Bengals trying to end Bills’ win streak

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, October 1, 2011

CINCINNATI (AP) — The good times are finally rolling for the unbeaten Bills, the newly crowned kings of the comeback.

They’re the only unbeaten team left in the AFC, off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2008. They pulled off another amazing rally to end a grating, 15-game losing streak against New England. They’ve become the toast of their town, an overnight success story.

And they’re loving it.

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“We were kind of lovable losers last year,” center Eric Wood said, remembering the 0-8 start and 4-12 finish. “Everyone rooted for us because we tried so hard. But that’s not what it’s about in this business, and that’s not what keeps you around.

“And I’m glad we’re winning ball games this year.”

They’ve made history during that perfect start, overcoming a 21-3 deficit against Oakland and a 21-0 hole against the Patriots. It’s the first time in NFL history that a team has won back-to-back games after trailing by 18 or more points.

On Sunday, they return to the place where they first showed that knack for pulling them out.

The Bengals (1-2) surged ahead 31-14 in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium last November, then watched former Cincinnati backup Ryan Fitzpatrick lead a comeback that carried over in confidence. The Bills’ 49-31 win showed them that they’re capable of amazing things, if they only believe in themselves a little bit.

“It was such a long season last year, starting 0-8 and losing some tough games and trying to find ourselves,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that was sort of the beginning of trying to find our identity as an offense and trying to figure out what kind of team we actually were, what kind of team we could be. I think that was probably the beginning for us.”

What did they learn about themselves?

“You know what? We’re a bunch of misfits,” Fitzpatrick said.

Misfits who know how to finish.

Buffalo has rallied from 18-point deficits six times in franchise history, and Fitzpatrick has led three of them, including that win in Cincinnati last year. The Bills have overcome 21-point deficits only four times in their history, with Fitzpatrick having a hand in two of them.

No surprise in Cincinnati, where he backed up Carson Palmer for two years.

“Ryan’s a guy that’s been devoted to the game and has really studied his butt off and always had that attitude of working hard and not just putting in the time, but really applying himself to everything he wanted to be better at,” Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “You couldn’t be happier for a guy. Just a great guy, inside the locker room, outside of it, on the field. For him to have success, I think everyone enjoys it.”

He’s returning to a city where there’s not much to enjoy these days.

The Bengals also are coming off a 4-12 season, but have taken a different route since. Instead of keeping things intact, they’ve started over on offense with a young group led by rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. He threw his first two interceptions in a dreary 13-8 loss to San Francisco last Sunday before only 43,363 fans — the Bengals’ smallest crowd for a home opener in 30 years.

There’s more off-field distractions. Receiver Jerome Simpson is under investigation for a marijuana delivery to his house. Running back Cedric Benson had a hearing on Tuesday to appeal a proposed three-game suspension for his offseason arrest.

Benson will play against the Bills with the possibility of a suspension down the line.

“Last week was probably the toughest because you had this meeting ahead of you,” Benson said. “The meeting is behind us now and I am positive about the outcome, so it is a lot easier to move forward. I am playing this week, I know I am. We are going to have something good for the Bills.”

Cincinnati hasn’t beaten the Bills since the AFC championship game after the 1988 season. The Bengals already are a desperate team, trying to convince fans that they’re not irrelevant.

That’s what concerns Bills coach Chan Gailey. He spent the week reminding his national media darlings not to get too full of themselves.

“Well, when you were 0-8 the first half of the season and you were finally able to go 4-4 in the second half, we have not dealt with a lot of good times,” Gailey said. “And right now, our guys are having to deal with everything that goes on when you are playing well — all the media attention, everybody patting you on the back.

“What I told them: It’s obvious you haven’t arrived because if you’ve arrived, you’re not down by 18 and 21 in two straight games.”

Point taken.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” defensive lineman Kyle Williams said. “We’ve won three games. Big deal.”