ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Growing up a Miami Dolphins' fan some four miles from their home stadium, Thad Lewis spent most Sundays limited to cheering on Dan Marino and company from his living room.
"'Dan The Man,' we called him," the Buffalo Bills interim starter said this week, "The Dolphins were always my team. But when you're a kid and your parents can't afford to take you to a Dolphins game, it was on TV every week, so you didn't miss it."
Lewis won't have any issues getting into Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
Two weeks since being promoted off the practice squad, the 25-year-old will be making his second consecutive start when Buffalo (2-4) travels to play the Dolphins (3-2).
With 15 tickets set aside for family and friends, Lewis will have an opportunity to enjoy a homecoming he once could have barely imagined possible.
"Your dream as a child is to obviously get to this level, but to be starting is a dream come true," he said. "It means a lot playing in the NFL, period. But it's just extra to get to go home and play in front of people that you know."
It has been an unlikely journey since Lewis, who played at Duke, broke into the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted rookie with St. Louis. He spent much of the past three-plus seasons attempting to stay in the league, and is on his fourth team in as many years.
He was fortunate to even land in Buffalo in the first place.
With rookie starter EJ Manuel out with a left knee injury and veteran Kevin Kolb out with a season-ending concussion, the Bills were down to undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel when they acquired Lewis in a trade with Detroit on Aug. 25. Lewis made a good enough impression playing the final two-plus quarters of a 35-13 preseason loss to Detroit to be signed to the practice squad.
Buffalo turned to Lewis once again last week after Manuel sprained his right knee in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 3.
Lewis earned the opportunity to remain the starter after an impressive performance in a 27-24 overtime loss to Cincinnati last weekend. After getting off to a slow start, and losing a fumble to open the third quarter, Lewis bounced back by throwing two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including a game-tying 40-yarder to Marquise Goodwin with 1:08 remaining.
He finished 19 of 32 for 216 yards passing and two touchdowns, and scrambled for 17 yards including a 3-yard score, despite playing with a sore right foot he injured during the game.
"I did OK," Lewis said. "We didn't get the win, so I didn't do good enough."
Lewis did enough, however, impress his teammates and coach Doug Marrone.
"I think a lot of people were surprised maybe by that performance," Marrone said. "But I don't think anyone on the team was really surprised about the way he went out there, the way he went about his business. Because that's been who he is since he really came on board."
Receiver Stevie Johnson likes how Lewis has carried himself.
"He's got that 'It' factor about him," Johnson said. "He walks around with big shoulders and head up. I think that's what he brings, confidence to the team."
Lewis had previously appeared in one game, a start in Cleveland's season finale last year at Pittsburgh. He went 22 of 32 for 204 yards with a touchdown and interception in a 24-10 loss.
Lewis won't have to wait long for his next opportunity.
"I had the whole offseason to think about some of the mistakes I made in that game," Lewis said. "I get to go the following weekend, and do what I love to do and play quarterback. Hopefully, you can build on it."
NOTES: WR Stevie Johnson practiced and is expected to play Sunday after missing last week's game with a sore back. ... Marrone has yet to determine whether Tuel or newly signed QB Matt Flynn will back up Lewis. ... To prepare his team for a warm game day in South Florida, Marrone has upped the temperature in the team's fieldhouse during practice this week.
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