The Bills made use of the Browns recent formula for success at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday as they ground out a closely fought 13-6 victory over their Lake Erie brethren. Buffalo's Fred Jackson outpaced Cleveland's workhorse Peyton Hillis and the Bills defense forced a pair of fourth quarter turnovers to make their touchdown lead stand up.
"That was to me one of those good old fashioned slug fests where two teams are (fighting) it out for 60 minutes on the field. I thought our defense after the first drive really stepped up and played well," said head coach Chan Gailey. "Offense did enough to win, we controlled the ball which was a big part of it and our defense got the ball back for our offense."
The key play came with 11:13 left on a 3rd-and-3 at the Cleveland 27. Rookie linebacker Arthur Moats swooped in from the right side of the formation and forced a fumble as he stripped Jake Delhomme of the ball in the pocket. Bryan Scott recovered at the Browns' 23.
"I gave him a jab step inside and he sat down on it and I was able to get an outside hand knockdown and flip my hips and he got caught on my back side and Delhomme just held the ball," said Moats in describing his sack and forced fumble. "We always are taught when rushing the passer get the sack, but get the forced fumble as well. So that's what I was thinking when I got my opportunity and everything worked out."
Cleveland came into the game as one of the AFC leaders in turnover margin ( 7), but it was Buffalo forcing a pair of second half turnovers to seal the win, their third of the season.
After the Moats takeaway Buffalo's offense could only manage a field goal as Fred Jackson was stopped at the half-yard line on 3rd-and-goal at the two. Head coach Chan Gailey chose to take the points on a 19-yard field attempt by Rian Lindell to put the Bills up 13-6 with just under eight minutes remaining.
"It was talked about, but it wasn't talked about long," said Gailey. "The guys have fought so hard and our defense had been playing good."
The Bills defense would hold from there as Cleveland under the guidance of Delhomme found yards hard to come by.
On Cleveland's first possession after the Lindell field goal, Buffalo's defense sent the Browns three-and-out and on the Browns last series of the game, pressure by Bryan Scott led to an underthrown pass by Delhomme, which was intercepted by Leodis McKelvin with four minutes remaining.
"The amount of fumbles that they caused and there were some that we weren't getting the bounces," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "The defense had a phenomenal day. They were out there wreaking havoc on them. The turnovers at least getting the ball on the ground and then the turnovers they did get were huge for us."
Buffalo's offense ran out the clock from there as a revamped offensive line rolled up over 190 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson led the ground effort with 112 yards on 29 carries.
"I know it was a challenge that not only myself, but the offensive line with all the new guys stepping in there," said Jackson. "They did a great job opening up holes for me knowing it was a shuffle up there. I can only make plays with those guys. They all showed up and made some plays for me."
"The guys stepping in, Cordaro (Howard), (Chad) Rinehart, they did a great job of really learning the system during the week, knowing what we're doing and coming in and executing," said Eric Wood, of his two linemates that manned right guard. "Those guys rotated and we didn't miss a beat, no matter who was in there. I felt they did a pretty good job."
The Browns managed less than 200 total net yards and had just 82 yards passing while committing three turnovers with Delhomme responsible for a lost fumble and interception in the fourth quarter.
"On the last one I was trying to throw a go route," said Delhomme. "We have a third down and they come and pressure. Mohammed (Massaquoi) beats the guy off the line. I'm not sure which guy hit my arm, but certainly it wasn't where I wanted it to go. It did affect it because I knew that one was going straight up in the air."
Buffalo had the only touchdown of the game as Ryan Fitzpatrick led a methodical 14-play 89-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the game clock. Fitzpatrick scrambled for a pair of first downs on the drive and then capped it with an 11-yard touchdown strike to David Nelson over the middle for a 7-3 edge early in the second quarter.
"I had to beat my guy and get around him," said Nelson. "I kind of got around him too late and Fitz threw the ball in a spot where he thought I would be. Luckily I came down with it."
Cleveland responded with a field goal drive on the ensuing possession, but Buffalo got those three points back with less than a minute remaining in the half as Rian Lindell completed a nine-play 63-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal, to give the Bills a 10-6 lead at the break.
The Browns tried to send a message early as they pounded their workhorse back Peyton Hillis with runs on seven of their first eight plays. Mike Bell ran on the other, as the Browns grinded all the way down to Buffalo's one-yard line. Hillis however, was stopped for no gain on a 3rd-and-goal by Chris Kelsay and Donte Whitner to force Cleveland to accept a 19-yard field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
"I thought that was a big stop there for us," said Kyle Williams, who contributed a fumble recovery in the effort. "That could have been a turning point, but as it went along we just tackled better and did some different things up front with what they were doing running-wise."
Buffalo is back on the road next Sunday when they begin a three-game run through their division facing all of their AFC East rivals to close out the season. Kickoff at Sun Life Stadium is set for 1 pm.