CLEVELAND -- For the first time in 12 years, the Cleveland Browns are above .500 after five games.
All it took to get there was a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night in a game that turned into a duel of backup quarterbacks.
Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was knocked out of the game with a right knee injury on the second series of the first quarter, and Bills starter EJ Manuel exited after hurting his right knee in the third quarter.
The injuries left 2012 first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden in charge for the Browns (3-2) and undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel piloting the Bills (2-3).
A Tuel pass intended for Robert Woods was intercepted by safety T.J. Ward and returned 44 yards with 1:44 left to ice the game.
"It was just a misread on my part," Tuel said. "I didn't see the safety flying down. Just a screw-up on my part."
Neither starting quarterback returned to action. Both were diagnosed with sprains, though the NFL Network reported the Browns fear Hoyer tore knee ligaments. Hoyer will undergo an MRI exam Friday, while Manuel will be re-evaluated.
Weeden completed 13 of 24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception but was sacked five times. He said it was the most satisfying win of his career.
"I said (in the huddle), 'Let's do this, let's go win a football game,'" Weeden said. "I saw Brian. It happened right in front of me. This football team was relying on me whether or not I played the last two weeks. The guys around me played really well tonight."
The game went back and forth until Billy Cundiff broke a 24-24 tie on a 24-yard field goal with 12:31 to play. On the drive, the Browns failed to cross the goal line after having first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line.
Cundiff kicked a 44-yarder with 2:19 to go, increasing Cleveland's lead to 30-24 ahead of Woods' clinching score.
Hoyer was 2-for-4 for 25 yards before leaving.
Manuel threw for 129 yards on 11-of-20 passing. Tuel finished 8-for-20 for 80 yards with the one interception.
The Bills, who squandered an early 10-0 lead and fell behind 17-10 in the second quarter, began the third quarter determined to regain control.
For four games, run defense was a strength for the Browns, but on Buffalo's first possession of the third quarter, C.J. Spiller sped around left end and sprinted 54 yards to the end zone. The extra point by Dan Carpenter tied the game 17-17. Until the dash by Spiller, the longest running play allowed by the Browns this season was 14 yards.
The Bills went ahead 24-17 on a 1-yard run by Fred Jackson. The Browns fought back again and tied the game on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Josh Gordon, who finished with four catches for 86 yards. Gordon juggled the ball but gathered control before running out of the end zone
The Bills took advantage of early mistakes by the Browns to jump to a 10-point lead before the game was 10 minutes old.
Gordon dropped a pass from Hoyer on the second play of the game, and after the Browns were forced to punt from their 10-yard line, the Bills crossed them up with a flea-flicker.
The play ended with Browns cornerback Joe Haden interfering with Bills receiver Stevie Johnson at the 1. Jackson (17 carries, 53 yards) ran for a touchdown on the next play.
"That's what we have to do," Jackson said. "We have to make this offense go through us."
Things went from bad to worse for the Browns. Hoyer was knocked out of the game with a knee injury on Cleveland's second possession. Weeden took over and showed signs of rust early after a two-week absence caused by a sprained thumb.
Dan Carpenter made it 10-0 on 52-yard field goal, capping a 13-play, 56-yard drive. The key play was a 20-yard pass from Manuel to tight end Scott Chandler.
The Browns clawed back to take a lead with 17 points in the second quarter. Cundiff got things going with a 30-yard field goal, and then McGahee tied the game by squirming into the end zone from the 1 with 3:52 left in the half.
Travis Benjamin scored on a slashing 79-yard punt return with 2:20 left in the half to break the tie.
"He's the fastest man alive," Browns tight end Jordan Cameron said.
McGahee ran 26 times for 72 yards, both game-high totals.
NOTES: Johnson was knocked out of the game in the first half due to a back injury. ... With Cleveland OLB Jabaal Sheard nursing a knee injury, rookie Barkevious Mingo made his second consecutive start. ... Shawn Lauvao started at right guard for the Browns after he missed the first four games with a knee injury. ... Da'Norris Searcy started at free safety for the Bills in place of Jairus Byrd (foot). ... The Browns' inactive list consisted of Sheard, QB Jason Campbell, OLB Quentin Groves, C Patrick Lewis, T Martin Wallace, RB Fozzy Whittaker and DE Billy Winn. ... The Bills' inactive players were Byrd, CB Ron Brooks, CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Chris Gragg, K Dustin Hopkins and T Sam Young
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: October 4, 2013 01:19:06 AM
Browns bump off Bills in backup QB battle
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