Bills 24, Browns 14
Strategy: Offensively, the Browns run a variation of the West Coast offense, relying on quick passes to methodically move the ball down the field. Early in the game, they leaned on rookie running back Trent Richardson but abandoned that plan after falling behind. Defensively, the Browns used a four-man defensive line and they often had five or more defensive backs on the field as the Bills ran their spread offense, which they struggled matching up against at times.
Personnel: The Browns started three rookies on offense in Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Rookie receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon also received a lot of snaps. With cornerback Joe Haden suspended, Buster Skrine, Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson played in the nickel. With defensive tackle Phil Taylor on injured reserve, Ishmaal'ily Kitchen, cut by the Ravens after the preseason, played a handful of snaps.
What went right: Weeden was much more competent against the Bills than he was in the game against the Eagles two weeks ago. . He completed passes to nine receivers and showed more poise in the pocket. They got the ball to Joshua Cribbs on a screen play that gained 24 yards. Richardson averaged just 2.3 yards per carry, but he is one heck of a player. He never stopped running hard and his running style reminds me a little bit of Ray Rice. After an abysmal start, the defense tightened up in the final three quarters and put the Bills in third and long situations. But honestly, the best thing was C.J. Spiller getting hurt; he had 58 yards on six touches.
What went wrong: The Browns couldn’t match up with the Bills’ offensive personnel, especially when they went with an empty backfield. Their defensive line got pushed around by the Bills and the Browns didn’t tackle well in the open field. Weeden locked onto his first option on an awful interception in the first half, but on his second, he was just trying to make a play in a desperate situation. The Browns allowed returner Leodis McKelvin to gain 53 yards on two punt returns.
Turning point: Initially, it looked like it was walking into the stadium, but the Browns recovered after allowing the Bills to score touchdowns on the first two drives. They pulled within three points and had the ball at midfield late in the third quarter, but Mark Anderson blew by Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to sack Weeden on third down. The Bills scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
X-factor: Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson rarely left the field and probably won’t against Ray Rice and the Ravens, either. The former Maryland standout had six tackles against the Bills, and through three games, he has 14 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He is a solid all-around player and one of the few healthy playmakers the Browns have on defense.