Bills stand up on defense, offense falters in loss to Browns
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Bills built their impressive record by beating mediocre-to-bad teams all season.
On Sunday, they looked like one.
Buffalo’s offense struggled from the start, the Bills defense made several big stops near the goal line but couldn’t get the one it needed most and Stephen Hauschka missed two field goals in a 19-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
With a long line of doubters questioning their best start since 1993 because of a soft schedule, the Bills (6-3) did nothing to dispel the idea that they’re not playoff material.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with today,” said Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who had two rushing TDs. “We’re going to learn from it. This one hurts because of the preparation that we had, I thought, was good enough. We had a really good week at practice. There were opportunities in that game where I have to be better. I have to put our offense in better situations, and I just didn’t do that today.”
Allen was OK, completing 22 of 41 passes for 266 yards and no turnovers. But the Bills spun their wheels early on, running just seven plays and getting 12 yards in the first quarter.
“I thought we moved the ball at times, but again, we have to score more points,” coach Sean McDermott said. “However we do that — running it, throwing it — we have to be more of a threat to score points.”
Despite their issues, the Bills, whose six wins had come against teams with a 9-42 record, still had a chance to tie it in the final minute.
But Hauschka, who missed a 34-yard field goal late in the first half, was way off with a 53-yarder with 22 seconds left, allowing the Browns to snap a four-game losing streak.
“It’s tough,” said Hauschka, now 8 of 13 on field-goal attempts this season. “It’s one of the hardest things for a kicker. With my teammates out there giving everything they have, it hurts to let them down.”
After Baker Mayfield’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins gave the Browns (3-6) the lead with 1:44 left, Allen drove the Bills to Cleveland’s 35. But following an incompletion on third down, McDermott decided his best chance was to try and force overtime and sent out Hauschka, whose long kick was short and left.
“I hit it OK, but not the way you need to hit it from that distance,” said Hauschka, who is 0 for 3 beyond 50 yards. “I didn’t really get all of it going in that direction. With a little bit of right to left wind it’s going to take it if you don’t get it all.”
The Bills got all they could have hoped from their defense.
Buffalo stiffened once it was backed into the red zone, stopping the Browns on 12 plays inside the 3-yard line. Also, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety.
During one stunning sequence in the first quarter, the Bills denied the Browns on eight consecutive plays, overcoming two pass interference calls that gave Cleveland automatic first downs at the 1.
It was two goal-line stands in one.
“I have been a part of some cool goal-line stands and some tough defenses, but I do not think I have ever gone a full two series on the two-yard line,” said Bills defensive end Trent Murphy. “That was awesome. I will remember that forever. I would have liked the outcome today to be different, but it is still a positive.”
With their defense playing so well, the Bills seemed poised to move to 7-2 after Allen, who has six rushing TDs, sneaked in from the 1-yard line with 5:26 left.
But Mayfield marched the Browns 82 yards in 10 plays, completing a drive that has temporarily saved Cleveland’s season with his strike to Higgins.
“We have to be better at the end of the game,” Murphy said. “We have to be able to hang our hard hat on the defense, speaking for the defense. We can hold up there at the end the game and not put it back on the offense. We believe in them and they can get the job done too, but at the end of the day, as a defense, you have to pack them on the road and we needed to get a stop there.”
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