Three crucial fourth quarter catches by two Buffalo receiving targets singlehandedly tied Sunday's game and vaulted the Bills into overtime, but in the end the efforts of Scott Chandler and Marquise Goodwin couldn't win the day.
After trailing for almost 40 minutes, and without top wideout Stevie Johnson, who was inactive with a lower back injury, Chandler breathed life into a stagnant Bills offense. The tight end created separation from his defender on a Cincinnati blitz play. As the offensive pocket held, quarterback Thad Lewis connected with Chandler on a gutsy 4th-and-8 call with 10:19 left on the clock at Cincinnati's 23-yard-line.
Marquise Goodwin on his TD: "It was a perfect ball by Thad"
Chandler marched into the end zone unscathed, shifting the momentum back in Buffalo's favor while invigorating the home crowd in the process and pulling the Bills to within a touchdown in the process.
"It ended up being a great play call for us," Chandler said. "They were bringing an all out blitz which leaves me man to man with a D end; that's a matchup I hope I win every time."
"He had a defensive lineman on him, defensive end," Lewis added. "So I saw the mismatch and I slid to the right because I knew my line was sliding left when I saw the guy drop and I gave him a pass and he did the rest of it."
The Bills were still down by seven, but Chandler and the rest of his teammates had faith their new signal caller would execute the offense effectively in crunch time.
"Credit to Thad for seeing it," said Chandler of his mismatch. "He had the ball out before I even got around the guy. It was a great job all around."
Cincinnati would get another two possessions before Buffalo's offense would again find the end zone. Chandler was again an integral part of a scoring drive, bailing the offense out of a potential third and long.
Lewis was seemingly out of options with a collapsing pocket when with 1:35 left on the clock, he sent a bullet up the middle to Chandler who again gained separation and brought the ball down for his second reception of the night.
"Thad did a great job of staying alive. I just tried to find a hole in the zone and he did a great job finding me," Chandler said.
The very next play at Cincinnati's 40-yard-line, Goodwin's perceptiveness tied the game up at 24-all, sending the team to overtime. He found a 40 yard pass flawlessly delivered into his hands.
"(Terrence Newman) was off coverage and I knew he was going to jump outside," Goodwin said. "That's what he had been doing the whole game. It was a perfect ball by Thad."
"When they went cover one (man-to-man) we thought we had a good matchup with Marquise, that's how that went," said head coach Doug Marrone. "As soon as we saw they went cover one we were hoping that he would throw it to him and he did for the touchdown."
Cincinnati's opening overtime drive sputtered, but Buffalo's leading passing game contributors wouldn't have the opportunity to deliver another play. Pinned deep in their own territory, a three-and-out for the Bills offense would give the Bengals the only opportunity they needed.
Lewis said everybody contributed to the two fourth-quarter scoring drives which made a near victory possible.
"It was a great job by the coaching staff, Coach (Nathaniel) Hackett calling up plays, the offensive line protecting, and the running backs did a great job running the ball and obviously the receivers and the tight ends so it was a team effort," Lewis said. "We were able to execute two drives and put points on the board.
Chandler and Goodwin in addition to their two touchdowns also posted a combined 98 receiving yards. Unfortunately Buffalo's 14 unanswered fourth quarter points were too little too late.
"We're close every game, but that's like kissing your sister. Its not enjoyable," Chandler explained. "We've got to find out a way to finish out these games and win them. We're going to do it. We're going to get it done and we're going to stay together."