CLEVELAND, OHIO (WROC) — It was an intriguing quarterback match-up in Cleveland, featuring two of the top picks from the 2018 NFL Draft, but Baker Mayfield would ultimately got the last laugh against Josh Allen Sunday.
The Bills, looking to improve to 7-2 and further solidify their standings in the playoff picture, came out flat in the first quarter against the 2-6 Browns. Despite the disparity in the teams’ records, odds-makers had settled on the Bills as a three point underdog — and early in the game, that spread seemed fairly projected.
The Browns didn’t waste much time getting started, striking first on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to WR Jarvis Landry to cap off a six play, 75-yard scoring drive. Cleveland kicker Austin Seibert missed the extra point attempt and the Browns led 6-0 early in the game.
The teams traded possessions back and forth throughout the first. The Browns had some momentum going on a drive inside the Bills 10-yard line, but the Buffalo defense held strong, and forced a turnover on downs with just over three minutes left in the opening period.
More back and forth with no scoring and the Browns led 6-0 heading into the second quarter. Allen, through one quarter, was 1/4 with just four yards for Buffalo.
New quarter, new momentum. The Bills finally began to move ball after their slow start. In the opening drive of the second quarter, the Bills drove right down the field for a touchdown. A 10-yard touchdown run by Allen capped off a nine play 76-yard drive, and an extra point gave the Bills a 7-6 lead with 10:09 left in the second quarter.
After an unproductive first quarter, Allen bounced back on that drive, completed two of his three passes for 30 yards, and adding 22 yards and touchdown on two carries.
Earlier this week, News 8 WROC reported on how the Bills would game plan to stop the formidable Cleveland rushing attack. Whatever their plan was, it didn’t seem to work too well — with 3:38 left in the half, Browns RB Nick Chubb was already up to 84 yards on 13 carries.
Despite the running back’s success, the Bills defense was able to once again hold the Browns up in the red zone. A stingy effort forced Cleveland to settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt, which Seibert connected on, giving the Browns the lead again — 9-7 with 3:35 until halftime. That successful field goal ended a productive 13 play, 69-yard scoring drive for the Browns, but their fans in the stadium voiced their displeasure after being held out of the endzone on yet another red zone trip.
The Bills, with three timeouts remaining and three and half minutes left in the half, wouldn’t squander away the possession with an opportunity to retake the lead before the break, but that all came to a halt when Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka missed a 34-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. With the miss, Hauschka fell to 8/12 on field goals for the year.
A few plays later, the halftime whistle blew with the Browns leading at home 9-7.
The Bills were somewhat lucky to only be down two points after two quarters considering the Browns won the major offensive statistical battles. Cleveland had more first downs (15-9), more total yards (232-156), and more time of possession (18:51-11:09). Neither team turned the ball over.
Allen rebounded from a statistically absent first quarter to muster some decent halftime numbers: 8-17 for 102 yards, plus 22 yards and touchdown on the ground.
Bills got the ball to start the second half, but punted it away after a six play, 33-yard drive.
On the ensuing possession, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds sacked Mayfield in the endzone for a safety, tying the game a nine a piece, and giving Buffalo the ball back with 11 minutes left in the quarter.
Bills couldn’t to much with the ball after the safety and punted it away shortly thereafter. The Browns, however, then conducted a 10 play, 56-yard drive that ended when Siebert made a 47-yard field goal, giving Cleveland the lead back, 12-9, with 3:49 left in the third.
A risky call by Bills coach Sean McDermott to end the third quarter. Buffalo elected to go for it on 4th and 4 from the Browns’ 36 instead of attempting a potentially game-tying 54-yard field goal. The pass attempt was incomplete and the Bills turned the ball over on downs to end the third quarter, and still trailed 12-9.
It’s been a defensive battle throughout, and some light, steady rain looks like it could damper an already subdued passing attack for both teams.
The Browns punted, followed by the Bills punting it right back and the defensive sides continue to hold the advantage. The clock is no longer Buffalo’s friend with Buffalo still needing a field goal to tie with less than 12 minute left in the game.
Bills defense did their job, getting a big sack on Mayfield on a 3rd and 4. Browns forced to punt it away with 10:09 left in the contest. After a solid punt return, the Bills would take over at the Browns’ 48-yard line, their best field position to start a drive all afternoon.
Good old fashioned luck for the Bills. Allen fumbled on a third down run in the redzone, but the ball wasn’t just recovered by Buffalo guard Jon Feliciano, he picked it in the perfect spot for a Bills first down at the Browns 1-yard line.
Allen took that luck and ran with it — literally. He punched it in for a 1-yard touchdown on a QB sneak, his second rushing TD of the afternoon. Hauschka knocked in the extra point to give the Bills a 16-12 lead with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Browns driving with a chance to take the lead late. At the Two Minute Warning they were facing a 2nd and 6 from the Buffalo 31-yard line.
Cleveland goes back ahead with a seven yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Rashard Higgins with just 1:44 left in the game. Bills will get the ball back down 19-16, with one timeout remaining.
Allen kept the Bills alive and drove the team down to the Cleveland 35-yard line. Hauschka came out to attempt a game-tying 53-yard field goal, but missed it.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Hauschka. “It hurts to let them down.”
Cleveland came out for a kneel down and that was it.
Browns win 19-16.
“They outplayed us, out-executed us,” said Jordan Poyer following the loss.
Mayfield was taken ahead of Allen in last year’s NFL draft, and he got the upper hand Sunday in Cleveland:
Allen had a better ground game, but the only stat that matters is wins and losses, and Mayfield won that battle thanks to the late TD.
“Everybody knows you need to score more than sixteen points to win in this league, but we didn’t do that today,” said Allen.
The Bills are now 6-3 and still very much a part of the playoff picture, but good teams win the close games, and this one might come back to haunt the Bills down the road.
“Too many opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on,” said McDermott. “We had some third and manageables throughout the game, but we didn’t come out with a first down or points.”
Check back with News 8 WROC at 7:45 p.m. for Bills Gameday Recap where Thad Brown will be live from FirstEnergy stadium to discuss the good, the bad, and what this loss means moving forward.