MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2008
RALPH WILSON STADIUM
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK
8:30 PM EST
ESPN / ESPN HD
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Mike Tirico
COLOR ANALYSTS: Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser
SIDELINE REPORTERS: Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket:
Channel 206 / Channel 206-1 (HD)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Marv Albert
COLOR ANALYST: Boomer Esiason
Bills Radio Network
PLAY-BY-PLAY: John Murphy
COLOR ANALYST: Mark Kelso
SIDELINE REPORTER: Paul Peck
Cleveland Browns Radio Network
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Jim Donovan
COLOR ANALYST: Doug Dieken
SIDELINE REPORTER: Andre Knott
Sirius Sunday Drive:
Channel 124 (Westwood One), 126 (Cleveland), 127 (Buffalo)
Sirius on XM: Channel 124 (Westwood One), 103 (Cleveland), 104 (Buffalo)
REGULAR-SEASON SERIES RECORD: Browns 8, Bills 5. Cleveland holds a 3-2 advantage in Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium, but hasn’t won here since December 1986.
PLAYOFF RECORD: Browns 1, Bills 0. Thanks, Ronnie Harmon ...
LAST MEETING: December 16, 2007 – Browns 8, Bills 0
Already facing an uphill fight to sneak into a wild-card spot, the Bills learned a painful lesson amidst the howling winds and swirling snow inside Cleveland Browns Stadium: When the field conditions are better suited for snowshoes than football cleats, small-but-quick players are just ... small.
While the Buffalo receivers slipped and slid into their cuts, the sturdy Browns trio of Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, and Kellen Winslow merely found open spots and waited for quarterback Derek Anderson to locate them. Meanwhile, Jamal Lewis plowed through the undersized Bills front seven for 163 yards on 33 carries, helping to control the clock and setting up two Phil Dawson field goals. Combined with a safety on a bad punt snap, Dawson’s kicks would give the Browns all the points they needed, as Buffalo was shut out for the first time since 2003.
A fortuitous bounce aided Cleveland’s first scoring drive, when Anderson’s pass deflected off Edwards ... but straight to Jurevicius. The veteran wideout’s heads-up play was good for a 25-yard gain, putting the ball at the Buffalo 30. The Browns managed one more first down on a swing pass to Lewis, but slid to a stop at the Buffalo 17, and Dawson’s wind-adjusted hook shot gave them a 3-0 lead.
It looked like the Bills were ready to answer on their next drive, with Marshawn Lynch breaking loose for a 29-yard gain down to the Cleveland 22. But on fourth-and-12 at the 24, the Bills decided going for it was a safer bet than a field goal attempt, and an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs. They wouldn’t see the far side of the Browns’ 30-yard line again until less than a minute remained in the game.
As the second quarter began, the Bills were buried deep in their own end of the field, and Ryan Neill added to their misery when his punt snap sailed high over Brian Moorman’s head. The quick-thinking Moorman managed to catch up to the ball and boot it out the back of the end zone, costing Buffalo two points, but perhaps saving a touchdown. The Browns took over at midfield after the free kick and drove back to the 20, but also decided against a field goal and failed on their own fourth-down attempt. Just before halftime, Dawson somehow managed to slide a 49-yard kick between the uprights – caroming off the stanchion on the way through – and both teams headed for the locker room to thaw out, with the Browns holding an 8-0 advantage.
Reminiscing about the game earlier this week, Dawson confessed, “I don’t know how it could have gotten much more difficult then it was. Snow everywhere, not only coming down but already on the ground. You couldn’t see the field. The wind was just ridiculous. It was cold, it wasn’t quite as cold as some of the other ones we have had here, but when you mix all that together it was a pretty brutal day.”
The field was even more treacherous after halftime; anything but the shortest pass became almost impossible to complete, and the game devolved into a punting duel between Moorman and the Browns’ Dave Zastudil. The Bills had one final shot to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, taking over at their own 30 just after the two-minute warning. But facing fourth-and-ballgame at the Cleveland 10 with 0:15 remaining, Trent Edwards’ dump-off to Fred Jackson was stuffed for no gain. One kneeldown by Anderson, and the Browns escaped with a badly-needed win.
And in a fitting end to a forgettable day, the Bills’ team plane got stuck in the snow, stranding them in Cleveland overnight before they could catch a bus back to Buffalo.
LAST TIME IN BUFFALO: December 12, 2004 – Bills 37, Browns 7
The Browns, spiraling downward to their second straight double-digit-loss season, were historically bad on a snowy, blustery afternoon in Orchard Park. How bad, you ask? Start with a franchise-low 26 yards of total offense – and that number was actually an improvement over the original postgame statistics, which credited them with just 17. Yeah, that bad.
Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb were both injured, giving rookie quarterback Luke McCown his second NFL start. McCown was a sitting duck behind a poor offensive line; he faced heavy pressure all day, threw two interceptions, and lost more yardage on seven sacks (74) than he gained passing (62). After being flattened by 350-pound Sam Adams on one play, “I went to bed last night just hoping I’d wake up this morning,” McCown said the next day.
“Luke got a bitter taste of the NFL,” Holcomb said of the Buffalo defense. “Those guys are like piranhas. When blood’s in the water, they go after it. They brought a lot of stuff ... a lot of new stuff. They blitzed a lot of guys. I guess that’s why we had ... how many yards did we have ... 17?”
Despite their ineptitude on offense, the Browns actually led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. Linebacker Barry Gardner recovered Nate Clements’ fumbled punt return at the Buffalo 18; four plays later – following an offsides penalty on Aaron Schobel that negated Terrence McGee’s interception in the end zone – McCown found receiver Dennis Northcutt for Cleveland’s only score. They got another chance shortly thereafter when Drew Bledsoe and Willis McGahee couldn’t connect on a handoff, but Phil Dawson pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right, and the Cleveland offense never crossed the Buffalo 40 the rest of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Bills – who seemed determined to match their visitors turnover-for-turnover in the early going – finally started to thaw out. Clements atoned for his earlier mistake, recovering a William Green fumble at the Cleveland 23, and Drew Bledsoe quickly hit Lee Evans for a 7-yard score. Willis McGahee added a 13-yard touchdown run on the next possession to send Buffalo into the locker room with a 17-7 halftime lead.
Rian Lindell’s second field goal provided the only points in the third quarter. That changed quickly in the fourth, though, as Schobel sacked Garcia – in for the shaken-up McCown – and forced a fumble recovered by Chris Kelsay at the Cleveland 6-yard line. McGahee bulled into the end zone on the next play, and the rout was on. Another three-and-out set up Lindell’s last three-pointer, and Shaud Williams led the second-stringers to the final score of the game, carrying nine times for 39 yards and a touchdown on the drive.
“I have to be honest,” interim Cleveland head coach Terry Robiskie said at his postgame press conference. “I think there was a point in time… it was men against boys.”
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