BY Sal Maiorana Rochesster Democrat & Chronicle
The most entertaining Thursday night game of the NFL season ended with a colossal thud for the Buffalo Bills.
only did the Bills blow leads of 10-0 and 24-17 in losing 37-24 to the
Cleveland Browns, they also watched in horror as rookie quarterback EJ
Manuel took a vicious blow to his knee that knocked him out of the game
midway through the third quarter.
Manuel scrambled to the left
sideline on a third-and-five play and had more than enough yardage for
the first down, but he tried to get a few more, and Cleveland defensive
back Tashaun Gipson drove his helmet into Manuel's right knee, which is
not the knee he had preseason surgery on.
Leo Roth: Bills fans await fate of Manuel
was down for a few minutes, then got up and walked to the sideline
without too much of a limp. He later jogged in front of the bench, and
rode the stationary bike, but ultimately he went to the locker room and
Fellow rookie Jeff Tuel came in and finished off
that drive, and Fred Jackson scored on a two-yard run to give the Bills a
24-17 lead, but it was all downhill from there for Buffalo.
responded within a minute as cornerback Aaron Williams was burned on
back-to-back bombs, one for 47-yards to Greg Little, and the second a
37-yard TD to Josh Gordon that tied the score.
Buffalo's next two
possessions failed to produce a first down, and the Browns took the lead
for good on Billy Cundiff's 24-yard field goal early in the fourth
The Bills got off to a superb start, jumping to a 10-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
stuffing Cleveland return man Little at the 8-yard-line on the opening
kickoff, the defense forced a three-and-out, and Jim Leonhard returned
the punt 25 yards to the Browns 32. A pass interference penalty in the
end zone moved the ball to the 1, and Jackson banged in from there.
the ensuing series, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was knocked out of
the game with a knee injury after sliding awkwardly just as Kiko Alonso
fell on him. The Browns were forced to punt, and Buffalo drove 56 yards
in 12 plays to Dan Carpenter's 52-yard field goal.
And then the
game took the first of a few dynamic turns when the Bills special teams
began making egregious mistakes. Cleveland punt returner Travis Benjamin
started the trouble with a 57-yard scamper after a poor line drive punt
by Shawn Powell, one of several bad punts by Powell on the warm night.
That set up Billy Cundiff for a 30-yard field goal.
offense went nowhere, and the Browns embarked on a 14-play, 74-yard
drive that consumed 7:10 thanks to four third-down conversions. It ended
with ex-Bill Willis McGahee, just signed two weeks ago to replace the
traded Trent Richardson, plunging into the end zone from the 1 to tie
the game at 10-10.
Following an ugly three-and-out, Powell
actually hit a solid 52-yard directional punt that sent Benjamin to the
right sideline, but somehow, he worked his way all the way across and
then down the field for a 79-yard touchdown return that gave the Browns a
Benjamin set a Browns record for punt return yards in
a game with 179, and this is a team that once employed the great Eric
Metcalf, whose 1993 record of 163 yards Benjamin broke.
momentum swung right back to the Bills after halftime as they scored two
quick touchdowns to regain the lead, though they lost Manuel in this
Three plays after the second-half kickoff, C.J. Spiller,
who saw only limited action due to an ankle injury, sure didn't look
too hurt when he broke a 54-yard touchdown run through a huge hole off
Buffalo got the ball right back, and Manuel started them on what became a 54-yard drive which he could not finish.
the fourth quarter, the Browns extended their lead to 30-24 when
Cundiff kicked a 44-yard field goal with 2:23 remaining, and then T.J.
Ward capped it by picking off a Tuel pass and returning it 44 yards for a
touchdown with 1:44 to go.