AFC North: MNF11 Browns

No quit in these Browns

November, 18, 2008
 AP Photo/David Duprey
 Phil Dawson capped a five field-goal outing by hitting a career-long 56-yarder with 1:39 remaining to secure the Browns' 29-27 win over the reeling Bills.

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Cleveland Browns were not quitters on Monday night, which is how at least two players in their locker room described the team last week.

On Monday night, the Browns showed poise, something they've lacked all season.

On Monday night, Cleveland surprised everyone by playing hard when there wasn't much left to play hard for.

In the process, the Browns proved they still have fight left in them, upsetting the Buffalo Bills, 29-27, at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"They didn't quit," said coach Romeo Crennel, who emphasized a word that's been replayed over and over in Cleveland the past week. "They kept going."

Crennel and the Browns looked relieved. Following a week that included internal strife and talk of the head coach being on the hot seat, there were more smiles in Cleveland's locker room following the game than there have been around the team over the past 11 days.

That's also how long it took the Browns to erase the nasty taste of blowing a 13-point lead to the Denver Broncos on Nov. 6. It marked the second straight game Cleveland (4-6) blew a lead of at least 13 points in the second half, all but ending its hopes of making the postseason.

The Browns nearly blew it for a third straight game, but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell sailed wide right with 38 seconds left. Video
 Highlights of the Browns' victory over the Bills.

"I thought it was time for us to finally get a break," Browns receiver Braylon Edwards said.

Here is what else we learned about the Browns in the victory:

Cleveland could be a dangerous spoiler -- if focused: The Browns improved to 2-0 on "Monday Night Football" after beating a pair of good teams in the Giants (9-1) and Bills (5-5). Cleveland remains the only team to beat the Giants and did so convincingly in a 35-14 thrashing in Week 6.

This proves that the Browns can be a dangerous team on any given week. Although Cleveland often lacks maturity and the focus to finish, it seems to have those qualities during its biggest games.

The foremost goal of the Browns and the coaching staff should be to make sure they keep the same level of focus and intensity every week. Cleveland has six games remaining on its schedule, and four are against teams still in the playoff hunt.

"I hope this is a sign," Crennel said. "So far, our M.O. this year has been you win a tough one and the next week it doesn't go as well. The focus needs to be to try to put as much effort into next week as we did into this week."

Quinn is a gamer: Brady Quinn was great in his first start (against Denver) and lost. Against Buffalo, he was smacked in the mouth and struggled, yet made enough plays to win the game down the stretch.

The Broncos sat back and let Quinn pick them apart. The Bills took the opposite approach, showing Quinn numerous blitzes and pressure packages in his second career start.

The results weren't pretty. Quinn took a lot of hits and finished 14 of 36 for 185 yards with a lowly 55.9 passer rating. However, he remained composed on the road and made two of his biggest completions in the final two minutes for 12 and 16 yards, putting the Browns in position for Phil Dawson's winning 56-yard field goal.

Most importantly, Quinn didn't have a turnover for the second straight game.

"The biggest thing in this league is taking care of the football, and that's what I pride myself on," Quinn said. "If you limit the amount of turnovers, you don't allow the other team to get momentum."

Before the two-minute drill that led to the winning drive, Crennel went up to his second-year quarterback and gave him a brief pep talk.

"I said it was the same situation last week. We needed a score -- we needed at least a field goal," Crennel said. "I think he knows that the quarterbacks that are going to be good in this league, they have to be able to move the team and produce in that situation."

Quinn and the Browns came through when they needed it most against Buffalo.

Now Cleveland has to prove this clutch performance wasn't just a one-game anomaly.

Rapid Reaction: Browns 29, Bills 27

November, 18, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Cleveland Browns held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive game.

This time the Browns held on -- barely.

In what could be a sign that Cleveland will not pack it in for the remainder of the season, Browns kicker Phil Dawson made a career-best 56-yard field goal late to seal a 29-27 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The game marked the first career victory for quarterback Brady Quinn, who led the Browns down the field in the final two minutes for the victory.

Cleveland (4-6) is far behind in the playoff race and likely doesn't have much to play for the rest of the season. But it still could be a dangerous team to play down the stretch.

The Browns outplayed the Bills (5-5), who are in the playoff hunt, for most of the game. Despite another shaky fourth quarter, Cleveland also showed poise in key moments for the first time in a while.

Big plays galore for Browns, Bills

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bring out the fireworks!

After a defensive battle through three quarters, the final period opened with back-to-back touchdowns on consecutive plays.

The Cleveland Browns scored on Jerome Harrison's 72-yard run to give the Browns a 23-13 lead early in the fourth. But on the next play, Bills rookie cornerback Leodis McKelvin returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to cut the margin to 23-20.

