The Buffalo Bills rode the hot hand of LeSean McCoy and an uncharacteristically strong performance from Charles Clay to a 33-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at New Era Field. With the win, the Bills (7-7) have returned to .500 with two games to play and a faint pulse in the race for the final Wild Card playoff spot.
The Browns had absolutely no answer for McCoy at any point in the game. He had 91 rushing yards on the ground at halftime, putting him over 1,000 yards for the first time with the Bills and the fifth time in his career, and his two second-half touchdowns kept the Bills safely ahead when the Browns were able to narrow the margin. Shady finished the day with a season-high 153 yards on 19 carries, while Mike Gillislee added 37 yards yards and a touchdown of his own.
Clay, who has been the target of much fan ire this year (including my own), recorded a season-high seven catches and topped 70 yards for the second time this season. He made a great adjustment and sliding catch in the end zone on the Bills’ first touchdown of the day, and had a couple big plays on screen passes in the first half.
Taylor, for his part, had some poor moments but by and large played one of his better games as a Bill. His passing numbers were characteristically pedestrian (17-of-24, 174 yards, 1 TD), but his throws were sharp and on target when he had time to throw. He added 49 yards on the ground, and in doing so passed Jim Kelly for the number two spot on the Bills’ career QB rushing yardage list. He also has the two best rushing seasons for a quarterback in team history.
Defensively, the Bills were boosted by the return of Kyle Williams, who shared a sack with Lorenzo Alexander on the opening drive and helped keep Browns QB Robert Griffin III (who led the Browns in rushing) uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the game. Both players tacked on another sack in the fourth quarter, and Jerry Hughes and Zach Brown also recorded sacks. Alexander finished with a team-high six tackles.
Dan Carpenter made two field goals and two extra points, but also missed his fifth extra point try of the year and struggled with the wind on kickoffs. When the Bills had fourth-and-1 with a 20-point lead, Rex Ryan opted to keep the offense on the field (a move that didn’t end with a touchdown) instead of making it a larger lead.
The Browns, for their part, are the fourth team to start 0-14. They’ll host the Chargers next week trying to tie the 1980 Saints for the latest point in the season to record their first win. If they can’t, they’ll head to Pittsburgh in Week 17 trying to avoid joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.
The Bills will stay at home next week in what will either be a must-win game or a spoiler opportunity against the Dolphins.