Browns Dominate Early, Fade Late For Seventh Loss In 10 Games

The Browns fumbled away a great start against the Bills. (

The Browns fumbled away a great start against the Bills. (

Browns dominate early, fade late for seventh loss in 10 games

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.


Instant takeaways from Browns’  31-23 loss to Buffalo Bills …

1. Same old story: The venue changes, the outcome doesn’t. Anywhere the Browns play, they score first off their beautifully authored script. Sometimes they even play well into the second quarter. Then they self-destruct on offense and defense. Inevitably, there’s a blocked kick thrown in there for good measure and an opposing running back running untouched to the end zone. Such was the case in Ford Field as the Browns squandered a great start and lost to the Buffalo Bills, 31-23. Jacoby Brissett had a hot hand to start, but the Browns never could get Nick Chubb (14 attempts, 19 yards) going as the Bills’ defense suffocated his every rush attempt. Josh Allen survived a rough start and put the Browns out of their misery with five scoring drives in five possessions in the second half. Only one was a touchdown, but by then the Browns’ offense was being handled by the Buffalo defense. The Bills rushed 32 times for 172 yards (5.4 average). Tyler Bass had six field goals for the Bills. The Browns’ sixth loss in seven games dropped them to 3-7. Deshaun Watson would have to be otherworldly to save this season.

2. Some life late: Brissett put together two touchdowns late in the game. Key plays on the first one were a great fourth-down thrown on the run to David Bell, a pretty toe-tap sideline catch by Donovan Peoples-Jones and the touchdown from 7 yards to Amari Cooper. The 2-point try was nullified when Cooper stepped over the end line before nabbing Brissett’s conversion pass. With 4:10 to go, Cade York’s onside kick was recovered by the Bills at the Browns’ 42-yard line. The second one came with no timeouts and covered 75 yards. Peoples-Jones had a back-shoulder catch and the touchdown from 2 yards on a high contested ball. York's PAT with 19 seconds left closed the scoring. The Bills almost blew the onside kick, but the ball bounced out of bounds to preserve their win. Brissett was 28 of 41 for 324 yards, three touchdowns and a rating of 116.3.

3. Unspecial behavior: With a chance to cut the Bills’ lead to 22-13, Cade York’s 34-yard field goal was blocked with 1:37 to play in the third quarter. It was the third block of York’s season. The others, however, were from 60 and 53 yards.

4. Brick wall: With a 16-10 lead, the Bills stopped Brissett on QB sneaks for 1 yard on third down and then fourth down at the Buffalo 27. Brissett had been stopped only one time all year on a sneak for 1 yard. The turnover on downs led to a Buffalo touchdown and a 22-10 lead. They failed on the 2-poiint try. The Browns almost forced a turnover to thwart the drive, but tight end Dawson Knox was ruled down by contact after a catch at the Browns’ 18.

5. Not a good sign: In the first half, the Bills didn’t achieve a first down until 8 minutes left in the second quarter. They didn’t even throw to Stefon Diggs until 14 seconds left. Yet they went to the locker room with a 13-10 lead. How was that? A fumbled exchange between Brissett and Hjalte Froholdt, subbing for injured center Ethan Pocic, led to a Buffalo field goal. In a prior series in the second quarter, Harrison Bryant dropped a touchdown at the goal line and Pharaoh Brown dropped one in the end zone on successive plays. The Bills could have led, 17-10, but a holding penalty on fullback Reggie Gilliam on a Singletary run to the 1-yard line prior to the field goal cost the Bills four points.

6. Brissett hot, Allen not: Brissett was outplaying and out-throwing Allen. Brissett (13 of 18, 156 yards, 116.9 rating) targeted Amari Cooper seven times in the first half and completed six, including a 25-yard score on which Cooper posted-up cornerback Taron Johnson in the right corner of the end zone. Cooper actually caught all eight targets, but he failed to get his second foot in bounds on one. Meanwhile, Allen (9 of 16, 84, 91.7) looked rattled and his inaccurate self from his Wyoming days until coming alive (5 of 6, 59 yards) with the go-ahead drive in the final two minutes.

7. He’s ok: Down one cornerback (Greg Newsome) to start the game, the Browns got a scare when M.J. Emerson had to leave after a tackle with 6:45 to go in the first half. Emerson, however, returned one series later.

8. Don’t do this: First-and-goal from the Bills’ 8-yard line. Brissett motions out wide right. Direct snap to Chubb. Loss of six. It was one of three tackles-for-loss of Chubb in first half. He also had a run for zero yards.

9. Nice try: From the Browns’ 5, Allen fired a ball as a throwaway. It caromed off the goalpost and was caught by A.J. Green, who actually made a move to return the “interception.” The official made the announcement that the ball was dead.

10. Live and learn: Bills return specialist returned a kickoff 32 yards and a punt 28 yards on his first two touches. At halftime, special teams coach Mike Priefer said, “Maybe not a good idea to kick to him,” so they squibbed the kickoff to start the second half. Hines still returned it 21 yards to the 26-yard line.

11. Pre-game notes: No surprises on the Browns’ inactive list. Cornerback Greg Newsome (concussion) was ruled out Friday. As expected, tight end David Njoku and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah were active after missing the last two games with injuries. The Bills were without two starters because of injuries – linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and pass rusher Greg Rousseau. They also got back safety Josh Poyer.