It looked like it was going to be another black mark in Cleveland sports history. The Browns' starting quarterback got injured, and the Buffalo Bills took a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter on national television.
Good thing they play four quarters.
The Browns defense and special teams basked in the spotlight of prime-time television scoring 14 points and leading the Browns to their third victory of the season. The Browns are now officially one of the biggest surprises in the league.
Here are some takeaways from the Browns' 37-24 victory over the Bills Thursday night.
When quarterback Brian Hoyer went down with a knee injury in the first quarter you could feel the air get sucked out of FirstEnergy Stadium. It didn’t last long, however, as the fans found plenty of air to boo Brandon Weeden.
All Weeden did from that point on was go 13-for-24 for 197 yards and throw a touchdown pass.
I wish fans would cut him some slack. There is such a double standard.
Fans gave Hoyer credit for the Week 3 win where he threw three interceptions but made plays down the stretch to win. This week, Weeden didn’t even throw an interception, and he made huge throws in the second half but still gets no credit. It’s crazy to me.
I’m not saying Weeden played great, but he certainly wasn’t as awful as fans would have you believe.
If Brandon Weeden had time to throw on every down he might be a pretty good quarterback. Unfortunately, in the NFL you don’t have time on every snap.
Too often Weeden held the ball and took a sack instead of making a decision. Throwing the ball away is always better than losing yards for the offense.
It is not a coincidence that the same offensive line that looked improved the last few weeks, seemed to regress the second Weeden entered the game. You must deliver the ball quickly in this league, and that is Weeden’s biggest weakness.
The Cleveland Browns are 3-0 with wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field. That isn’t a fluke either; he’s that good.
Gordon changes the way defenses approach the Browns. While he was serving his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, there was no real deep threat on the field.
As soon as he returned, safeties had to back off the line, cornerbacks had to give more cushion and coordinators had to account for him on every play. He is the very definition of a game-changer.
I am not sure why the Bills kept punting to Travis Benjamin, but he made them pay. He was so good that he dethroned a legend in Cleveland sports.
Benjamin broke the Browns single-game record with 179 punt return yards and a touchdown. The man he passed was Eric Metcalf who had 166 punt return yards and two touchdowns in a famous win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993.
I still wish the Browns would get Benjamin more involved on offense. He is so dangerous and could be another experiment for the Browns’ mad scientist-like offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The Browns defense is among the best in the NFL and has yet to play with a full complement of defensive linemen. That is a scary notion for opponents.
Defensive end Billy Winn did not play against the Bills. Defensive end Desmond Bryant left the game with shortness of breath and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic as a precaution. Neither of those things mattered as they still harassed Bills quarterback EJ Manuel the entire game.
The defensive front is so deep that even seventh-round draft pick Armonty Bryant got a sack. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is working wonders with this group.
Cornerback Buster Skrine had another solid game. No, you know what, he had another good game. There, I said it.
As much as Browns fans don’t want to hear it, Skrine is having a very good season. The former whipping boy of the Browns’ faithful is now making plays and monster hits all over the field.
Skrine had six tackles, two more deflected passes, a sack, a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss. Everyone seems to assume the Browns need to draft another corner next year, but I think they may already have him on the roster.
Last week, running back Willis McGahee was not great, but he was effective enough to make the Cincinnati Bengals respect the Browns run game. This week he was better than effective.
McGahee had 26 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Browns victory. If he is able to carry the ball 22-28 times a game, the Browns will always have a chance to win.
The reason the Browns quarterbacks only threw the ball 28 times was because McGahee controlled the game on the ground. He was able to break a few runs into the secondary and always seemed to pick up the first down when his team needed it.
Once upon a time, Cleveland was a very intimidating place to play football. People would bark and throw dog bones at the opponents, and the sound was so deafening that teams couldn’t hear the quarterback change plays at the line of scrimmage.
That was a long, long time ago.
Finally, the Browns are gaining some of that mystique back, and this win on prime-time television went a long way toward helping the cause.
It isn’t just the revamped intros with pyrotechnics or the scary music played on third downs. It is the attitude of the team and the organization.
It has truly revitalized the fanbase and put a home-field advantage back on the shores of Lake Erie.