The Cleveland Browns were not ready for what the Buffalo Bills had in store for them this afternoon, and Pat Shurmur’s crew was quickly down 14-0 before the first quarter ended.
It was a hole they couldn’t dig all of the way out of, and the Browns fell to 0-3 with a 24-14 loss at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Cleveland did have chances, but they fell back into their old habits, their usual way of defeat. That is they couldn’t run the ball, and the couldn’t stop the run.
The Browns caught a break when the NFL’s leading rusher, C. J. Spiller had to leave the game in the first quarter with a possible separated shoulder. Spiller had already taken a screen pass 32 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 14-0 lead with the contest not quite 10 minutes old.
But Tashard Choice, the Bills third string running back, ran for 91 yards on 20 carries, as the visitors ran for more than 100 more than the home team’s total.
Trent Richardson gained just 27 yards for the game on 12 carries.
However, Buffalo came into the game with the intention of taking the rookie from Alabama away from Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress. At least the Browns can now say they have someone the defense has to respect.
That opened up the passing game for Brandon Weeden, and until the last two possessions of the game, he took advantage of it.
After his 22-yard touchdown pass to yet another rookie, WR Travis Benjamin late in the third quarter, Cleveland was very much in this game, trailing by only three at 17-14.
That was as close as they would come.
The Browns forced a three and out on the next Bills’ possession, but the offense couldn’t capitalize after picking up one first down, and gave Buffalo the ball back, and on the first play Choice slashed through the defense for 22 yards.
The defense had one more opportunity to hold the visitors to a field goal, but gave up an 11 yard gain on a bubble screen on third and nine. The Bills scored two plays later and the game was basically over.
After that, Cleveland made mistake after mistake with Weeden throwing two interceptions and a key holding penalty on C Alex Mack ending drives.
Another problem was wide receivers dropping passes. Greg Little dropped one near the end of the first half with at least 15 yards of real estate in front of him. It could have put Cleveland in a position to get a field goal heading into the locker room, closing the gap to 14-10.
And Benjamin dropped one on a 3rd and 19 with a lot of room in front of him in the third quarter.
Weeden finished hitting on 27 of 43 throws for 237 yards, with the TD toss and two interceptions. His longest completion was a bubble screen to Josh Cribbs for 24 yards, a play that wasn’t used again.
Say what you will about Cribbs, and his shortcomings at wide receiver, but when he’s on the field, he makes plays offensively.
Weeden’s only other completion over 20 yards was the touchdown pass. Other than that, he became a dink and dunk passer, taking what the Bills gave him. This is typical of the Shurmur offense.
Remember that Shurmur’s attack doesn’t score many points.
In his two years as St. Louis’ offensive coordinator, the Rams scored more than 20 points just four times. Last year, running the Browns’ attack, Cleveland scored over that mark just once.
After last week, that means the Shurmur offense has scored more than 20 points just six times in 51 games. That won’t win you too many contests in today’s NFL.
Until his young team can put up at least 21 points on a weekly basis, the Browns aren’t going to be successful.
The Browns have a short week with a divisional game against the Ravens on Thursday night, staring 0-4 right in the face.
When teams don’t win occasionally they forget how to win. That’s something the Browns have to overcome. They don’t do the little things that translate into wins. New owner to be, Jimmy Haslam can’t be impressed by what he sees.