The Browns battled the elements as much as the Bills Sunday, and because they prevailed against both, they now control their playoff fate.
A win Sunday in Cincinnati gives the Browns a playoff spot. That comes thanks to an 8-0 victory over Buffalo in blizzard-like conditions that would have made penguins hide.
But because the Browns have been resilient and won four of their last five games, more than a wild-card spot is at stake.
Cleveland now is tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. Because the Steelers beat the Browns twice, the Steelers have the tiebreaker.
That means Pittsburgh must lose once to either St. Louis or Baltimore and Cleveland has to beat both Cincinnati and San Francisco to end the season.
It may be a longshot, but this season started as a longshot, and the Browns have transformed themselves from opening-game stumblebums to a legitimate playoff contender.
Coach Romeo Crennel, though, wants nothing to do with playoff talk around his team.
"The season is not over," he said. "As soon as you start to feel like it is over, then you'll get beat. We want to win these next two games. We're going to focus on these next two and try to finish strong."
--RB Jamal Lewis has shown up biggest when the Browns have needed him most.
Lewis rambled through the snow and wind for 163 punishing yards in the Browns win over Buffalo. In his last four games, he has had three 100-yard games and averaged 119.3 yards per game (he's run for 163, 118, 62 and 134 yards).
In a division like the AFC North, teams have to run the ball to win.
The Browns have not run the ball this late in the season with this much effectiveness since their return in 1999.
--PK Phil Dawson defied all odds with his two field goals against Buffalo. A blizzard had wind blowing every which way in Cleveland Stadium, yet Dawson did not flinch.
He first made a 35-yarder into the wind by aiming 10 feet outside the right upright.
Then he made a 49-yard kick into the wind by aiming so far left he felt he was lined up wrong. The wind brought the ball in, like a slice in golf.
Field goals are usually not remarkable in themselves, but the 49-yarder was as remarkable a play as the Browns have had all season.
--QB Derek Anderson seemed unfazed by the snow and wind Sunday, wearing short sleeves and yelling with excitement as he took the field. "You can't stress out about it," he said.
--WR Braylon Edwards had four big catches in tough conditions for 64 yards. Edwards said he shortened his steps on his routes to enable himself to cope with the conditions.
--RB Jason Wright described conditions at Cleveland Stadium this way: "That was the shock of my life."
--LB Andra Davis had the best game of his season and maybe his career, roaming free to make six unassisted tackles. Davis benefited from the snow slowing Bills linemen; they simply could not get out to block him.
--TE Kellen Winslow needs 29 yards receiving to get 1,000 for the season. He would join Braylon Edwards in the 1,000-yard club.
REPORT CARD VS. BILLS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The Browns threw for 137 yards in conditions that made it next to impossible to throw. Somehow Derek Anderson completed nine passes in blinding, swirling wind and snow. The fact that the Browns did anything at all in the passing game was a marvel. But the statement the Browns made in the passing game was significant: On the game's first play, they tried a bomb down the sideline. The message: We're here to play.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Can it go higher? The Browns were outstanding in the most important element of a snow game -- pounding the ball. Jamal Lewis had 163 yards, 69 in the fourth quarter when the Browns knew they would run and the Bills knew they would run. Buffalo could not stop Lewis, as the Browns offensive line did much to give him room. An outstanding effort.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Browns' best pass defender was the wind, which whipped Trent Edwards' throws all over the place. Edwards was able to lead the Bills on a late drive, but it was last gasp and the Browns defense stopped the Bills on fourth down. Buffalo threw for 124 yards, but judging a pass offense in those conditions was next to impossible.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Marshawn Lynch broke a couple runs, but the Browns held him to 3.9 yards per carry. This game could have been a big one for Lynch, a slasher whose speed might have given him an edge in the snow. But the Browns limited his ability to get outside, and finally -- with the help of the snow -- held a back under 100 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Phil Dawson's two field goals into whipping, violent winds were a marvel of modern football. His 49-yarder ranks as one of the biggest kicks in recent Browns history. The ball moved at least 15 yards left to right, as Dawson planned. Dave Zastudil also had a big game punting, with one ball that died at the 1 and another that went 56 yards. An exceptional effort.
COACHING: A -- The conditions could have equalized things with the Bills. The Browns started the game as the better team, but the snow and weather could have been the equalizer. The Browns paid no attention to the elements and went out and played their game. That does not happen by accident. A team that does not respect its coaches does not play that hard in miserable weather.