Had Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller not been injured early, one shudders to think how bad the outcome of this game could have been. Instead, the Cleveland Browns were able to fight back from a 14-0 deficit, only to stall out and fall to the Buffalo Bills, 24-14.
It was a particularly tough day for the Browns’ defense, gashed on Buffalo’s early drives and on a crucial ten-play drive early in the fourth quarter. Even when Spiller went out with a shoulder injury, third-string running back Tashard Choice was able to accumulate 20 rushes for 91 yards.
The secondary also continues to look lost without cornerback Joe Haden. While Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t exactly move the offense at will, he was lethal in the red zone. He would end up tallying three touchdown passes on the day.
It wasn’t exactly a great day for the Browns’ offense, either. Running back Trent Richardson finished the day with only 12 carries for 27 yards, though he did put together an impressive touchdown run. Quarterback Brandon Weeden continues to have his ups and downs, completing 27 of 43 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
It should be noted, though, that Weeden was victimized by a number of drops by his receivers. This is certainly a young group, but Weeden made plenty of strong throws that were simply not caught. These are plays that would have extended drives or been catches for big gains, and to watch them bounce off receivers’ hands is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this game.
This is what you get with a team as young as the Browns. Inconsistent performances are to be expected, but it is still a tremendously frustrating product to watch for the fans. It does not mean the Browns aren’t talented, because they are. Things aren’t hopeless in Cleveland, but the team is 0-3 and faces an extremely difficult schedule coming up, going on the road against both the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.
The Browns do not always play like a winless team, but that’s exactly what they are right now. Sunday’s game against Buffalo had a must-win feel to it, and the Browns were unable to deliver. As was the case with the other two games of this season, the Browns were in it until the end, making just enough mistakes to let a golden opportunity slip away.
Now, the Browns are left wondering when they will actually win a game this season. It’s unfortunate, because this doesn’t feel like the worst team in the league, just the rawest. The Browns’ time will come, but one wonders if there will be any patience on the part of incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III to let that happen.