The Browns, although briefly, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive game. Let's see if Cleveland holds on or continues its disturbing trend of blowing fourth-quarter leads.

(Update: Cleveland got another field goal midway through the fourth to up the lead to 26-20.)

Greer suffers knee injury

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills may have a concern on their hands as starting cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a knee injury and is out for the game.

Greer injured his knee in the second quarter of Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns. It was announced after halftime that he would not return.

Greer is one of Buffalo's top players in the secondary. He has 35 tackles and two interceptions this season.

Browns-Bills halftime notes

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. --The Cleveland Browns lead the Buffalo Bills 13-10 at halftime of their "Monday Night Football" clash.

Here are some first-half observations:

  • Cleveland's much-maligned defense is clearly taking exception to all the talk of them struggling and quitting in its last game against the Denver Broncos. The Browns forced three turnovers in the first quarter that Cleveland turned into six points.
  • Browns quarterback Brady Quinn is facing a lot more pressure than he did in his first start, and it is affecting his play. Buffalo is playing a lot of man-to-man defense against Quinn and hitting him in the process. The pressure has forced a lot of high throws as Quinn is 5 for 13 for 74 yards in the first half.
  • The Bills, like many teams this year, had no answer for Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers early. He was tripled-teamed twice on two interceptions. The first triple-team he got his hand on the ball and his tip resulted in an interception. Buffalo initially tried running at him. Eventually the Bills got the message and started sealing Rogers off and running away from him for bigger gains.
  • Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards started the game with yet another drop. But, to his credit, he did respond with three catches afterwards in the first half. Edwards, who leads the NFL in drops this year, has the tendency to let one drop snowball into multiple drops.

Browns offense heating up vs. Bills

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After a slow start, the Cleveland Browns' offense is starting to get it going against the Buffalo Bills.

Joshua Cribbs ran in the first touchdown of the game to give the Browns a 13-0 lead and silenced Ralph Wilson Stadium. Brady Quinn's connections with receiver Braylon Edwards helped move the Browns down the field.

Quinn started the game slowly, completing just one of his first eight passes. But he eventually got it going by finding his targets on slants and crossing routes down the field. He is currently 5 for 13 for 74 yards.

This is the third consecutive game Cleveland has earned a lead of at least 13 points. It will be interesting to see if the Browns are able to hold on this time around.

[Update: Bills tailback Marshawn Lynch scored on an 18-yard reception to cut Cleveland's lead to 13-7. Cleveland's defense cannot assert its will when given the chance.]

Browns' McDonald back in the game

November, 17, 2008
Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The benching of Cleveland Browns cornerback Brandon McDonald didn't last long.

It lasted just one play.

Browns head coach Romeo Crennel sat McDonald for the first series as punishment for his poor performance in Cleveland's 34-30 loss to the Denver Broncos. The series lasted one play as Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.

It appears the benching was more of a gimmick to motivate McDonald than it was to get reserve cornerback Travis Daniels ready to play.

[Update: McDonald intercepted a pass, Trent Edwards' third pick of the first quarter.]

Bills' Edwards struggling early

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The much-maligned defense of the Cleveland Browns is giving Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards a lot of problems in the first quarter.

Edwards has two picks in his first two possessions. The first was a tipped ball by defensive lineman Shaun Rogers that was caught by linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, and the second was right to Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis in coverage.

The Browns are playing a lot of zone early and Edwards is trying to force throws into coverage. Expect to see more zone from Cleveland if Edwards continues to struggled against it.

Brandon McDonald benched

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel hinted that there would be lineup changes this week, and it turned out to be just one casualty.

Browns starting cornerback Brandon McDonald was benched Monday in favor of reserve Travis Daniels before their game against the Buffalo Bills. McDonald was beat for two four-quarter touchdowns in Cleveland's recent 34-30 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Daniels came to the Cleveland earlier this season in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. This will be his first start for the Browns.

Browns-Bills inactives

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Here are the inactives for the "Monday Night Football" game between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills.


DB Gerard Lawson

DB Hamza Abdullah

FB Lawrence Vickers

LB Beau Bell

OL Scott Young

WR Steve Sanders

TE Martin Rucker

QB Ken Dorsey


WR Justin Jenkins

RB Xavier Omon

OL Jason Whittle

OL Demetrius Bell

WR Josh Reed

DL Aaron Schobel

DL John McCargo

QB Gibran Hamdan

Where's the snow?

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There will be no blizzard in the "Monday Night Football" game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.

In fact, as of 90 minutes before kickoff, there is no precipitation at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But it is cold in Orchard Park, N.Y. Many players are wearing gloves and long sleeves during warmups to help handle the weather. The forecast called for a couple of inches at some point tonight, so perhaps we will see wintry conditions during the game.

