Keys to Victory: Bills vs Browns

The Buffalo Bills are 1-3.  They've lost two straight games in blowout fashion after a relatively promising 1-1 start to the season.  In their last two losses, they've been outscored 65-17, outgained on the ground by 337 yards, outgained in total by 265 yards, have given up five times as many turnovers as they've forced, and have allowed twice as many first downs (46) as they themselves have gained (23).

Yeah.  It's been well beyond brutal to watch.

Now, with fingers pointing, jobs on the line and fans in need of anything positive, Buffalo is looking to get back to its winning ways this weekend against the 0-4 Cleveland Browns.  Win, and the negativity cools off a bit for a week.  Lose, and all hell will break loose.  Winning this week is simple - find out how Buffalo can do it after the jump.

Kurupt usually has a million (read: ten) of these things, but he's sick, so this is my show this week.  I'm a bit simpler in posting keys to the game, because playing winning football is much simpler than most realize.

Don't beat yourselves.  Nothing is more irritating about this current Bills team - I repeat, nothing is more irritating - than watching this team turn the ball over and commit penalties not just with alarming frequency, but with appalling ease.  Even bad teams can beat you when you beat yourselves; it's little wonder that Buffalo has been defeated so thoroughly and convincingly in their past two games.  It's dreadful to watch them implode week in and week out.  No more pick-sixes, Trent Edwards.  No more penalties, Demetrius Bell, Eric Wood and the entire special teams unit.  Play good, clean, smart football.

Run the ball.  Again, not rocket science.  Cleveland has the worst defense in the league, largely due to the fact that they're giving up 177 rushing yards per game.  Buffalo is well-equipped to fully exploit this weakness of Cleveland's; it's time for Alex Van Pelt to realize where Cleveland is weakest and attack the Browns' weak front seven early with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.  Buffalo averages 4.8 yards per carry this season, and as the running game has been somewhat consistent, it's the strength of the offense.  If Buffalo establishes and sticks with the run early, Cleveland will need to commit safeties to slow them down - opening up the passing game for the much-maligned trio of Edwards, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Win battles in the trenches.  Do you feel as if I'm speaking in football cliches? Well, that's because I am.  Cleveland is not blessed with much talent in their banged-up defensive front seven, but we've already covered that.  They do, however, have a very solid offensive line; QB Derek Anderson has been sacked just three times in the past two weeks, and even though the Browns frequently play from behind, they still manage to stay balanced offensively - a testament to their running efficiency.  A balanced Browns offense can harm this Bills defense, but if they're one-dimensional - and by one-dimensional, I mean if the Bills dominate at the point of attack and force Anderson to beat them through the air - this should be a cake walk, even with the Bills dealing with injuries, too.

Don't let Jerome Harrison beat you. Again.  Playing in place of the injured Jamal Lewis, Harrison has had some solid performances of late; he has 5 catches in each of his last two games, and rushed for 121 yards against a solid Cincinnati defense just a week ago.  Harrison killed Buffalo a season ago - which just so happens to be Cleveland's last win, by the way (they've lost 10 straight games) - when he picked up 101 yards and a score on just four (yes, four, as in 4, 1-2-3-4) touches.  He'll get plenty of work this week, and clearly, Buffalo can't have a repeat of his performance from last season.

Play with a sense of urgency.  Anything less than obvious intent to dominate from the team as a whole is unacceptable.  Buffalo is far more talented than this Browns team.  I'm not asking for a personality change.  I'm simply asking this team to take the field of play fired up, play like they're having fun, and show the Browns early and often just how far they have to go in their re-building effort.  You're allowed to act like you're having fun, Bills players.  Play excited.  Play harder than you've ever played.  Play to save your jobs, your coach's job, and to begin paying back all the wins this franchise owes to its loyal fan base.  It starts Sunday.  Play like you're aware of that.

*****

This is a must-win and a should-win, but it's nowhere near a gimme - not with the way Buffalo has been playing.  Still, anything less than a win is completely unacceptable for a Bills team that has never needed a win more than this team does.  If they can hit on most or all of the points above, they'll be fine - but again, losing to a winless team at home is completely unacceptable.  We'll know if Buffalo is up to the task in a little over 24 hours' time.  Go Bills!

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