8:25 PM ET, October 3, 2013
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
CLEVELAND -- Brandon Weeden never once hung his head after getting hurt and losing his job to a hometown hero.
He figured the Browns would need him again, and he had to be ready.
On Thursday night, his number was called and Weeden delivered.
After spraining his right thumb in Week 2, Weeden watched as Hoyer, a lifelong Browns fan who began the season as Cleveland's No. 3 quarterback, led the team to two straight wins. Weeden got healthy enough to play but found himself demoted to a backup role, not what the first-round draft pick imagined after being named the starter in training camp.
He could have sulked or complained. Instead, he fought back.
"Whether I was the starter, eyes are still on you to see how you respond, to see how you react," he said. "I was upbeat the entire time and never let it bother me. Inside, it just kind of lit a fire."
Weeden threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in the third quarter as the Browns (3-2) won their third straight and temporarily moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC North. It's the Browns best record after five games since they were 3-2 in 2001.
""We don't care about history," Gordon said. "This is a new year and this is a new team."
Safety T.J. Ward intercepted rookie Jeff Tuel's pass and returned it 44 yards for a TD with 1:44 left to end any comeback hopes for the Bills (2-3). Travis Benjamin had an electrifying 79-yard TD punt return in the first half for Cleveland.
Hoyer sustained a potentially serious right knee injury on a scramble in the first quarter, and Manuel was forced out after taking a helmet to his right knee on a run in the third. Neither returned and their injuries could impact both teams' seasons.
AP Photo/David Richard
Brian Hoyer suffered a sprained right knee less than five minutes into Thursday's game.
Following the game, Hoyer left the stadium on crutches with his knee immobilized. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Hoyer has a sprained knee and will undergo an MRI on Friday. But the tone of Hoyer's teammates seemed to indicate that the 27-year-old, who was finally getting a chance to start in his fifth NFL season, might be sidelined for an extended period.
"He was playing great, man," said Weeden, who added that Hoyer was in the locker room following the game to celebrate with his teammates. "You hate to see it because he's a teammate and a friend. I tried to be as positive with him as I could."
With the Browns trailing 7-0, Hoyer took off on an 11-yard run and was sliding after picking up the first down when he was hit from the side by rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Both of Hoyer's knees were bent awkwardly on the hit in front of Cleveland's bench, and several players and coaches yelled for a penalty to be called on Alonso. Hoyer stayed on the ground for several moments before he was assisted to a trainer's table. He limped to the locker room for tests and treatment.
Hoyer was attempting to become the first quarterback in team history to win his first three starts -- now he may not get back on the field this season.
"We definitely don't want to see a teammate go down like that, especially a guy like Hoyer," Gordon said. "He's a great guy and I hope he comes back healthy."
Manuel got hurt at the end of a 14-yard run when he was hammered near the sideline by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson. Manuel walked off the field attempted to get his knee loose on the sideline by jogging and riding a stationary bike. But after having his knee examined, he jogged to the locker room with two trainers.
Bills coach Doug Marrone said the doctors told him Manuel has a sprained knee and assume he will have an MRI.
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"I was hoping we could get him back, but they said it was a sprain and they shut him down," Marrone said. "He's a tough kid. He took a shot. He was trying to score a touchdown."
Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 24 and 44 yards in the fourth quarter for the Browns, who overcame a 10-0 deficit and were down 24-17 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Cundiff's second kick with 2:91 left put the Browns ahead 30-24, and Cleveland turned it over to their third-ranked overall defense.
Beyond the quarterbacks, both teams had one other key player go down with an injury.
Bills leading receiver Stevie Johnson injured his back in the first half and didn't return. Johnson caught two catches for 19 yards before he went out.
Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant was taken to the Cleveland Clinic in the third quarter after experiencing shortness of breath. Last year with Oakland, Bryant had to be hospitalized during a game with an irregular heartbeat, but returned to play the next week
With Buffalo leading 24-17, Weeden found Gordon down the left sideline and the wide receiver made a juggling catch. Weeden started slowly but finished 13 of 24 for 197 yards.
"He did a great job," tight end Jordan Cameron said. "At first he was a little rusty. I think he shook that off and really got us going."
Benjamin set a team record with 179 return yards, breaking the mark held by Eric Metcalf, who had 166 on Oct. 24, 1993, against Pittsburgh. ... Bills DE Mario Williams had two sacks, moving him into a tie for the league lead with 7 1/2. ... Bills WR T.J. Graham sustained a neck injury in the fourth but returned. ... Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya left in the first half with a concussion and did not return. ... With three catches, Cameron has 33 this season, the most by a Browns TE in the first five games.
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29: Head coaches Doug Marrone of the Buffalo Bills (L) and Rob Chudzinski of the...(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.6||4.5|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-2||1-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||2|
|TD||13:16||Fred Jackson 1 Yd Run (Dan Carpenter Kick)||7||0|
|FG||05:51||Dan Carpenter 52 Yd||10||0|
|FG||14:24||Billy Cundiff 30 Yd||10||3|
|TD||03:52||Willis McGahee 1 Yd Run (Billy Cundiff Kick)||10||10|
|TD||02:20||Travis Benjamin 79 Yd Punt Return (Billy Cundiff Kick)||10||17|
|TD||13:51||C.J. Spiller 54 Yd Run (Dan Carpenter Kick)||17||17|
|TD||06:32||Fred Jackson 1 Yd Run (Dan Carpenter Kick)||24||17|
|TD||05:35||Josh Gordon 37 Yd Pass From Brandon Weeden (Billy Cundiff Kick)||24||24|
|FG||12:31||Billy Cundiff 24 Yd||24||27|
|FG||02:19||Billy Cundiff 44 Yd||24||30|
|TD||01:44||T.J. Ward 44 Yd Interception Return (Billy Cundiff Kick)||24||37|
The Bills quarterbacks were under duress on 18-of-45 team dropbacks (40%). E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel were a combined 3-of-13 passing when under duress, with four sacks. In his first four games, Manuel was under duress on 23% of his dropbacks.
Brandon Weeden completed 77.8% of his passes when targeting Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. When targeting his other receivers, Weeden completed 40% of his passes Thursday.[+]
Brandon Weeden Passing, Thursday
Brandon Weeden completed 6-of-9 passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, including a 37-yard touchdown to Josh Gordon. Entering Thursday night, the Bills allowed 62 completions more than 10 yards downfield, most in the league this season.[+]
Brandon Weeden Passes Thrown More Than 10 Yards Downfield, This Season
Browns: improve to 3-2; best 5-game start since 2001 (also started 3-2)
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