Bills continue to pay off

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

The greatest gift of all arrived on the banks of the Ohio River yesterday, addressed to the Buffalo Bills and wrapped in black and burnt orange.

It was delivered into Paul Brown Stadium and was just what any NFL team fighting for a playoff spot could use.

Yes, the Bungles were back and just about as pathetic as ever in a 33-17 loss to the surging Bills.

It has been at least a couple of seasons since the football fans here in Cincinnati had seen something so poor from their Bengals. But the home boys did all but put a bow on their season's greeting to the Bills yesterday, chasing many of the 65,378 witnesses out of the cold shortly after halftime.

"Whatever it takes," Bills coach Mike Mularkey said of the win, in which his team had an interception return by linebacker Takeo Spikes for one touchdown and a blocked punt for another by undrafted rookie free-agent Jason Peters.

"It's one thing or another. A play here, finding a way to get things done."

The 8-6 Bills still need to find a way to win their final two -- on the road against San Francisco next week and at home to Pittsburgh on Jan. 2 -- plus get some help.

But winners of five in a row for the first time since 1998, it's hard to count them out of anything within their own control.

"We notice it," said Spikes when asked if the Bills have started scoreboard watching. "We said 'Okay, that happened, let's go take care of what we need to.' "

After an 0-4 start that ultimately may haunt them come wild-card weekend, the Bills are as hot as any team in the league.

All five of their wins on the current streak have come by double-digit margins as opponents have been outscored by a combined 115 points.

And if Buffalo does win out and happens to claim an AFC wild-card spots, look out.

"If we get there, all the stats, I don't care about," Spikes said. "If we show up in the playoffs, you put your pants on one leg at a time just like we do and we're comin' to get it."

Buffalo got some help yesterday when the Denver Broncos went down meekly to the Kansas City Chiefs. Jacksonville's upset of Green Bay could prove to be costly, however.

An agonizing game to watch -- because it took so long to play and was played poorly -- came down to one six-minute sequence in the first half.

The Bengals took advantage of a fumble by rookie Bills receiver Lee Evans, marching 40 yards for an easy touchdown drive.

However, on the next play from scrimmage, the Bills served a 65-yard flea flicker in which a Drew Bledsoe to Evans bomb took them to the Cincy five-yard line. Three plays later, Evans caught a touchdown pass to absolve his earlier sin.

And just three plays after that, Peters got his right paw on a Kyle Larson punt, then chased it down in the end zone for another score to make it 14-7 after the first quarter.

Now in full Bungle mode, quarterback Jon Kitna ended the next drive with the first of his two interceptions, one that ex-Bengal Spikes brought 62 yards to the house.

"One of the good things about this team is that when one thing struggles another phase picks it up," Evans said.

The most notable phase that wasn't functioning at maximum efficiency yesterday was the Bills' offence, which was bailed out by four Ryan Lindell field goals.

That, and a self-destructing opponent who must ask itself why Kitna, in for injured starter Carson Palmer, is still in the league.

The Bills, meanwhile, must wait for others to determine their fate and hope for another gift or two.

"I don't know if it's destiny," Mularkey said of the Bills desperate late run. "Or just a team that's made up of good character, guys that have never given in."


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