Browns-Bills: Report Card

The grades are in, and they sort are in a sort of inverse alphabetical order...

The Browns ended a 10-game losing streak with one of the ugliest wins in recent NFL history in Buffalo.

The 6-3 win over the Bills came despite the fact the Browns dropped eight of Derek Anderson's passes. Anderson finished the game with two completions in 17 attempts and 23 yards passing.

The Browns had the ball 13 times and could not score a touchdown. The game-winning field goal came courtesy of a botched punt return.

The last game the Browns won was in Buffalo late last season. That was a game in which Brady Quinn broke his finger.

This season the Browns went with Anderson and without Braylon Edwards, who was traded during the week. The receivers responded by not catching nine catchable Anderson passes.

The sting of playing poorly, though, was offset by the salve of winning.

"It's great," coach Eric Mangini said. "It's great. It's just fantastic."

Never has a listless, lifeless, lethargic effort meant more than Sunday in Buffalo.


--RB Jamal Lewis returned after missing two games with a strained hamstring and wound up with the bulk of the carries for the Browns. Lewis had a spring in his step, and looked very good, gaining 117 yards on 31 carries.

With the wind blowing and Buffalo's defense suffering -- the Bills lost two linebackers to knee injuries during the game -- the Browns concentrated on the running game. Lewis looked better than he has in a couple years -- hurdling players and running hard.

"He's got those fresh legs," Eric Mangini said with a smile. "He had a lot of juice."

The Browns are 12-3 when Lewis has 20 or more carries.

--WR Mohammed Massaquoi followed his breakout game last week with a breakup game. Massaquoi dropped two passes, and caught only one of six thrown his way, looking very much the part of a rookie wide receiver.

His problems were emblematic of the passing game, which struggled in windy conditions in Buffalo. The Browns dropped nine passes, and Massaquoi looked like a different player than the one that dominated Cincinnati. It could have been because of the wind, or it could have been because more was expected of Massaquoi given the trade of Edwards.

"To get a ball that's catchable," coach Eric Mangini said. "We've got to be able to convert on those."


--RB Jerome Harrison saw his carries decrease with the return of Jamal Lewis. Harrison ran 29 times against Cincinnati, but with Lewis getting the bulk of the carries Harrison got just eight carries against the Bills.

--QB Derek Anderson had dismal stats -- 2-for-17 passing for 23 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. But those numbers should be offset by the fact that the Browns dropped eight or nine passes, depending on the count. Anderson's 15.1 rating is more a reflection on his receivers than him.

--P Dave Zastudil had an unbelievable game, with seven punts downed inside the 20 and three downed inside the 5. Zastudil's punting on a very difficult day to kick made the difference in the game. It's rare that a punter wins a game, but in this case Zastudil did.

--WR Josh Cribbs showed how valuable he can be when used in the right way. Cribbs took an inside handoff off motion and scampered 31 yards down the left sideline for the Browns longest run of the day. Cribbs is most dangerous when the element of surprise is in his favor.

--PK Billy Cundiff has done a yeoman's job filling in for Phil Dawson. Cundiff scored all the Browns points in Buffalo, and kicked the game-winning field goal with 23 seconds left.


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- The poor grade is directly related to the Browns' wide receivers repeated drops. The Browns did not throw a lot in windy conditions, but when they did, Derek Anderson was fairly consistent putting the ball on the mark. Despite that, receivers dropped nine of his passes (or eight depending on who's counting). That's way too high a figure for any team, much less one with young and inexperienced wideouts. Anderson's throws weren't perfect, but they were not going to be perfect in the wind. The receivers simply have to do a better job catching the ball to help the quarterback.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Jamal Lewis returned and ran for well and hard, gaining 117 yards. It marked the first time since December of 2007 that the Browns had 100-yard rushers in consecutive games (Jerome Harrison had 100 against Cincinnati). With Braylon Edwards gone, the Browns' game plan was to run the ball, then run it more. Lewis looked like the Lewis of two years ago -- hurdling over and driving through Bills defenders. As a team, the Browns gained a season-high 171 yards rushing, an impressive total for a struggling team.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Hard to say if the Browns were that good or the Bills were that bad. But Trent Edwards really struggled against the Browns defense, throwing 31 passes and gaining 152 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Bills have talented receivers in Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, and Owens caught everything that was within his reach. But the Bills were never able to sustain any kind of consistency. It almost as if they failed more than the Browns succeeded.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The good news is the Bills ran for less than the Browns defense was giving up. The bad news is the Bills ran for 145 yards. That's not good, and the only reason the Browns were able to stop the Bills was that every time Buffalo got close to getting anything going the Bills would commit a foolish penalty. The run defense was better in spots, but not consistently good enough to call it a good game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Dave Zastudil's punting won the game for the Browns. Time and again, Zastudil pinned the Bills deep in their territory after a stalled Browns drive. Three times, his punts were downed inside the 5. Seven times inside the 20. That's a pretty amazing day for a punter, and it's one of the main reasons the Browns won the game.

COACHING: C -- The Browns played hard if not well. That means something for an 0-4 team. The game plan to run the ball proved largely successful, though at times it seemed the play-calling was mundane and predictable -- the Browns did not pass on first or second down for the entire first quarter. Punting and a botched punt return by Buffalo won this game for the Browns. If that's good coaching, Eric Mangini will take it -- he seemed nearly giddy after finally winning his first game as the Browns coach.

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