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Bills lose Manuel, game to Browns

Posted Oct 3, 2013

Injuries and missed opportunities were too much to overcome in a 37-24 loss to the Browns in Cleveland.


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The Bills saw an early 10-point first quarter lead disappear, lost their top wide receiver to a back injury in the first half and their starting quarterback with a knee injury in the third quarter. Still, Buffalo had a chance to tie or win the game with just over two minutes remaining. However, backup QB Jeff Tuel, in for an injured EJ Manuel, was picked off for an interception return for a score in a 37-24 victory for Cleveland.

“Obviously I thought the guys went out there and fought hard,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “When you look at the game we gave up some big plays. We gave up the big play on special teams and we gave up some big pass plays and we didn’t make enough big plays on offense.

PHOTOS: Bills at Browns

“We had a couple of injuries. EJ has a sprained knee so we’ll look at that and then obviously Stevie his back, you lose those two guys it’s difficult.”

With a drive that began at their own 20-yard line, backup QB Jeff Tuel had to put together a touchdown drive with just over two minutes remaining. A screen pass to Fred Jackson gained 13 yards and a first down to move the ball to the Bills 33. A completion to Chris Hogan moved the ball out to 40, but on the next play, Tuel’s pass for Robert Woods was intercepted by T.J. Ward, who returned it 44-yards for a touchdown to put the game away with 1:44 remaining.

“Jeff went in the game on a short week and didn’t have a lot of reps,” said Marrone. “We’ve got a chance to win the game at the end with a two minute drive down by six. They played three buzz, buzzed the safety down and we throw a pick six. Those are the things that happen. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

“I really just… a misread on my part,” said Tuel. “I didn’t see the safety flying down on me so it was a screw up on my part.” 

Buffalo’s offense struggled to move the chains after Manuel left the game midway through the third quarter with what was diagnosed as a sprained knee. The Bills punted on their next four possessions with no drive lasting more than five plays. That was followed by the drive that ended with an interception, and their final desperation drive that stalled at midfield with Buffalo turning it over on downs.

“It took me a little bit to get going,” said Tuel, who was 8-20 for 80 yards and an interception. “It’s been a while since I’ve had any live bullets like that especially against the ones like that. After a few snaps I felt like I settled in a little bit and started seeing things better.”

“We obviously would’ve liked to protect better for him and make some more plays for him,” said Eric Wood. “That’s not easy coming in cold off the bench like Tuel did. Credit him for coming in poised and yeah we didn’t make enough plays to win, but he’s obviously not to blame.”

Down a touchdown at the half (17-10), Buffalo got right back in the game on their first possession of the second half needing just three plays to find the end zone. One play after EJ Manuel hit Robert Woods on a 24-yard pass play, C.J. Spiller cut a run right to left across the line of scrimmage and found daylight near the Bills sideline. Spiller outraced the Cleveland secondary to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown run to tie the game (17-17) just over a minute into the third quarter.

“I think C.J.’s run was a big play, but vertically down the field we need to make some big plays and convert some of those third downs,” said Marrone. “We put yardage up, but we have to put more points than the other team up.”

Buffalo followed with another touchdown drive, but lost Manuel to a knee injury on a 14-yard scramble for a first down at the Browns 13-yard line. Backup quarterback Jeff Tuel came on to complete the drive. Following a pass interference penalty in the end zone, Jackson scored his second touchdown of the game from a yard out to take a 24-17 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter.

The Browns would go to the air to even the score. Brandon Weeden his Greg Little for a 47-yard pass play to set up a 1st-and-10 at the Bills 22. After a personal foul penalty on the Browns backed them up to the Buffalo 37, Weeden uncorked a 37-yard bomb to Josh Gordon for a touchdown to tie it (24-24) less than a minute later.

“Just two deep balls,” said an exasperated Leodis McKelvin. “If they don’t get those two deep balls then they have no passing yards. They’d have had no passing yards. That’s all we have to do. We worked with a short field for most of the game. We balled out in the secondary and they just got two deep balls on us and that’s it.”

Game Rewind: Buffalo Bills

Backed up on their own 11-yard line with the game tied, Tuel and the offense couldn’t generate much yardage. C.J. Spiller was stopped for no gain on first down. That was followed by an incomplete pass and a third down sack. A short punt by Shawn Powell gave Cleveland a drive start at the Buffalo 32-yard line.

Eventually set up with a 1st-and-goal situation at the Buffalo two-yard line, Cleveland could not reach the end zone. McGahee was stopped for no gain on first down, then dropped for a four-yard loss on second down. A Weeden pass attempt to Jordan Cameron went incomplete forcing the Browns to take a short field goal to grab a three-point lead with 12:30 remaining (27-24).

Buffalo would never come close to scoring again managing just 86 total net yards on their last offensive 27 plays.

The Bills got off to a flying start at the beginning of the game. After sending the Cleveland offense off the field three-and-out, Buffalo needed just three plays to reach the end zone. Following a 25-yard punt return to the Cleveland 32, the Bills were the beneficiary of a pass interference call on Joe Haden in the end zone on Stevie Johnson setting up 1st-and-goal at the one. Fred Jackson plunged in for a one-yard score and an early 7-0 lead.

Buffalo would put together a field goal drive on their next possession to make it 10-0 with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter. From there the tide would turn.

Cleveland would score the next 17 points despite losing their starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to a knee injury. Brandon Weeden executed a field goal drive to get the Browns on the board less than a minute into the second quarter.

That was followed by Cleveland’s best drive of the game, a 14-play 74-yard march capped by a one-yard Willis McGahee touchdown run to tie the game at 10 with 3:52 left in the half. After a three-and-out by Buffalo’s offense, Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin got inside a Bills coverage player and shot through a hole to the left sideline.

Benjamin then eluded Buffalo’s pursuers down the Browns’ sideline to the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown giving Cleveland their first lead of the game (17-10). The Browns took that touchdown advantage to the locker room at halftime.

“We got outleveraged,” said Marrone. “It all starts in the beginning and you can’t have that. Against a good punt returner that has a lot of speed. We saw that and knew that going in. After the big return, the two returns we tried to make a strategic decision to kick the ball out of bounds. We didn’t want to give him another opportunity.”

With the loss the Bills fell to 2-3 on the season, 0-2 on the road and 1-3 in the AFC. Their return home to Cincinnati on Oct. 13 at 1 pm.