Buffalo Bills survive Spiller injury to beat Browns
Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) is taken to the locker room after injuring his shoulder in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Cleveland. (AP / David Richard)
The Associated Press
Published Monday, September 24, 2012 8:38AM EDT
CLEVELAND -- Chan Gailey didn't want to think about facing New England next week. He didn't consider life without running backs C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson or anything else.
All Buffalo's coach wanted was a little time.
"Let me enjoy this for 24 hours," he joked.
Overcoming the loss of Spiller in the first quarter to a shoulder injury, the Bills got three touchdown passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick and ended an eight-game road losing streak Sunday with a 24-14 win over the Cleveland Browns, who remained winless and walked off their own field hearing the roar of Buffalo fans.
Fitzpatrick, doing just enough to keep the offence moving, finished 22 of 35 for 208 yards as the surprising Bills (2-1) turned to their passing game after Spiller, the NFL's leading rusher who has been filling in for the injured Jackson, went down with an injury that will likely sideline him a few weeks.
It was the first road win since the 2011 season opener for the revamped Bills.
"We had fun," said defensive end Mario Williams, Buffalo's $100 million man who recorded his first sack since signing with the Bills as a free agent.
And as the seconds ticked off, some of Buffalo's players celebrated with thousands of Bills fans who made the short drive over from Western New York.
Before he got hurt while being tackled, Spiller scored on a 32-yard screen pass from Fitzpatrick, who also threw a 9-yard TD to T.J. Graham in the first quarter and hooked up with Stevie Johnson from 9 in the fourth to close the scoring as the Bills tuned up for next week's home game against the powerful Patriots.
Gailey doesn't expect Spiller to be back next week and it may be a while before the Bills have him in their backfield.
"I don't believe it's long, long-term," Gailey said. "If he missed a week that's long for me. He's going to be out for sure this week and then we'll see."
Spiller will undergo further testing Monday. He was not available for interviews.
As for the Browns (0-3), their pain worsened.
Cleveland fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and went on to lose its ninth straight dating to last season. The young Browns have dropped 12 of 13 under second-year coach Pat Shurmur, whose job security is quickly becoming a hot topic with new owner Jimmy Haslam III set to take over the franchise next month.
By the closing minutes, all that was left inside the stadium on a chilly day were empty orange seats and emboldened Bills fans, who were encouraged by Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson to shout as if they were back in Orchard Park.
"I don't like it," Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "I don't like it whatsoever. I've been here a long time and I've never experienced that. It's embarrassing. It's a shame we weren't able to put out a better effort than we did. I can't wait to get this nasty taste out of my mouth. It stings right now, I'm not gonna lie.
"But we have a long season ahead, so we've got to move on from it."
With upcoming road games against Baltimore on Thursday and against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, it may get worse for the Browns.
"We just didn't get it done," said Shurmur, who dropped to 4-15 in two seasons. "There are no magical answers. We just didn't get it done. Win a game, that's how you turn it around."
When Spiller got hurt, the Bills appeared to be in trouble.
But Fitzpatrick made big throws when he needed to and third-string running back Tashard Choice gained 91 yards. Fitzpatrick has eight TD passes, and he has not thrown an interception since tossing three picks in the Bills' season-opening loss to the Jets. He got great protection from an offensive line that has only allowed one sack this season.
Fitzpatrick passed around some compliments afterward, crediting his teammates for stepping up without Spiller.
"We knew we had to put our foot on the gas again and when we did, the offensive line was revved up and ready to go," he said. "It was a heck of a job by Tashard. He got some really tough yards for us."
The Browns were again plagued by costly penalties, dropped passes and an inability to stop the run.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden went 27 of 43 for 237 yards and a TD pass to fellow rookie Travis Benjamin. However, he was intercepted twice in the final 4:21 as he tried to rally the Browns.
Buffalo's defence limited Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson to just 27 yards on 12 carries. After rushing for 109 yards last week in Cincinnati, Richardson's longest gain was his 6-yard TD run in the second quarter.
"We wanted to stop Richardson," Gailey said. "We talked about it and made a big deal about it. We did not want to let him get out. We wanted them to throw the football. It worked kind of like we thought it would."
NOTES: Richardson said he was shaking when he met Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown after the game. Brown was back in Cleveland to take part in alumni events, ending a two-year estrangement from the club. Haslam and Brown met for an hour on Saturday night and discussed a possible future role for Brown with the team. ... With his TD reception, Spiller has scored in six consecutive games, the longest streak by a Buffalo player since Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas' six-game streak in 1990. ... Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi injured his hamstring in the second half and did not return. ... Browns rookie LB Craig Robertson started in place of Scott Fujita, who may go to New York this week to have his meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell over his role in the Saints' bounty scandal.