My how a game can turn. It looked like the worst first quarter of Trent Edwards football career was going to be erased by Buffalo's best run game performance of the season, super special teams, and his own one-yard quarterback sneak that gave Buffalo it's first lead of the game with 2:25 remaining (27-26).
Even when trailing 29-27 with 38 seconds left the Bills were in position to win the game. However, Rian Lindell's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed painfully wide right and the Browns kneeled down to escape with a two-point victory.
"Obviously a disappointing loss for us," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We had a chance."
"It's surreal," said Lindell. "I can't believe I missed it. I hit it straight down, just straight right. I hit a good ball and it felt good. I just closed myself or something."
Buffalo has now lost four straight. They have a .500 record for the first time this season (5-5) and are quickly falling out of the AFC playoff race. They've gone from the top to the bottom of the division in the span of a month.
"We've had many opportunities to win some of these ball games and we've let it slide," said Chris Kelsay. "We've beat ourselves. It hurts."
The turnover problems for Buffalo's offense have begun to reach epidemic proportions as three first quarter interceptions by Trent Edwards put Buffalo in an early hole and a fumble by Fred Jackson in the third quarter prevented the Bills from tying or taking the lead down a field goal (16-13).
Hard running by Marshawn Lynch (23 carries, 120 yards) put Buffalo in position for their first lead of the game and Edwards' one-yard sneak looked to provide the Bills with all the late game momentum they would need. But Phil Dawson's 56-yard bomb on the ensuing Cleveland drive gave them what proved to be the game-winning points.
Edwards three interceptions came on the team's first four possessions. The Bills quarterback was never the same after the early miscues as he did not make many pass attempts beyond 10 yards the rest of the game.
"When you turn the ball over a little bit it's tough," said Edwards. "You start seeing things that you're not really seeing and you start doing things that you're not normally used to doing. But we've got to give a lot of credit to our offensive line getting our running game going for us and that took a lot of pressure off of me."
Edwards on the first play from scrimmage had his pass tipped by Shaun Rogers and it was intercepted by Kamerion Wimbley.
After forcing the Browns three-and-out, the Bills defense found themselves back on the field four plays later as a pass intended for James Hardy was behind the receiver enabling Andra Davis to make a running stab picking off the pass near midfield.
Cleveland gained 26 yards on the drive as Phil Dawson put Cleveland on the board with a 40-yard field goal (3-0).
Two possessions later pinned deep in their own territory Edwards on a 3rd-and-1 from the Buffalo 10-yard line waited too long to deliver an intended pass to Robert Royal and it was picked off by Brandon McDonald for his third turnover in the first quarter.
Even though Buffalo's defense held the Browns to minus four yards on the drive, Dawson added another three-pointer with a 33-yard field goal for a 6-0 edge.
With the Bills offense still stuck in neutral, Cleveland put together an impressive 12-play 96-yard drive against a winded Buffalo defense. Josh Cribbs capped the drive with a two-yard scoring run to put the Browns up 13-0 early in the second quarter.
The Bills defense, accustomed to defending short fields surrendered just nine points off turnovers when all was said and done ultimately keeping it a one score game early and it bought the team enough time to get their offense on track.
The Buffalo attack was finally awakened from its slumber by its two tailbacks. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson accounted for all 59 yards on a six-play drive, with Lynch bobbing and weaving his way through a handful of Cleveland defenders for an 18-yard touchdown catch and run to pull Buffalo to within six (13-7) midway through the second quarter.
Inspired by the offensive drive, the Bills defense sent the Browns three-and-out for the third time in the first half.
On the ensuing possession Jackson and Lynch factored heavily again providing 33 of the team's 54 yards as their 13-play drive resulted in a 26-yard Rian Lindell field goal as the half expired at the half to pull the Bills to within three (13-10).
"They were sitting in cover two and dared us to run the ball so we started running the football and they put it on our backs and it felt good to see those backs pop it through there and get down the field and get their yards," said Duke Preston.
"We wanted to take it upon ourselves to try and have a good game," said Jackson. "We were able to do so, but didn't make enough plays obviously."
Buffalo's defense continued to make life difficult for Cleveland in the third quarter, but off of the Bills fourth turnover the Browns were able to put another three points on the board with a 33-yard field goal to push their lead to six (16-10).
Again Jackson and Lynch again accounted for all the yardage on a Bills scoring drive pounding out 45 yards as Buffalo got another three points from Lindell to make it a field goal game late in the third (16-13).
But Cleveland promptly answered with a 72-yard touchdown run by Jerome Harrison as a missed tackle at the second level allowed the third-year back to burst through the secondary and put the Browns up 23-13 early in the fourth.
Buffalo however, had an immediate response with Leodis McKelvin taking the ensuing kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown to again make it a field goal game (23-20).
"They made sure I had holes to go through," said McKelvin of his blockers on the kick return unit. "I didn't have to make any moves or even use great speed. They did a great job of making sure they had a hat on those guys. I just hit those creases and went to the house."
The punch-counter punch nature of the game continued as the Browns with the help of a personal foul penalty tacked on another field goal by Dawson from 22 yards out (26-20), but it was still a one score game with better than 11 minutes remaining.
Again the Bills defense stood tall forcing a Cleveland punt stalling the Browns after just seven plays from scrimmage, and Roscoe Parrish provided outstanding field position with a 34-yard return to near midfield.
From there Buffalo's run game dominated as Lynch carried three times for 38 yards including a 28-yard rumble to the Cleveland one-yard line. Edwards got the remaining yard on a sneak to score and tie the game with Rian Lindell's extra point giving Buffalo their first lead of the game (27-26) with 2:25 remaining.
But the ensuing field goal drive by Cleveland was enough for the victory.
The Bills will try to regroup on a short week and end their losing skid when they travel to Kansas City to face the one-win Chiefs.