Hope was restored. Or so it seemed.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Browns leading the Bills 16-13, running back Jerome Harrison took a handoff, slipped off a desperate tackle attempt by Keith Ellison and bolted 72 yards for a touchdown.
The score which put Cleveland up 10 (23-13) seemed to put the game out of reach, with the offensive inefficiency of both teams highlighting the night.
Then, Bills rookie cornerback Leodis McKelvin kept the Bills' hopes alive by returning the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for an electrifying and much-needed touchdown.
"I've been waiting for that chance since week one. Those guys have been working hard. …That's my job and that's what I'm supposed to do," McKelvin said. "That's why they brought me in here."
McKelvin's return, the first by a Bills rookie since Eric Moulds' 1996 return touchdown against the New York Jets, ignited a Buffalo crowd that was looking for anything to cheer about after seeing the wind sucked out of their team seconds earlier by Harrison's scoring run.
While McKelvin said he was pleased with his 98-yard scamper, he certainly wasn't satisfied with the end result.
"It would have been so sweet if we would have won the game," he said. "I'm happy I scored but I'm not happy we didn't win."
The Bills' special teams also held Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs firmly in check as the league's third-ranked kick returner was held 6.4 yards below his season average.
Even on punt coverage, the Bills limited Cribbs to two fair catches and a downed punt, as they aimed their kicks away from him.
Meanwhile, Buffalo's punt return team gave the Bills chances to score. Roscoe Parrish's 34-yard punt return to the Cleveland 48-yard-line with 5:13 remaining put the Bills in position to take their first lead of the game with a quarterback sneak up the middle that put the team ahead, 27-26.
But the Browns needed to gain just 28 yards to set up the longest field goal of Phil Dawson's career.
With one final chance and 1:39 remaining on the clock, McKelvin faced the fans in his own end zone and waved his arms back and forth to get the crowd on its feet.
Not wanting to risk another deep return, Cleveland squibbed a kickoff to Fred Jackson, who ran 19 yards to the Buffalo 44-yard-line.
After a 22-yard pass to Robert Royal, the Bills ran up the middle on three straight plays, content to put the game in Lindell's hands.
The Bills' special teams, which had almost single-handedly kept the team in the game, would now be called upon to win it. In light of Lindell's past successes it was assumed his kick would be a fitting exclamation point to a night rescued by special teams.
Lindell said Ryan Neill's snap was good. Brian Moorman's hold was dead on. But his kick sailed eerily wide right, from 47 yards out.
"That's my job," Lindell said. "I've just got to make that. It's ridiculous."