Take your pick: Browns or Bills

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

What better way to focus on this week's AFC North version of "Take your pick" than to ask readers to pick a winner of the "Monday Night Football" game between the Cleveland Browns (3-6) and Buffalo Bills (5-4).

Both teams are struggling, combining for five straight losses. But the Browns seem to be in turmoil while the Bills are still fighting for a playoff spot. Still, Cleveland has some talent on its roster and could be a dangerous spoiler team down the stretch if it ever finds it focus.

So will the Bills get on track Monday night or will the Browns prevail?

Take your pick.

Take 2 a bigger challenge for Quinn

November, 16, 2008
 Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 Brady Quinn had a 104.3 passer rating in his first NFL start, but the Bills' defense should prove a more difficult challenge than Denver's.

Posted by's James Walker

The leaky defense of the Denver Broncos was just a pop quiz for Brady Quinn.

Now the real test is set to begin.

Take 2 of the Quinn era takes place on "Monday Night Football" (ESPN, 8:30 ET) when he leads the Cleveland Browns into a hostile -- and perhaps snowy -- environment to face the Buffalo Bills. Inclement weather is expected as the game marks the first road start for Quinn and the first legitimate defense he has faced in his NFL career.

Part of the reason Cleveland took the risk of playing Quinn on a short week Nov. 6 is because Denver's defense is tailor-made to build a young quarterback's confidence. Entering Week 11, the Broncos are the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, allowing 389.1 yards per game.

Quinn's First Two Opponents By The Numbers
DateOpponentDef. RankAvg. Yds. PassingTDs Allowed
11/6DenverNo. 29389.114
11/17BuffaloNo. 12309.27

The Denver game looked easy for Quinn, who replaced Derek Anderson as starter. He was efficient, throwing for 239 yards, two touchdowns with zero sacks and zero turnovers. He had a 104.3 passer rating in a tune-up performance.

But unlike Denver, the Bills will not sit back and let Quinn pick them apart. Buffalo (5-4) enters this weekend's games ranked No. 12 in total defense. In fact, only four AFC teams -- the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots -- have played better defense than the Bills.

"Buffalo is a tough team, solid defense all around," Quinn said. "It presents a tough task not only for myself coming into my second start, but for our team going into an environment like Buffalo on Monday night."

If anything, Quinn proved in his first start that he will not fold in the spotlight. Following a high-profile career at Notre Dame, Quinn's first two NFL starts are nationally televised.

"It feels a little bit like college," he said.

 In many ways, Quinn embraces the attention. The former first-round pick has always had a confident presence about him that he belongs in the NFL, even when he was a backup.

Meanwhile, the Browns' coaching staff is trying to keep things simple for Quinn. For the most part, he operated a conservative game plan in his first start against a porous Denver defense. Quinn's longest completion was for 30 yards as he rarely took shots down the field.

"I think you gradually feed him," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "I don't think you want to throw the whole thing at him, but he has been in the system now for a year and a half. Like I said, he handled himself very well, he showed he can manage the team, handle the pressure of the game. Now, against a different opponent, we will see how he does against those guys." Video
 A preview of the Week 11 matchup between the Browns and the Bills.

Opponents eventually will challenge Quinn to throw the ball vertically more often now that teams have film on him.

"It's going to get a lot more difficult for Quinn as teams break down his strengths and weaknesses," said Keith Kidd of Scouts Inc. "It will be fun to watch the Monday night game in Buffalo to see how much growth he makes in the offense from his first NFL start."

Raised in Columbus, Ohio, about 150 miles south of Cleveland, the second-year quarterback is happy to finally get an opportunity to lead his childhood team. But the Browns (3-6) are a volatile and dysfunctional group.

Many Browns players are pointing fingers at one another. Starting tailback Jamal Lewis and receiver Joshua Cribbs said that unnamed teammates quit in the loss to Denver. Some players, such as safety Sean Jones, are unhappy because their playing time is being reduced. The head coach also is on the hot seat.

All of these dark clouds are hovering over Quinn's head every day as he tries to keep his team together while proving his individual worth to the coaching staff. Victories will go a long way toward helping both states of affairs.

"I think this [team's] situation and what I've been given an opportunity to do are two different things," Quinn said. "Our record is what it is, and we're going to do our best to turn things around."

Posted by's James Walker

Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:

Morning take: Yet neither Jamal Lewis nor Josh Cribbs backed down from their statements Wednesday. It looks like the players and coach have to agree to disagree on this one.

Morning take: We're not sure if this is the best move health-wise for Roethlisberger, but is should help with the lost timing he's had recently with receivers.

Morning take: With the way the Eagles busted up Roethlisberger in Week 3, we may be in store for a repeat performance against the Bengals Sunday.

Morning take: No team in nearly two seasons dominated the Ravens by running the ball. Our guess is New York will try to win this game through the air with Baltimore's banged-up secondary.