1:00 PM ET, December 16, 2007
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
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 score. "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 night. 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 Californian. 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 pile." 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 miss." 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.
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.
Buffalo and Cleveland might both be cold weather teams, but even they couldn’t have expected this. Battling gusting wind and a constant snow that even seemed to come sideways sometimes, the Browns simply made more plays when it counted. The Cleveland special teams were outstanding, with veteran K Phil Dawson making a pair of field goals in very difficult situations. But the biggest key was the Browns’ rushing attack. Cleveland set the tone early and was very physical. Jamal Lewis was impressive, running well behind a physical offensive line in the Browns’ power zone scheme. Cleveland used a good mixture of the run and pass in the first half, but as the weather worsened, the Browns relied almost exclusively on Lewis and the ground attack in the second half to salt the victory away.
-- Ken Moll, Scouts Inc.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||3.6||4.9|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||0-1||0-1|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||6:56||Phil Dawson 35 yd Field Goal|
Drive info: 9 plays, 41 yds, 4:15
|SF||13:53||Brian Moorman kicked ball through End Zone|
Drive info: 1 plays, 0 yds, 0:00
|FG||1:25||Phil Dawson 49 yd Field Goal|
Drive info: 10 plays, 62 yds, 2:44