Overcoming adversity hasn't been a strong point for the Bills, who will miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. But on Saturday, they did show signs of being a mentally tough team. And perhaps it's something to build on.
The Bills, behind the cool presence of veteran quarterback Kelly Holcomb, countered every punch the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals could throw at them, then delivered the knockout blows late in the fourth quarter to pull out a stunning 37-27 upset at Paul Brown Stadium.
Four times Buffalo responded to a Bengals score with one of their own, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Terrence McGee, a 1-yard Holcomb touchdown run and a 22-yard Rian Lindell field goal in a wild second half.
"It feels good -- it was a total team effort," Holcomb said. "Offensively in the first half, we were doing some of the same things we've done all season, the penalties and mistakes and crucial situations. But at crunch time, nobody hung his head. We made the plays when we had to."
Earlier in the game, the Bills settled for field goals after their first two drives bogged down in the red zone. They also failed to capitalize on two big specials teams plays -- a successful onsides kick when Holcomb was intercepted and a long kickoff return by Jim Leonhard off a reverse when Lindell missed a 48-yard field goal try.
Such setbacks would've sabotaged Buffalo in other games.
But not on Saturday, as the Bills played the role of spoiler to the max, snapping a five-game losing streak to raise their record to 5-10 and dropping the Bengals to 11-4.
The Bills, who hadn't won a road game, conclude their season Sunday at the New York Jets, when once again, only pride will be at stake.
"Some of the things we haven't been able to overcome all year, but today we did," coach Mike Mularkey said. "Start to finish, we were able to do that. We didn't allow something before it to disrupt our rhythm. We didn't get down on ourselves. We stayed in it during tough times. Mentally, we just fought. We've done it before we just haven't been rewarded like we were today."
The Bills scored 10 points in 23 seconds with under a minute to play, breaking a 27-27 tie to upset the playoff-bound Bengals and earn their first road win in seven tries. Buffalo had scored a league-low 68 points after halftime, but scored 24 in this game, including 17 in a wild fourth quarter.
Taking over with 7:27 to play, quarterback Kelly Holcomb mounted a clock-eating 13-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by Rian Lindell's third field goal of the game, giving the Bills a 30-27 lead with :58 left.
On the ensuing possession, cornerback Terrence McGee stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass intended for Kevin Walter and returned it 46 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 35 seconds to play. In the third quarter, McGee had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Holcomb threw for a season-high 308 yards and one touchdown and also scored on a one-yard sneak.