The last time Thad Lewis was thrust into Buffalo's starting lineup at quarterback he had spent all of six weeks learning the Bills offensive playbook. Game plans could not be intricate. Getting out of bad plays was not always an option. Fast forward another six weeks from his last start in New Orleans and Lewis, who will start in place of an injured EJ Manuel Sunday, is a wiser and more comfortable quarterback in Buffalo's system.
Lewis' first start for Buffalo came in Week 6 against Cincinnati, an overtime loss. His second against the same Dolphins team in Week 7, the Bills' first road win this season (23-21). His knowledge of the offense now is miles ahead of where it was in mid-October.
"I'm feeling more comfortable in the offense," he said. "It was my second time starting and it was six, seven, eight weeks I had only been here. Now the season is almost over. It's just become routine and very, very familiar with the offense now than I was then."
Lewis said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, didn't necessarily restrict what he would call in terms of plays, but the backup quarterback just didn't have the working knowledge of the offense to check to another play pre-snap in all situations.
"Just the comfort level if coach calls something, me knowing what I know now I could protect him," said Lewis. "The game is a chess match. Even if they're in a defense that counters our play I can get us in the right situation now where I couldn't have done that the first game (against Miami) with it being my second start."
Though Lewis helped lead the Bills to a 23-21 victory in Miami, he was hung up on the hot routes he missed when blitzed in that Week 7 matchup.
"Just missing little things," he said. "I missed the hot (route) a couple of times in that game and I took shots (to my body) that I shouldn't have took. That's all about protecting yourself and getting the ball out. I can do that now."
Bills head coach Doug Marrone believes Lewis will benefit having faced the Dolphins already this season.
"I think it helps that he has played against them before and he's done a very good job of making sure that he's ready to go and we have been able to take extra reps in practice on offense because we have a young group of quarterbacks and he has taken reps during practice where other places that I've been, the veteran quarterback takes them all."
On the season Lewis has a 1-2 record as a starter, missing his fourth scheduled start due to a rib injury suffered in Week 8 at New Orleans. It forced rookie Jeff Tuel to start in his place against Kansas City before Manuel returned to the lineup the following week.
Lewis has completed just over 60 percent of his passes for 652 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 80.2 and has five pass plays of 25 yards or more.
For Lewis' teammates there's enough of an on-field rapport where they feel they can pick up where they left off.
"Injuries are a part of this game, and situations come up," said Robert Woods. "We just have to play football. It's going to be the same game. We just have to play our game and just manage to pull out a win."
"I'm excited about this opportunity for Thad to have the ability to go out there and show what he can do," said Marrone. "And I have all the confidence in the world of him going out there and playing well. He had success against them the first time. We won. We know that Miami is coming in here, hungry as hell and we're excited for that challenge and he is too."
"Having the opportunity is great," said Lewis. "Being able to take advantage of the opportunity is even better. Now having another opportunity to help this ball club get another win against a division opponent is great, so that's what I'm focusing on right now."