REPORT CARD VS. BILLS
PASS OFFENSE: C -- Brady Quinn was well below 50 percent on his completions and had only a 55.9 rating, numbers that are typical of young players in their first few starts. Braylon Edwards continues his maddening habit of jumping for balls he does not need to jump for; that action caused him to drop an early throw from Quinn. But Edwards fought back to play well against tough coverage, and he and Kellen Winslow came up with big catches on the drive that set up the game-winning field goal.
RUSH OFFENSE: B -- The high grade is thanks to Jerome Harrison, who is demanding playing time with his production. Harrison's 72-yard touchdown was followed by another 10-yard run and a 21-yard catch, all products of his speed. His quickness is something that Jamal Lewis clearly lacks. It's time for the Browns to work Harrison into the offense on a more consistent basis.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Browns started strong, with three first-quarter interceptions of Trent Edwards. But once the quarter ended, the secondary and linebackers seemed to spend the night chasing and trying to tackle Buffalo receivers, who turned short throws into long throws. The Browns put on as bad a tackling display as any team can. The only thing that made it tolerable was Phil Dawson's kick.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Browns might have the worst run defense in the league. It consists of Shaun Rogers -- and nothing else. The Bills ran for 186 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Many times, Bills backs blew through the line for 7 or 8 yards before they were touched. The Browns put a lot of time and effort into improving the run defense in the offseason, but it sure has not paid off.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Phil Dawson's clutch and true game-winning field goal was offset by some horrible coverage, with Buffalo's Leonis McKelvin averaging 62 yards on his kickoff returns and bringing one back for a touchdown. Roscoe Parrish also returned a punt 34 yards. Buffalo has good special teams (always has), but the Browns did a poor job.
COACHING: C -- The Browns tried over and over to give the game to the Bills, but Buffalo didn't take it. It would be nice to think an NFL team would put a team away when it is up 13-0, but the Browns didn't. Poor defense -- players or scheme -- let the Bills back in, and Romeo Crennel looked smart when he rolled the dice on a 56-yard field goal because Phil Dawson came through. It wasn't the best of games for the Browns coaching staff, but it wasn't the worst either.
The Browns tried to give a game away against Buffalo, but they didn't quit.
And because Cleveland hung in there, it was able to beat the Bills on Monday night in Buffalo, thanks to a career-long 56-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
The Browns blew leads of 13-0, 23-13 and 26-20, tackled horribly and played some bad football. But when they were down by one point late, Brady Quinn completed just enough passes to get the Browns to the 39-yard-line, and Romeo Crennel had just enough guts to try the long kick.
The win will not get the Browns to the playoffs, but it might represent a step toward ensuring Crennel gets at least one more season in Cleveland. The Browns seemed dangerously close to splintering following Jamal Lewis' comments that some of his teammates quit against Denver.
A team that is splintering does not stick together for that kind of win on the road.
A team that doesn't believe in its coach does not fight through to win that kind of game.
Crennel's future will be determined as the year goes on, but if the Browns players continue to fight as they did in Buffalo, they may ensure Crennel returns in 2009.
--PK Phil Dawson left no doubt with his 56-yard game-winner. The kick was down the middle, and it cleared the crossbar by plenty.
That boot continued a Pro Bowl season for Dawson. He's gone 22-for-24, with both of his misses coming from longer than 50 yards.
"You can't say enough about Phil Dawson and what he's meant to this team," coach Romeo Crennel said.
--QB Brady Quinn was challenged a lot more by an attacking defense than he was against Denver. Buffalo blitzed often and was very successful right up the middle.
As a result, Quinn did not have a high completion percentage -- 14-for-36 -- and he narrowly avoided two interceptions that went through the hands of diving Bills defensive backs.
But on the final drive, Quinn was able to complete passes to WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow to set up the game-winning kick.
--TE Kellen Winslow injured his right shoulder when tackled on the last offensive play of the Browns' win. Winslow landed hard on the shoulder, and he will need an MRI. His status will be updated Wednesday.
--RB Jerome Harrison continues to force his way on the field. His 72-yard touchdown run was an example of quickness delivering. Harrison hit the hole as no Browns back has all season. The Browns need to get his speed on the field, but Harrison could be slowed this week by a pulled hamstring.
--WR Braylon Edwards did not let an early drop at the 5-yard line stop him from having a good game (eight catches, 104 yards). It's pretty simple with the Browns offense: When Edwards produces, the offense produces.
--RB Jamal Lewis looked to be running at a different speed than Jerome Harrison -- a slower speed. Lewis again averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry, and it's worth wondering if he's not seeing the holes as well or if he perhaps has lost a step, the dreaded fear for running backs.
--CB Brandon McDonald recovered from two bad games in a row to play well against Buffalo -- and intercept a pass. McDonald did not start, but he played the entire game after missing the first play. It was a quirky way to make a change.