As it goes so many times in the NFL, the final game of week 11 came down to one kick. One kick that was successful for Cleveland, and one that wasn’t for the Buffalo Bills. And with that, the slim playoff hopes of the Browns remained with a 29-27 victory that puts them at 4-6, dropping the Bills to 5-5.
The game came down to a pair of kicks in the end. Browns kicker Phil Dawson nailed a career-high 56-yard boot that put the Browns up by two with 1:39 left. The Bills took the kickoff and marched down to the Cleveland 29 with a pass play from Trent Edwards to Robert Royal for 22 yards, then three runs gaining five yards total for Marshawn Lynch. Rian Lindell, who is usually money in tight squeezes, pushed a 47-yard field goal wide right with 38 seconds left that could have put the Bills up 30-29.
Two kneel downs later, and Brady Quinn and the Browns saved themselves from history. If Cleveland would have lost the game, it would have set a record for the third straight loss for a team that at one-point in the game led by at least 13. The Browns led 13-0 at the 9:52 mark of the second quarter, only to have the Bills make it a three-point game at the half at 13-10.
Cleveland pushed the lead to 16-10 on a Dawson field goal, only to have Lindell kick a 31-yarder to make it 16-13 entering the fourth quarter. The crazy final quarter saw Jermoe Harrison of the Browns take the first carry of the quarter and knife through the Bills D for a 72-yard score to make it 23-13.
Not to be outdone, the Bills answered on the next play, as Leodis McKelvin took the kickoff for Buffalo and went through the Browns special teams for a score with a 98-yard return to make it 23-20 with 14:33 left. Cleveland made it 26-20 on another Dawson field goal with 11:32 left, but the Bills would not go away easy.
After a couple of possessions back and forth, the Bills took their first lead of the night, as Edwards finished off a drive after a 28-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that put the ball at the one to give Buffalo a 27-26 lead. The game-winning drive was done nicely by Quinn and the Cleveland offense. Quinn hit Braylon Edwards for 12 yards, then Kellen Winslow for 16 two plays later to put the ball at the Buffalo 39. Three incomplete passes later Dawson nailed the field goal for the win.
Quinn was 14-for-36 for 185 yards. Edwards threw three bad interceptions early to give Cleveland an early 6-0 lead. He ended the night going 16-for-26 for 148 yards with one TD and three picks. Lynch ran the ball for 119 yards on 23 carries, and caught 10 balls for 58 yards and a score. Edwards had 8 grabs for Cleveland for 104 yards.
In the end, the early turnovers set a tone for the Bills that they could not overcome. By giving Cleveland early life with two early field goals, they allowed the Browns to lead most of the life and stick around, and gave them enough to pull it out in the end with Dawson’s career-best kick. Now at 5-5, the thoughts of the playoffs are a thing of the past for the Bills, who at one point were 4-1.
Cleveland will be at home Sunday on a short week for the Houston Texans at 1pm. The Bills will be on the road at Kansas City to play the Chiefs at 1pm Sunday.