ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—Phil Dawson wasn’t about to quit during Cleveland’s latest fourth-quarter meltdown. Turned out, neither did the rest of the Browns.
With a confident nod to coach Romeo Crennel, Dawson went out and calmly hit a career-long 56-yard field goal with 1:39 left that sent Cleveland to a 29-27 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night
Dawson’s fifth field goal of the game capped a wild finish. The teams traded leads during a 46-second span in the final 2 1/2 minutes—after the Browns appeared ready to squander a 13-point lead for the third straight week. And the game wasn’t decided until Buffalo’s Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 38 seconds remaining, allowing Cleveland to run out the clock.
Suddenly, the Browns (4-6) have something to feel good about after they were on the verge of unraveling. Running back Jamal Lewis even questioned whether his teammates had quit during a 34-30 loss to Denver on Nov. 6.
“We got tired of what happened the previous two weeks, getting a lead and losing it in the fourth quarter,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “As a team, we rallied. We came together when we were supposed to and made the plays necessary to win.”
Brady Quinn earned his first win in the second career start for the 2007 first-round draft pick. And the Browns’ once porous defense—which allowed 993 yards of offense in its previous two games combined—held the Bills to 334 yards while generating four turnovers.
“You can’t say enough,” Crennel said. “The guys hung in there. They played as a team, and it was good enough on this night.”
Give Crennel credit, too. Without hesitation, he made the decision to send Dawson out after the Browns’ seven-play, 28-yard drive stalled at the Bills 39 after Edwards couldn’t hold onto Quinn’s pass at the right sideline on third-and-10.
“On the spur of the moment, you’ve got to be confident,” Dawson said. “So as soon as we threw the incomplete pass on third down, I was ready to go. I gave Romeo a nod, and he had the confidence to send me out there.”
It was a better ending for Dawson, too. He missed a potential game-tying 54-yard field goal in the final minute of a 14-11 loss at Washington on Oct. 19.
It’s the Bills (5-5) who now face questions about unraveling. They’ve lost four straight—their longest skid since 2005—and five of six, looking nothing like the upstart team that opened the season 4-0.
Much of the blame for this loss falls on the shoulders of quarterback Trent Edwards, who threw three interceptions on his first four possessions, putting the Bills in a deep hole.
“It’s frustrating right now. I don’t really have any good answers,” he said. “I’m frustrated with myself and the way I performed.”
The miscues—two poor reads and a pass tipped by defensive tackle Shaun Rogers at the line of scrimmage—were an extension of the troubles Trent Edwards had in his previous three games. Over a 10-quarter span, including the first quarter against Cleveland, he threw eight interceptions, lost two fumbles and gave up a safety.
Lindell took the loss much harder. He was emotionally upset and dejected as he spoke with reporters.
“Yeah, you have to make it. It’s ridiculous,” said Lindell, who was good from 26 and 31 yards. “I missed my line. You have to make those.”
Suddenly, the Bills’ chances of ending their eight-year playoff drought are in jeopardy. The team has fallen from first in the AFC East to last in the span of a month. And so much for the poise and confidence the team showed in securing three consecutive fourth-quarter comebacks earlier this season.
“It’s not where we want to be, obviously,” coach Dick Jauron said. “It doesn’t feel like a free-fall, at least not to me. I can tell you, being around them, they hurt.”
The loss spoiled a breakout game for running back Marshawn Lynch, who had a season-best 119 yards rushing and added a team-leading 58 yards receiving, including an 18-yard touchdown. Rookie Leodis McKelvin also scored on a 98-yard kickoff return, one play after Cleveland’s Jerome Harrison scored on a 72-yard run that put the Browns up 23-13 to open the fourth quarter.
Joshua Cribbs also scored on a 2-yard run for the Browns, and Braylon Edwards had 104 yards receiving.
“I can’t say enough for this being a big win for our team,” Quinn said. “We ended up winning in the end. It wasn’t the way we wanted to, but a win is a win.”
Bills WR Lee Evans was held without a catch, ending a 67-game streak that began seven games into his rookie year in 2004. … The Browns lost two defensive starters to injuries, DE Shaun Smith (calf) and SS Sean Jones (ankle), while RB Harrison didn’t finish after hurting his hamstring on a 21-yard catch early in the fourth quarter. Crennel had no update on their status. … Bills SS Donte Whitner’s return didn’t last long after he missed one game with a separated right shoulder. Whitner sat out the second half after his shoulder felt sore. … Bills CB Jabari Greer did not return after hurting his knee in the second quarter. He’ll have further tests Tuesday.