Bills vs. Browns: Cleveland Can't Find a Way to Win, Falls to 0-3

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2012

Three winnable games result in three Browns losses.
Three winnable games result in three Browns losses.Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

With a difficult three-game stretch approaching for the Cleveland Browns, it was imperative that they snag their first victory of the year this week over the visiting Buffalo Bills.

Instead, Cleveland (0-3) fell to the Bills 24-14 and will have a short week before heading to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

In yet another game that presented opportunities for a Cleveland victory, the Browns again failed to seize them.

Cleveland went three-and-out in their first three possessions while giving up a Bills touchdown on their opening drive, a nine-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to T.J. Graham. Cleveland then allowed another Buffalo score on its second possession, a 32-yard catch and run by C.J. Spiller.

Though Cleveland was down 14-0 by the end of the first quarter, Spiller left the game with a shoulder injury, which opened up the game to Cleveland, if the Browns could just take advantage.

For three straight weeks, we've now seen the Browns repeatedly have chances to grab or retain a lead and exit the game with a win. However, for one reason or another, this hasn't come to pass.

A full offensive failure in Week 1 in a game the Philadelphia Eagles all but handed to Cleveland was followed up by a physical whipping at the hands of the Bengals in Week 2, a game which the Browns still could have won had they prevented a long Andrew Hawkins touchdown and an Adam Jones punt-return score.

And this week? The Browns offense in particular just couldn't get in sync when it mattered most.

Say it with me now: dropped passes, penalties and turnovers—these things yet again stymied the Browns.

Until the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden didn't look too overwhelmed, despite a great deal of pressure coming at him from the Bills' front seven. This pressure did result in poorly timed passes, but straight-up drops by Cleveland receivers (including, yes, Greg Little), didn't help his or the Browns' bottom line.

Despite just seven first-half first downs, and being down 14-7, the Browns did mount a semblance of a comeback in the third quarter. Weeden managed to connect with Travis Benjamin for a 22-yard touchdown to bring the game within three points.

Cleveland's defense nearly held up its end of the bargain. The reshuffled secondary was the team's tackling leaders, but there was just one sack of Fitzpatrick on the day. The 138 rushing yards they gave up didn't hurt them as much as they could have.

But it wasn't a lights-out performance by any means, and with the offense unable to get things going with any consistency, the ultimate result was yet another loss.

The Browns just seem unsure of how to win a game.

Weeden's pendulum swung back toward his favor this week, as he went 27 of 43 for 237 yards and a touchdown. He did have two interceptions. Cleveland had just 33 rushing yards on the day on 13 attempts (12 of those rushes going to Trent Richardson for a mere 27 yards, though one of his carries was a six-yard touchdown).

Weeden targeted nine different receivers and showed improvement in going through his progressions and mixing up his passes. But drops by his receivers helped negate most of the good Weeden contributed.

Aside from the run game, however, the Browns offense had a comparable day to that of the Bills (206 pass yards, 138 rush yards). But Cleveland failed to show much speed, physicality or urgency on either side of the ball—three things that could have easily resulted in the Browns winning this game.

With just four wins in 19 regular season games, and a number of fourth-quarter meltdowns akin to the one we saw this Sunday, the Browns seem to find new and more upsetting ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

Though it's a stretch to say that the Browns should presently be 3-0, the number of chances they've had to take and maintain leads so far this season doesn't come around very often. The Browns need to find a way to capitalize on these breaks and not wilt under the spotlight.

It's one thing to lose games—it's another to give them away. The Browns have yet to be truly outplayed yet this year, but, regardless, they've started the season 0-3.

Cleveland needs to learn how to win. This sounds like a cliche, but it's the most simple and honest way to explain the Browns' three-game losing streak.

The season is beginning to slip away from them.