Every year about this time, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans begins to take his game to another level. One week after a five-catch, 138-yard performance, he outdid himself Sunday.
Evans established season highs with nine catches and 165 yards while scoring his first touchdown of the season in the Bills' 33-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
This follows a familiar trend for Evans. As a rookie in 2004, he caught 31 passes for 507 yards and seven touchdowns over the last eight games after going 17 for 336 yards and two TDs in the first eight. In 2005, he made 30 of his 48 catches, 509 of his 743 yards and six of his seven touchdown receptions over the second half of the season.
During his breakout 2006 campaign in which he had 82 catches for 1,292 yards and eight TDs, Evans totaled 43 receptions for 805 yards and six scores in the last eight games.
Evans has actually gotten an early start on his second-half surge. After being held to 12 catches for 101 yards in the Bills' first five games, he has 19 grabs for 401 yards in the last three.
"I think as a receiver and making plays down the field, it comes with time," said Evans, whose longest catches covered 38 and 30 yards. "We weren't very successful early in the season. Now as we get into a rhythm you start to get them. Being a receiver in a good offense, if you're running the ball well and blocking well, you're going to get opportunities. And now we're getting those opportunities."
Evans finally found the end zone on the Bills' first drive, an 8-yard score that originally was called incomplete before it was overturned by a challenge.
Replays confirmed Evans' feet were in bounds, but he was not in a position to argue the call.
"I ran into the camera, man, so I was a little hurt," he said with a laugh. "I said something to the referee, but I thought they were going to challenge it anyway. I thought I was in, though."
>Bills allow TD return
The Bills' normally stingy kickoff coverage sprung a leak Sunday as Cincinnati's Glenn Holt went 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the second longest kickoff return against the Bills. The longest was 101 yards by Cotton Speyrer of the Baltimore Colts on Nov. 25, 1973.
It was the 16th kickoff return touchdown against the Bills and the first since Justin Miller took one 95 yards for the Jets on Jan. 1, 2006.
"We play with our hair on fire and sometimes when you're overaggressive, a team can make a big play," linebacker and special teamer Mario Haggan said. "But it gave us an opportunity to come back. They hit us with a haymaker, but we didn't fall. We just bit down on our mouthpiece and came back and finished the job."
>Lindell sets PAT mark
Rian Lindell's three extra-point kicks make him 237 for 237 in his career. That establishes an NFL record for the most consecutive PATs made to start a career. He shared the mark with Tommy Davis, who made 234 in a row from 1959 to '65.
"They are bigger than they are given credit for," said Lindell, whose 141 straight PATs with the Bills is second only to Steve Christie's 172 in team history. "It's kind of a thing where it's really a big play if you miss it because it puts a funny number up there. People take PATs for granted, but we take them seriously around here. That's why we've been successful."
>Parrish leaves game
Wide receiver Roscoe Parrish left with a thigh contusion before the first half ended. He was apparently hurt during a punt return in the second quarter. Middle linebacker John DiGiorgio left the game with a concussion after taking a blow to the head late in the third quarter. Their status will be updated today or Wednesday.
Frank Brown, the NHL's vice president of media relations, was at the game Sunday. He was here scouting stadium operations in advance of the AMP NHL Winter Classic, the outdoor hockey game between the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins that will be played at The Ralph on Jan. 1. . . . Quarterback Trent Edwards was inactive due to his sprained right wrist. Other Bills inactives were cornerback Ashton Youboty, linebacker Leon Joe, tight end/offensive tackle Matt Murphy, wide receiver Sam Aiken, defensive end Copeland Bryan and defensive tackle Jason Jefferson.