FIRST QUARTER: Sluggish start
The tryptophan hadn’t yet worn off for the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills gained just 21 yards on their first two possessions, with one first down on a 12-yard completion to Robert Woods and another coming via defensive penalty.
On Buffalo’s third possession, newly signed tight end MarQueis Gray had a 30-yard reception from Kyle Orton, accounting for more than half of the team’s 59 total yards in the quarter.
Dueling taunts: Bills safety Aaron Williams was called for a 15-yard taunting penalty after a run by Browns running back Isaiah Crowell.
Not to be outdone, Browns receiver Josh Gordon took a taunting penalty of his own on the next play when he flipped the ball at a Bills defender following a 12-yard reception.
Nice start: Newly signed return man Marcus Thigpen made a good first impression for the Bills, returning a punt 19 yards following the Browns’ first possession. That gave the Bills a decent drive start at their 29-yard line.
SECOND QUARTER: Cold spell
The Browns’ 6-3 victory over the Bills in 2009 at The Ralph set the standard for awful football.
After the second quarter Sunday, when the Browns led, 3-0, it was impossible not to have flashbacks.
The Bills’ offense continued its ineptitude, going 0 for 4 on third downs and gaining just 32 yards in the quarter. Quarterback Kyle Orton was also intercepted in the end zone by former Bills safety Jim Leonhard.
Luckily for them, the defense came to play. An interception by safety Da’Norris Searcy set the offense up at the Cleveland 46-yard line, but a 53-yard field-goal attempt by Dan Carpenter was blocked by Joe Haden on the final play of the first half.
Another miss: Carpenter’s blocked attempt wasn’t the only missed field goal in the first half. Browns kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 37-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter.
Bright spot: They were few and far between for the Bills in the first half, but punter Colton Schmidt averaged 50.8 yards on four punts, and put two of them inside the 20-yard line. Hey, it’s something.
THIRD QUARTER: In full swing
Ten seconds completely changed the complexion of Sunday’s game in the third quarter. That’s how long it took the Bills to erase a 3-0 deficit and take a 14-3 lead. The first touchdown came on a 3-yard catch by Chris Hogan.
Then on the Browns’ first play of the ensuing possession, running back Terrance West was stripped by Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes.
Hughes recovered his own forced fumble and raced 18 yards to the end zone.
“It happened so fast,” Hughes said. “It’s something that we harp on, we go over in practice every Friday, attacking the ball, raking it out, picking it up and scoring.”
Conservative no more: Bills coach Doug Marrone was rewarded after going for it on fourth and 3 at the Cleveland 37-yard line. Quarterback Kyle Orton completed a 34-yard pass to Robert Woods for the conversion. Orton rolled right, then stepped up in the pocket and threw deep to Woods down the left sideline. That set up Hogan’s touchdown catch on the next play.
Stat check: The Bills were 1 of 10 on third down through three quarters, but 2 of 2 on fourth-down conversions.
FOURTH QUARTER: Right answer
Johnny Football couldn’t rescue the Cleveland Browns. Johnny Manziel, the Browns’ much-hyped rookie quarterback, relieved Brian Hoyer in the fourth quarter and promptly took his team on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to bring the Browns within 10 points of the Bills at 20-10.
Buffalo, responded, however with a 10-play, 64-yard drive that took 5:15 off the clock and ended with a 34-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter to open a 23-10 lead.
On the Browns’ next possession, Manziel, nearly fumbled (the play was ruled an incomplete pass after review) before turning the ball over on downs.
MarQueis who?: Raise your hand if you had tight end MarQueis Gray as the Bills’ leading receiver today. Thought so. Gray, a tight end who was picked up off waivers from Minnesota on Nov. 20, had two catches for 71 yards.