Browns can clinch first playoff berth since '02 with win next week

CLEVELAND (AP) -- On a perfect day to build a snowman, the
Cleveland Browns put one up on the scoreboard.

Jamal Lewis plowed for 163 yards and Phil Dawson managed to kick
two field goals through harsh, wintry winds as the surprising
Browns improved their postseason chances with an 8-0 win over the
Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Around the golf course, a rounded number eight is referred to as
a snowman, and in blizzard-like conditions better suited for the
Iditarod sled-dog race, the Browns (9-5) didn't mind shooting that

"When you're a kid, you dream of playing in a game like this,"
said Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who grew up just east of
Cleveland. "Today was the Turkey Bowl or the Christmas Bowl in the
backyard when you're wiping snow out of your eyes.

"This is why I came home -- not for the elements -- but to play
in big games like this."

The Browns, who never figured to be playing meaningful games in
December when the season started, picked up one of their biggest
wins since returning as an expansion franchise in 1999.

Cleveland needed a win and a loss by Tennessee to secure at
least an AFC wild-card berth. Only half of that scenario unfolded
as the Titans won 26-17 at Kansas City, but the Browns will clinch
their first playoff appearance since 2002 with a win at Cincinnati
next week.

There may be even more at stake. The Browns also moved into a
tie for first in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who
lost 29-22 to Jacksonville.

"It's already the playoffs for us," said Browns linebacker
Willie McGinest. "That's the way we've been looking at these games
and that's what we have to keep doing."

The Bills (7-7) were eliminated from making the postseason. The
win also eliminated the Houston Texans, who beat Denver on Thursday

Buffalo looked more like a warm-weather team than one accustomed
to the cold as the elements -- along with Cleveland's defense --
prevented the Bills from scoring for the first time since they were
shut out in the 2003 season finale by New England.

It was Cleveland's first shutout since 2005 and just the Browns'
third since 1999. The NFL hadn't had an 8-0 game since Nov. 10,
1929, when the Chicago Cardinals beat the Minneapolis Red Jackets.

The snow began falling -- actually blowing sideways -- off Lake
Erie about 1 1/2 hours before kickoff and by game time, Browns Stadium
had been transformed into the world's largest snow globe.

"It was like something on the Discovery Channel about the North
Pole," said Bills rookie running back Marshawn Lynch, a

With wind gusts up to 40 mph and visibility limited, throwing
the ball was nearly impossible and both teams had to rely on their
running games to move the ball. But even that was tough as players
struggled to get traction on the slippery, snow-covered surface.

One player who found his footing was Lewis, who grew up in
Georgia but slopped his way down the field like a kid who grew up
in the Midwest. Lewis moved over 1,000 yards with his fourth
100-yard-plus game this season.

"He was perfect for this kind of weather," Browns rookie
tackle Joe Thomas said. "He kept his shoulders north and south,
put his head down and just knocked guys over. He carried the

The Bills rallied in the final minutes, driving the ball to
Cleveland's 10-yard line with 15 seconds left. But on fourth down
and out of timeouts, rookie quarterback Trent Edwards threw
underneath on a screen to running back Fred Jackson, who was
wrapped up by several Browns defenders.

"It worked earlier in the drive," Edwards said. "They thought
we were going to put the ball in the end zone. It was there, but it
was just a matter of blocking the guys up front and making others

Dawson's second field goal, a 49-yarder with 1:22 left in the
first half, gave the Browns an 8-0 lead.

Like a golfer playing his slice, Dawson aimed his kick far left
to allow for the wind, which brought the ball back between the
uprights. After clearing the crossbar, it struck the goal post's
support neck -- the same spot he hit on a deflection a few weeks ago
in Baltimore to force overtime.

"Kicking is a funny thing," Dawson said. "At this time last
year I couldn't buy a break, and for whatever reason, I'm now
getting all the breaks. I'm not necessarily doing anything
different. The ball is just bouncing the right way."

Dawson's 35-yard field goal -- at the opposite end of the stadium
-- gave the Browns a 3-0 lead in the first.

On that one, he picked a spot way right of the upright and let
the wind do its thing.

"It was hit or miss on both of them," he said.

Cleveland's other points came on a safety in the second quarter
when a snap by the Bills sailed over the head of punter
Brian Moorman, who chased the ball into the end zone and then kicked it
into the stands before the Browns could recover.

Game notes
Amazingly, there were no turnovers. ... The Browns have won
six straight at home for the first time since 1994. ... The Bills'
charter flight home was canceled by the nasty weather, and the team
planned to spend Sunday night in Cleveland before heading home. ...
Both teams punted seven times. Cleveland's Dave Zastudil kicked a
56-yarder that was downed at the 1 in the third quarter. In the
fourth, he slipped and shanked a 7-yarder.


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