Final recap: Bills 13, Browns 6 (click here for the box score)
The Browns (5-8) failed to capitalize on early opportunities, and turnovers killed them in crunch time. They stalled in the red zone on their opening drives of the first two quarters, and they lost the turnover battled 3-1. Those factors led to their dismal defeat against the Buffalo Bills (3-10) on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Browns had won their previous two games, but they couldn't execute in the cold and rain against the host Bills. That's not a good sign for the rest of the season because the Browns will likely face adverse weather in their final three games. They need to figure out a better way to protect the football in a hurry. The Browns finished with three turnovers, but they could have had six. They were fortunate to recover three of their five fumbles. Browns running back Peyton Hillis eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, but he also fumbled three times and lost one. Therefore, his milestone was spoiled. Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme was the other culprit when it came to Cleveland's turnovers. He fumbled once (the original call on the field was reversed after the Bills challenged) and threw an interception. Both turnovers occurred in the fourth quarter and were products of pressure from the Bills' defense. This loss leaves Browns coach Eric Mangini in a tough position. The Browns now need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and pull off an upset against either the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers to reach seven wins, the number of victories Mangini will likely need to convince Browns President Mike Holmgren to retain him for the 2011 season.
End 1Q: Browns 3, Bills 0 -- 1. Kicker Phil Dawson made a 19-yard field goal to cap the Browns' first drive and give his team a 3-0 lead with 10:11 left in the first quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. Using their no-huddle offense, the Browns marched 54 yards on seven plays, but they couldn't capitalize with a touchdown. On third-and-goal from the Bills' 1-yard line, Browns running back Peyton Hillis was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. As a result, the Browns had to use their ninth and final play of their opening drive to kick a field goal. 2. The slick conditions caused by rain at Ralph Wilson Stadium haunted both teams early on. Browns linebacker Chris Gocong hit Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and forced a fumble. Browns cornerback Eric Wright recovered and returned a short distance to the Bills' 25. The Browns, however, didn't make the Bills pay for their mistake. Instead, Hillis fumbled on the next play when he tried to hurdle Bills safety Jairus Byrd. Hillis' trademark hurdle didn't work because Byrd anticipated it (somebody must have been watching film this past week). He wrapped Hillis' legs, causing the ball to come loose and fall into the hands of nose tackle Kyle Williams.
End 2Q: Bills 10, Bills 6 -- 1. Fitzpatrick completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Nelson with 9:28 left in the second quarter. Rian Lindell made the extra-point kick to give the Bills a 7-3 lead. 2. Dawson made a 25-yard field goal to cap the Browns' 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive, trimming Cleveland's deficit to 7-6. 3. Lindell made a 30-yard field goal with 14 seconds left before halftime to give the Bills a 10-6 advantage. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns learned the following lesson the hard way during the Bills' 14-play, 89-yard touchdown drive: Fitzpatrick can run well and he can pass well, too. He is very underrated. 2. The Browns have been to the red zone twice, and they have zero touchdowns to show for it. That's not a good sign. On third-and-4 from the Bills' 7, Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme's pass intended for wide receiver Brian Robiskie sailed out of the back of the end zone. 3. Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward went for an interception and missed. It cost the Browns' defense, too. Bills tight end Jonathan Stupar caught Fitzpatrick's pass that Ward gambled on and turned the completion into a 35-yard gain to the Browns' 24. 4. The Browns' defense held the Bills to a field goal after Stupar's big gain. On third-and-10 at the Browns' 11, Fitzpatrick's pass intended for Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson fell incomplete after it sailed too high. Fitzpatrick's shot at the front corner of the end zone was off target because Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden had excellent coverage during the play. Haden also had a crucial pass breakup earlier in the first half. On fourth-and-2 at the Browns' 35, Haden broke up a pass Fitzpatrick intended for Johnson. 5. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bills were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (low block). As a result, the Browns had a chance to score, but Delhomme's desperation heave toward the end zone was broken up at the goal line as time expired. 6. Hillis became the ninth Browns player to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season. He needed 38 yards to reach the milestone, and he ran for 72 yards in the first half.
End 3Q: Bills 10, Browns 6 -- No scoring. Instant impressions -- 1. After defeating the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in Week 13, the Browns are in the midst of another defensive struggle. Cleveland's defense made crucial third-down plays to stop the Bills on their first two possessions of the second half. Browns safety Ray Ventrone came free on a blitz, pressured Fitzpatrick and forced him to throw the ball away. On the Bills' next series, Browns linebacker Marcus Benard batted down a pass from Fitzpatrick. 2. The Browns fumbled three times in six plays and recovered all three. To say they're flirting with disaster is an understatement on many levels. During those six plays, Hillis fumbled twice and wide receiver Josh Cribbs fumbled once. Hillis, fullback Lawrence Vickers and Cribbs recovered.
End 4Q: Bills 13, Browns 6 -- 1. Lindell made a 19-yard field goal to give the Bills a 13-6 lead with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. On third-and-4 at the Browns' 26, Delhomme dropped back to pass and his arm was hit by Bills linebacker Arthur Moats as he tried to throw. At first, the officials called the play an incomplete pass, but the Bills challenged. The call was overturned and Moats was credited with a sack and a forced fumble. The Bills recovered the ball at the Browns' 23. Moats beat Browns left tackle Joe Thomas during the play. 2. Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown hurt his right shoulder while tripping Bills running back Fred Jackson three plays later. 3. The Browns held the Bills to a field goal after Delhomme's fumble. Browns linebacker David Bowens suffered a head injury when the Browns stuffed Bills running back Fred Jackson at the goal line on third down. Bowens' return was ruled out. 4. Trailing 13-6, the Browns got the ball back with 4:37 left. But on third-and-8 from Cleveland's 49, Delhomme threw a pass intended for wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi that was picked off by cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
Top storylines -- 1. Browns coach Eric Mangini needs to win as much as possible in the final four games. If the team wins two more games and finishes 7-9, Mangini can present a strong case to return as Cleveland's coach next season. Anything less and the odds of Browns President Mike Holmgren retaining Mangini will probably decrease quite a bit. 2. Browns running back Peyton Hillis needs only 38 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. He'll be the ninth Browns player to achieve the milestone. 3. Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme will make his third consecutive start, but rookie Colt McCoy (high-ankle sprain) returned to practice Friday and will serve as the team's third quarterback today. Seneca Wallace will be Delhomme's backup.
Inactive players: Browns -- QB Colt McCoy (listed as the team's third quarterback), WR Jordan Norwood, LB Titus Brown, DL Brian Sanford, WR Demetrius Williams, TE Evan Moore, DL Jayme Mitchell and LB Scott Fujita. Bills -- Levi Brown (listed as the team's third quarterback), CB Ashton Youboty, RB Jehuu Caulcrick, C Geoff Hangartner, DT Kellen Heard, TE Mike Caussin, TE Shawn Nelson and DE John McCargo.
Lineup changes: Browns -- Either David Bowens or Jason Trusnik will start at linebacker in place of Scott Fujita depending on the defensive package the team uses first. Bills -- Leodis McKelvin will start at cornerback in place of Terrence McGee.