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From the archives: Browns 6, Bills 3

This week's Browns at Bills matchup has brought back some memories – and none of them are good.

That includes those who covered the game.

"The worst football game I've ever covered," News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan said this week.

Here's Gaughan's game story from Oct. 12, 2009 (you may notice some familiar themes), along with the front pages of The News and our sports section.

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Mark Gaughan

The epitaph on Dick Jauron's tenure as Buffalo Bills head coach might as well read: Anything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Whether it was giving up an onside kick to blow a game against Dallas or J.P. Losman fumbling away a win against the Jets, Jauron's Bills have mastered the art of impeccably bad timing.

Sunday was Exhibit What? X? Y? Z?

Roscoe Parrish muffed a punt at his own 16-yard line with three minutes remaining to hand Cleveland the winning score in a 6-3 decision.

It was the last of an incredible string of gaffes by the Bills, who committed nine false starts, the most in an NFL game since 2005.

In losing to a team that had lost 10 straight and in managing just three points against the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL, the Bills sunk to one of their lowest points in franchise history.

In the locker room afterward, the question of Jauron's firing seemed only to be one of when, not if.

Russ Brandon, Bills chief operating officer and general manager, would not say whether this was Jauron's last stand.

"I'm not commenting on that," Brandon said. "Obviously this is a low point for all of us. I feel for everyone in the organization and more importantly the fans. This is not where we expected to be right now."

However, it's clear Brandon thinks the team's talent level is better than its performance.

"It's frustrating," Brandon said. "This is certainly a low point for the organization, for our fan base. We worked our tails off in the offseason to put us in position that should be better than where we are right now. We certainly understand the frustration of our fans."

The front page of our sports section on Oct. 12, 2009.

A crowd of 70,526 at Ralph Wilson Stadium saw the Bills drop to 1-4 and lose for the 12th time in their last 15 tries.

The Bills offense was abysmal for a third straight week. It was so bad, Cleveland won despite the fact quarterback Derek Anderson completed just 2 of 17 passes for 23 yards. It was the fewest completions for a winning team in an NFL game since 2000. It was the second-worst completion percentage (11.8) by a winning quarterback with at least 15 attempts since 1970.

"We played bad," receiver Lee Evans said. "That's about the worst I've seen. Hopefully it's rock bottom. I don't know, man. It's hard to even put into words."

"Our defense played great [Sunday], they really did, and we didn't help them out at all," center Geoff Hangartner said.

Buffalo's offensive line -- the youngest in the NFL this decade and probably longer -- continues to hold the attack back. Left tackle Demetrius Bell, and right tackles Jonathan Scott and Kirk Chambers were called for two false starts apiece.

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, himself thrust into his first season on the job as a play-caller, took the blame for the struggles.

"It's my responsibility," Van Pelt said. But Van Pelt acknowledged: "Those guys are young, too. We've got a lot of growing to do in a lot of areas. Those guys battle their butts off. But a lot of it is youth."

The Bills had penalties on 10 of their 12 possessions. Ultimately, it was the mistake of a veteran -- Parrish -- that decided the outcome.

The punt by Cleveland's Dave Zastudil was short, and Parrish let it land at the Buffalo 32. As it rolled backward, Parrish tried to pick it up and run at the 16. He never got control of the ball, and Cleveland recovered.

The Browns' Billy Cundiff kicked an 18-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.

"I was undecided back there," Parrish said. "I just thought I was going to get that bounce, and it comes back to my hands because earlier in my career I had returned a ball like that. It was just a tough deal for me. But I have to keep my head up and keep going. This is what I do, return punts and be able to make plays. One play can change all that."

Besides a third-quarter drive that produced a Rian Lindell field goal, the Bills had only two other possessions with prime chances to score. Late in the second quarter, quarterback Trent Edwards took an 8-yard sack to take the Bills out of field goal range. Early in the fourth quarter, Edwards was on the run outside the pocket but underthrew an open Terrell Owens at the Browns' 9 and cornerback Eric Wright intercepted.

Edwards managed just 16 of 31 passing for 152 yards.

The Bills wanted to try to run the ball on a Browns team that was yielding 176 rushing yards a game. The Bills gained 145 rushing, playing mostly out of two-tight-end sets.

"We thought it gave us the best chance to stay [with two tight ends], we thought, with all their pressure packages against the three-wide sets they've shown," Van Pelt said. "It's tough when you put yourselves in holes."

The Bills tried to run the no-huddle offense at a quick pace at times. But it backfired.

"We tried to go a lot on quick cadences," Van Pelt said. "We wanted to get an up-tempo, try and wear them down a little up front, and I think it jumped up and got us. A lot of those [false starts] were on quick counts."

Compounding the Bills' problems were more injuries. Linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs went out with what are expected to be significant knee injuries.

Browns veteran Jamal Lewis rushed 31 times for 117 yards. The Browns gained 171 rushing yards overall.

The Bills still have 11 games to go, including four more at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"They deserve more," Owens said of the fans.

The Buffalo News front page on Oct. 12, 2009.

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