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Bills beat Browns but lose Spiller to injury

Posted Sep 23, 2012

The Bills got off to a roaring start against the Browns and never trailed in a 24-14 win over the Browns in Cleveland, but it came at a price as C.J. Spiller was lost in the first quarter to a shoulder injury and did not return.

“They’re going to do more tests tomorrow, but he’s out for a week or two, but I don’t know how extensive it is,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I don’t believe it’s long term. I think he’s going to be out for sure this week and then we’ll see where it goes.”

All Gailey would say was it is not a broken collar bone.

Buffalo’s defense was stout from the beginning forcing the Browns offense three-and-out on their first three possessions. They dropped Browns back Trent Richardson for a loss on his first two carries, but they sustained their play throughout most of the game. Cleveland subsequent three punts were turned into 14 points by Buffalo’s offense.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came out throwing completing five of his first six passes on the team’s opening drive including a 17-yarder to Donald Jones and an 18-yard hook-up with Stevie Johnson, before hitting T.J. Graham over the middle on a nine-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

“I was wide open,” said Graham. “I was kind of running with my hands out, and Fitz hit me with a good pass.”

Buffalo’s second scoring drive would take half the time. After a 33-yard punt return by Leodis McKelvin to the Cleveland 49, C.J. Spiller had back-to-back runs of eight and five yards to move the chains. Following a four-yard keeper by Brad Smith on a Wildcat play, Fitzpatrick on a 2nd-and-6 from the Browns’ 32 beat the blitz with a dump off to C.J. Spiller.

Spiller got outside to the near sideline, got a downfield block from Kraig Urbik and bolted to the end zone for a 32-yard catch and score to make it 14-0 Buffalo with five minutes left in the opening quarter.

“It was just a screen play and C.J.’s guy kind of got caught up in the line and then we had a great effort down the field blocking,” said Fitzpatrick. “C.J. did a nice job of setting up some blocks. As we saw this year and the end of last year you get C.J. in space he’s pretty special.”

After Cleveland’s third straight three-and-out on offense, Buffalo took over at their own 37. Spiller, who took a dump pass from Fitzpatrick as the pocket was collapsing, went 25 yards before he was tackled with the full weight of Usama Young landing on top of him.

Spiller immediately rolled onto his back and grabbed his left shoulder. He was carted to the locker room a short time later and was declared out for the game with an undisclosed shoulder injury.

The Bills continued to move the ball down to the 18-yard line, but a 3rd-and-5 pass attempt by Fitzpatrick slipped out of his hand and was ruled a fumble. The Browns recovered at their own 20.

“It hurt us a little bit,” said Fitzpatrick of the loss of Spiller. “We’ve probably got to react a little better to that situation. It took a little bit out of us. We had some penalties that slowed down the drives. We had the play when the ball slipped out of my hand that really ended a nice drive. It was just one thing after another after C.J. went down that kind of slowed us up. It was nice for the defense to play the way they did to continue to make some stops and for us.”

The two teams would trade possessions through the rest of the second quarter with Cleveland finally getting on the board with a six-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson with just over two minutes remaining in the half (14-7).

The Bills regrouped at halftime coming out with a steady opening possession in the second half marching 51 yards on nine plays. Fitzpatrick targeted Stevie Johnson on back-to-back plays from the Cleveland 19-yard line, but they could not connect. Buffalo instead took a 37-yard field goal from Rian Lindell to push their lead to 10 (17-7) early in the third.

The Browns would eventually answer with a long methodical 13-play scoring drive. Weeden went 8-10 passing for 75 yards on the drive capping it with a 22-yard strike to Travis Benjamin to pull Cleveland to within three (17-14) with two minutes left in the third quarter.

Buffalo had an answer putting together a 10-play drive of their own. Tashard Choice ripped off a 22-yard run to start the drive and T.J. Graham converted a key 3rd-and-9 at the Browns’ 20 to keep the drive alive.

Two plays later, Stevie Johnson gave Dmitri Patterson a shoulder fake and broke to the post for a nine-yard touchdown reception.

“I basically saw it was man, basically a zero, nobody in the back so it was me and the guy one-on-one and made a move on him and Fitz found me and we got the score,” said Johnson.

It was Fitzpatrick’s third touchdown toss of the game to put Buffalo in front 24-14 with eight minutes left. He finished the day 22-35 for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

From there Buffalo’s defense shut the door as they got pressure on Weeden, who was in passing mode with his team behind. The Bills rolled up four sacks on the day. The Bills run defense was also stout throughout the game holding Trent Richardson to an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

“You’ve got to still be able to put your foot down when it really counts and I feel like that’s what we did in this game,” said Mario Williams, who got his first sack as a Bills and finished with one and a half in the game. “It was fun. We were out there and we knew everything was on the line and we were light. It was like we were going to go out and perform and do what we needed to do. Everybody was just light on our toes and we just bounced off one another and played ball.”

Tashard Choice in relief of Spiller rushed for a productive 91 yards on 20 carries (4.6 avg.).

“Great effort,” said Gailey of Choice’s performance. “I think we all knew what kind of back he was and what he brought to our football team. Nobody else did because we’ve got two marquee guys. It’s great to have a guy like that on our football team that can go in and play the way he played, run the football and protect the football on a wet day and play special teams.”

Leodis McKelvin and Bryan Scott would finish off the day with interceptions on the final two Cleveland possessions. Scott’s returned his interception to the one-yard line. Buffalo would kneel out the clock from there to improve to 2-1 on the season.

“It was a big win,” said Donald Jones. “For us to come in here and make plays and play one of our best games of the year, that’s great going into next week.”

Buffalo hosts New England in a big division game at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday for a 1 pm kickoff. There’s a remote chance they could have Fred Jackson back from his Week 1 knee injury, but it’s far from being likely.