ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – There's something about the Buffalo Bills that brings out the best – and, in some cases, the worst – in the Browns.
The Browns edged the Bills 6-3 on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Billy Cundiff's 18-yard field goal with 23 seconds left, ending a 10-game losing streak dating back to last season. Their last win came Nov. 17, 29-27 at Buffalo on Monday Night Football on Phil Dawson's career-long 56-yarder with 1:39 remaining.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini wasn't part of last year's triumph, or an 8-0 victory over the Bills at Cleveland in 2007 -- he was still guiding the New York Jets – but he still felt great relief with the team finally breaking into the win column.
"This is great. This is great," Mangini said. "It is fantastic. I couldn't be happier."
Coming from a guy who cracks a smile about as often as Buffalo gets through a winter without a blizzard, that's saying a lot.
But what Mangini wasn't smiling about – and what no one on the Browns was smiling about – was the team's passing attack.
Or, as it were, a lack thereof.
Quarterback Derek Anderson had his worst day as a pro – and one of the worst days in Browns history and recent NFL history – by connecting on just 2-of-17 passes for 23 yards. No, that's not a typo. He was 2-of-17 for 23 yards – and an interception, we should add. His quarterback rating was only 15.1.
Rookie wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi, who had a breakout game in last Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals with eight catches for 148 yards, had one reception on a 16-yarder, while tight Steve Heiden had the other grab with a seven-yarder.
To say it was a complete embarrassment would be a compliment.
No NFL team has won a game with just two pass completions since the Bengals, behind a 278-yard rushing day by Corey Dillon, defeated the Denver Broncos 31-212 on Oct. 22, 2000.
In addition, the 23 passing yards represent the second-fewest ever for the Browns. Only the 15 yards gained in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions in a huge snow on Dec. 19, 1954 at Cleveland. The Browns returned to Cleveland Stadium a week later and trounced the Lions 56-10 in the NFL Championship Game.
The current Browns can only wish that correcting this problem will be as quick and easy.
"I didn't do a lot out there today, just those two completions and a ding-dong (interception)," said Anderson, who was making his second straight start after taking over for Brady Quinn. "I really appreciate the way the running game (with 171 yards, the most since the 174 gained in that 2007 game against the Bills) bailed me out."
But before you pile onto Anderson and scream for the Browns to go back to Quinn, be aware that nine of his 15 incompletions could have been – and should have been – caught. The Browns had a case of the dropsies like maybe no other game in their history. They couldn't catch anything, except for grief from exasperated head coach Eric Mangini.
The most glaring of the drops came on a long pass down the seam that hit tight end Robert Royal squarely in his hands. He was so wide open that he might still be running if he would have caught it. He'd be in Ontario by now, somewhere on the Queen Elizabeth Way between Toronto and Hamilton.
"We can't make mistakes when the ball is thrown to us," wide receiver Joshua Cribbs said. "We've got to catch it."
At least part of the time, anyway.
"I don't know if the passes were behind the receivers, or if they failed to look the ball in until they had it tucked away," Mangini said.
But the Browns had better figure it out soon, for they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers on Sunday.
FLEETING FAME: Moments after his teammates were hugging him for kicking the game-winning field goal, Cundiff just about got strangled by Mangini when he booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Bills second life with the ball at their 40. "When that happened, I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?' "Mangini said. Pretty close. Actually, he said to Cundiff, "Are you (choice word) kidding me?" Said Cundiff, "He should have yelled at me. I was so focused on the field goal that when I made it, I got too excited and didn't concentrate on the kickoff."
WORSE LATE THAN NEVER: Browns defensive lineman Corey Williams was assessed an iffy roughing-the-quarterback penalty against Trent Edwards in the end zone in the fourth quarter, giving the Bills a first down at the Buffalo 21 when they should have been punting from the 6. "The ref told me I drove him into the ground and then fell on him," Williams explained. "I said to him, ‘Where else am I supposed to land?"
FASHION REPORT: The Browns won for the first time in six tries in their brown pants dating back to when they were first unveiled in the 2007 preseason.