(AP photo/Tony Dejak)
Inclement weather and a superior opponent proved to be too much for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, and as a result, their playoff hopes are at a virtual end. Despite being in the game until just three seconds remained on the clock, the Cleveland Browns were dominant in an 8-0 victory that puts them in the driver's seat to clinch the AFC's final playoff spot.
Buffalo's inexperience showed through in this contest, as they were unable to make the types of plays that the Browns made to really keep the game close. The young offense could not get anything going through the air until their final drive, the defense had difficulty with the Browns' big-play offense in the first half, and even Brian Moorman struggled through the blizzard. The score doesn't really indicate it, but this Bills team struggled in all three phases of the game on Sunday.
Jamal Lewis Runs Wild
Running behind an offensive line that was once again dominant, Browns RB Jamal Lewis was a one-man wrecking crew, accumulating 163 yards on 33 carries (4.9 yards per carry). Most of that damage came in the second half, as the Bills were playing from behind and the Browns were trying to eat clock. Buffalo could not find a way to keep Lewis bottled up for more than mere stretches, and as a result, were able to control the tempo in the second half.
Even when the Bills were able to keep Lewis under wraps, the Browns somehow made plays through the air. Derek Anderson was efficient enough, throwing for 137 yards and making some well-timed big plays to Braylon Edwards (4-64), Joe Jurevicius (2-34) and Kellen Winslow (2-28). Buffalo's undersized defense was overmatched by the Browns' large skill position players; this was a theme in every phase, as Buffalo's small receivers had trouble getting open as well. The weather was responsible for the Browns only putting up 8 points; on a nice day, the Browns likely would have broken 30.
Edwards, Passing Attack Struggle
Buffalo's offensive attack was conservative for most of the game; Marshawn Lynch carried 21 times for 82 yards, and Fred Jackson added 7 carries for 16 more. Without a viable passing attack, however, the Browns focused on stopping the run, and other than a few big gainers, the Bills were bottled up on the ground to the tune of 3.4 yards per carry. The Browns were so focused on the run that their run blitzes were overly efficient, resulting in 5 Bills carries that were stopped for a loss.
Trent Edwards finished the day completing just 13 of 33 passes (39%), and seemed to have a lot of difficulty playing in the harsh conditions. The rookie was errant on plenty of throws, often having his tosses end up yards behind his intended receiver. Buffalo's wideouts, meanwhile, struggled to get open and hang on to the ball - both Lee Evans (4-36) and Michael Gaines had big drops late that would have made Edwards' job much easier. Edwards had the team down to the Browns' 10 yard-line with less than a minute remaining, but the young offense couldn't put it in the paint to tie the score.
Rumblings Game Balls
It's tough to come up with game balls for this performance; we'll hand them out nonetheless:
S Bryan Scott: He's been a nice surprise for the defense over the past couple of weeks, and his strong play continued today - his 5 stops were second most on the defense. This guy has played well enough to stick around on next year's roster.
The O-Line: They weren't helped out at all by the passing game or the play-calling, but once again Trent Edwards was not sacked, and they sprung a couple of big plays on the ground. This unit looks good heading into next year.
RB Marshawn Lynch: His 82 yards give him 940 on the season and put Buffalo's best player in prime position to crack 1,000 yards in his first pro season. He still gets taken down in the backfield a bit too often for my taste, but the guy is a stud.