31, early in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with eight catches for 137 yards.
“It was awesome,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “Everybody believed the whole game. This was a big win for us. Once you get that first one, everything falls into place.’’
It was the Bengals’ biggest collapse since November 12, 2006, when they led San Diego, 28-7, at Paul Brown Stadium and lost 49-41, according to STATS. The Bills have beaten Cincinnati in 10 straight meetings.
Fitzpatrick’s homecoming got off to a miserable start — three first-half interceptions, though one of them was nullified by a penalty. He was Carson Palmer’s backup for two years, before the Bengals let him go.
Once he settled down, he outplayed his mentor. Fitzpatrick was 21 of 34 for 316 yards and his second four-touchdown game of the season. He has thrown touchdown passes in 11 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Bills quarterback since Doug Flutie did it 12 straight games in 1999.
By contrast, Palmer threw two interceptions during the second-half fade, including one in the end zone as he tried to get the ball to Terrell Owens. Palmer was 19 of 34 for 230 yards with two touchdowns — to Owens and Chad Ochocinco — and the two interceptions.
“Terrible. I have no answers for you. I have no sound bites for you,’’ Owens said, with an edge to his voice. “All I know is right now, we are terrible.’’