The Browns (3-2) defeated the Buffalo Bills (2-3) 37-24 tonight at FirstEnergy Stadium in a nationally televised game on NFL Network. The Browns currently have sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Final: Browns 37, Bills 24
Billy Cundiff hit a 24-yard and 44-yard field goal to put the Browns up 30-24, giving the Bills the ball with 2:19 remaining and three timeouts in a one-score game. T.J. Ward sealed the deal with just under two minutes remaining, though, when he intercepted Bills backup quarterback Jeff Tuel and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to put the Browns up 37-24. Brandon Weeden finished the game 13-of-24 for 197 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 95.3. McGahee ran for 72 yards on 26 carries. Josh Gordon had four catches for 86 yards and Greg Little had caught three passes for 71 yards.
End 3Q: Browns 24, Bills 24
The Browns and Bills are tied after a wild third quarter. C.J. Spiller started it off with a 54-yard touchdown run to make it 17-17, and the Bills took the lead on Fred Jackson's second 1-yard touchdown run. The Browns answered with two deep Brandon Weeden passes, the first a 47-yard gain to Greg Little and the second a 37-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in which Gordon bobbled and caught the ball in the end zone. Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has left the game with a knee injury after taking a hit from Tashaun Gipson. Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant has been taken to Cleveland Clinic with shortness of breath.
End 2Q: Browns 17, Bills 10
The Browns took the lead with a bang. Travis Benjamin fielded a punt at his own 21-yard line, raced to the outside, turned the corner with his speed and broke two tackles for a electrifying 79-yard touchdown return. That put the Browns up a touchdown with 2:20 left in the half. Only a few minutes earlier, Willis McGahee tied the game with a 1-yard touchdown run (it took three tries, but the third attempt crossed the goal line). That touchdown was set up by Brandon Weeden’s 8-yard pass to Greg Little and 16-yard pass to Josh Gordon. Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya left the game with a head injury. His return is questionable. Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is doubtful to return with a back injury. The Browns have now scored 17 unanswered points.
End 1Q: Bills 10, Browns 0
The Bills are up 10-0 and it’s been a train-wreck of a first quarter for the Browns. The Bills took an early 7-0 lead on Fred Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown run that followed a 29-yard Joe Haden pass interference call. Hoyer was then injured and left the game sliding on an 11-yard scramble. Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso hit him as he slid, and Hoyer walked to the locker room with a right knee injury. Brandon Weeden entered the game and threw a couple of incomplete passes. Before Hoyer left, Josh Gordon dropped what might have been a long touchdown. Greg Little also took two kickoffs from deep in his own end zone but got no further than the 10-yard line. He has already been replaced by Bobby Rainey, who took a knee and received a round of applause. Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo registered a big hit on receiver T.J. Graham. The Bills then added a 52-yard Dan Carpenter field goal to go up 10-0. The Browns finally got a positive play when Travis Benjamin returned a punt and turned the corner for a 57-yard return that set the Browns up on the Bills' 31-yard line. As the quarter ended, Weeden was sacked and the Browns face a third-and-13.
Inactives: Browns – Quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Fozzy Whitaker, outside linebacker Quentin Groves (high-ankle sprain), center Patrick Lewis, offensive tackle Martin Wallace, defensive end Billy Winn (strained quadriceps) and outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (sprained left knee). Notes: Brandon Weeden will be active for the first time since he sprained his right thumb Sept. 15 against the Baltimore Ravens, and he'll serve as the Browns’ No. 2 quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer. As a result, Campbell is inactive. Right guard Shawn Lauvao is active for the first time this season and is expected to start. He missed the first four games after suffering a high-ankle sprain and undergoing arthroscopic surgery in August. Groves is sidelined for the third consecutive game. Winn and Sheard are out for the second game in a row. Bills -- Kicker Dustin Hopkins (right groin), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist), free safety Jairus Byrd (foot), cornerback Ron Brooks (foot), guard Sam Young, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hand) and tight end Chris Gragg.
Lineup changes: Browns – Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo will start in place of Sheard for the second consecutive game. It’ll be Mingo’s second NFL start. Bills – Aaron Williams will start at right cornerback in place of Gilmore. Jim Leonard will start at strong safety in place of Aaron Williams, who’s moving to cornerback. Da’Norris Searcy will start at free safety in place of Byrd.
Ryan Lewis’ top storylines: 1. As expected, Brian Hoyer has been named the Browns’ starting quarterback for the third consecutive game. Brandon Weeden (sprained right thumb) has been medically cleared to play, but coach Rob Chudzinski is sticking with Hoyer. Chudzinski has yet to name the No. 2 quarterback, Weeden or Jason Campbell. On the other side will be a quarterback Chudzinski could have drafted, Buffalo Bills rookie E.J. Manuel. 2. Browns running back Willis McGahee had an expanded role in his second game this season, running for 46 yards on 15 carries against the Cincinnati Bengals. He is determined to improve each game. He’ll have to do it this time against the Bills, the team that drafted him No. 23 overall in 2003. 3. The Browns will need to slow down Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who’s third in the league with 5½ sacks. He tormented the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 with 4½ sacks. The last time Williams came to Cleveland, he had 1½ sacks. He’s been slightly banged up with an ankle injury. 4. If the Bills do anything well, it’s running the ball. The Bills are ranked No. 2 in the league in rushing yards per game (152), and both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson pose threats on the ground, although both are banged up. Still, Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he expects Spiller (ankle) and Jackson (knee) to play. 5. Browns rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is expected to make his second consecutive start because Jabaal Sheard is expected to sit out with a sprained left knee. Mingo has a chance to become the first player to get at least one sack in each of his first four NFL games since Terrell Suggs did it in 2003 with the Baltimore Ravens.
Links to preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer has full confidence, trust of teammates as they enter spotlight in prime time. 2. Matchup of the week: Ray Horton’s defense takes on Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. 3. Numbers to watch Thursday night. 4. How the offenses and defenses rank. 5. Predictions from Nate Ulrich, Marla Ridenour and Ryan Lewis. 6. Quote of the week. 7. Browns defenders hope to prove they’re dominant on national stage against Bills. 8. Tackles Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz aiming to keep Bills defensive end Mario Williams from milestone.