By Leo Roth Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
The Cleveland Browns are what's known as a "woebegone" NFL franchise. It's a long way of saying they're bad.
this is fact: The Browns have been to the playoffs more times (once)
than the Buffalo Bills in the last decade, meaning the Bills needed to
win Thursday night's 18th regular season edition of the Battle of Lake
Erie if nothing else to validate the optimism the first month of the
season had generated.
They needed their first road win to validate those rising sales of EJ Manuel and Kiko Alonso jerseys.
A painful loss: Bills lose to Cleveland
needed to let fans tuning into NFL Network's coverage know that rookie
coach Doug Marrone can push the right buttons in prime time. (Given the
recent success of these two teams, I'm thinking those fans were people
living in Ohio and western New York with the right television package
and about five guys in a Las Vegas strip club with money on the game).
But, I'm not angry about Buffalo's 37-24 loss to the Browns. I'm just disappointed.
the Bills walked straight into a hornet's nest, a great sports city
revved up by its baseball team making the playoffs and its football team
winning (gasp) two games in a row.
But thanks to a loss to Tampa
Bay the night before, Indians fever lasted as long as a runny nose and
Browns Fever was tempered by mixed emotions, the team's attempt to
secure the NFL's No. 1 overall pick by trading star running Trent
Richardson only to watch third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer beat the
Vikings and Bengals.
But instead of the Dawg Pound screaming "No
Brian, no," it was "Go Brandon, go." And Bills fans were asking, "How is
Manuel's right knee?"
In a what came down as a game of
quarterback attrition, Cleveland was much better suited with their
designated No. 2 Brandon Weeden than Buffalo was with Jeff Tuel.
Cleveland's castoff savior, rallied his team and perhaps his career
from the abyss after Hoyer injured his knee on Cleveland's second series
with some big time throws and leadership against a beaten up Buffalo
secondary that had little time to heal in a short week. None were bigger
than Weeden's 37-yard touchdown strike to Josh Gordon to tie the game
24-24 in the third quarter or his 18-yard strike to Gordon again with
5:02 left in the game, keeping alive the second of two Cleveland field
goal drives in the fourth quarter.
Rookie free agent Tuel,
meanwhile, found out the NFL regular season is different than 11-on-11
at St. John Fisher, tossing the game-clinching interception that Browns
safety T.J. Ward returned for a touchdown with 1:44 left.
between, Browns punt return specialist Travis Benjamin lit up the warm
Cleveland night like Franklin with a 79-yard touchdown return.
it all up and a lot of big plays by Cleveland meant a big hurt for
Buffalo, which now has 10 days to heal and prepare for Cincinnati. A
team that can only pray its star rookie quarterback Manuel will be back
sooner than later.
This game featured more big hits than the Rock
'N Roll Hall of Fame, a street fight in the Flats on Jim Brown
But the Bills offense had little staying power
with Manuel struggling mightily on the road again before exiting the
game with a scary sideline hit by the Browns Tashaun Gipson in the third
quarter that caught his knee. Now starts the waiting game on his
Unfortunately, another good defensive effort, good enough to win, was wasted, with Mario Williams leading a fierce pass rush.
gone through some lean years, but they always remember the '64
championship team and I'm happy to be back," Brown said of the Cleveland
fans. These young guys are playing good and these people are so
appreciative of exciting football."
The Browns sure delivered this night. No. 1 draft pick be damned.