Continued improvement leading to a win was the goal of this game. Both teams were coming off a Week 2 game that had drastic improvement from Week 1. The Bills were out to prove that their opener was an aberration and that their victory over the Chiefs was the real deal. The Browns were hoping to build on the progress they showed and get their first win in doing so.
The Bills jumped out to a quick 14 point lead over the young Browns team and held on for a 24-14 victory. For the third straight week the Browns were competitive and gave a playoff hopeful team all they could handle. Time will tell if they utilize those experiences in future weeks and future seasons. Buffalo, now sits at 2-1 in a first place tie in the AFC East and their season-opening blowout loss to the Jets feels like ages ago. Let’s take a look at the notable Week 3 performances.
Buffalo – Three Performances of Note
Buffalo’s offensive line has now gone the first three games of the season without allowing a sack. Rookie left tackle, Cordy Glenn (+1.9) has surpassed expectations and was very good again this week, allowing only one QB hurry and no hits in the game. Even more impressive was the interior of the Bills’ line. Left guard Andy Levitre (+1.5), center Eric Wood (+2.7) and right guard Kraig Urbik (+2.5) each played every snap in the game and didn’t allow a single hurry, hit, or sack. Part of the credit must also go quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who was very decisive and got the throws out on time. On the few occasions where he was hurried, Fitzpatrick managed to make plays and complete passes.
Despite only playing 14 snaps before leaving injured running back C.J. Spiller’s impact on this game was quite large. Spiller (+1.2) was on his way to a monster afternoon when he was forced out of the game with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury. Before leaving, Spiller had already scored a touchdown and was pivotal in setting up another; the 14-point lead that he helped acquire would hold up for the duration of the game. In the 14 plays he participated in, he touched the ball on six of them, showing how involved he was going to be. Tashard Choice in his place for the remainder of the game was never likely to be quite as devastating.
Solid Linebacker Play
The Bills got a very good game out of their linebacker corps, especially in pass coverage. Nick Barnett (+3.5) continues to be a rock on defense, playing all 67 snaps and playing at a very high level. Barnett led the team in tackles and was very stout in pass coverage, being thrown at five times and only giving up 27 yards on those passes. His counterpart in the nickel, Bryan Scott (+4.2) excelled in pass coverage also, allowing only three yards on three attempts thrown his way. With the Bills very good run defense teams will be faced with a lot of third and long situations, so it is encouraging to see the nickel package excel.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
Just as you would expect from a rookie quarterback, it has been an up and down season so far for Brandon Weeden (-3.4). Weeden was dreadful in Week 1, fairly good in Week 2, and once again below average in Week 3. Weeden thrived with his intermediate throws, completing 5 of 6 passes thrown between 10-19 yards downfield in this game. There were plenty of good throws, but where he struggled most was on his deep attempts. There were a few opportunities where his receiver beat the coverage and Weeden missed a potential touchdown because he was off target, or more accurately late with the pass. He will need to become more consistent if he is going to be a big time quarterback, but there were at least signs of encouragement in this game.
Little Help Please
Part of the problem for Weeden is that none of his receivers have stepped up and become a playmaker for him. Many were hoping that Greg Little (-2.0) would be the receiver to step up, but he had another below average game this week. In 67 snaps Little was only targeted four times and caught just two passes for a paltry 17 yards. Little has undeniable talent with the ball in his hands, but getting it there is trickier than it should be, because he cannot shake the drops that have plagued him in the NFL. Maybe the player to step up will be Travis Benjamin, who ran a gorgeous post-corner route for a touchdown and has shown flashes in three games.
In their second of four weeks without elite cornerback Joe Haden, the Browns’ defensive backs held up quite well. Sheldon Brown (+0.7) returned to the starting lineup after a Week 1 injury and had a nice game. He was thrown at 10 times, allowing seven receptions but for only 54 yards. Brown was quick to come up on the ball and finished the game with a +1.8 coverage grade. In Week 2 Buster Skrine was victimized and had a terrible day, but he bounced back this week. Skrine was thrown at five times, allowing three receptions for 25 yards and finished the day with an overall +1.8 grade. The growth in the secondary will leave the Browns with plenty of depth when Haden returns in two weeks.
– The Bills gained 114 yards on their first two drives with Spiller and only 230 yards the rest of the game.
– Browns tight end Jordan Cameron played only 22 snaps, 15 of which were passes. On those 15 passes, he was targeted on seven of them and caught five. Very efficient.
– Joshua Cribbs played only two offensive snaps and now has played just seven plays all season. At the end of Week 3 in 2011 he had participated in 87 offensive plays. Maybe he could be the playmaker that the Browns offense needs?
PFF Game Ball
Strongly considered Spiller but couldn’t give it to someone who only played 14 snaps. Ryan Fitzpatrick now gets the Week 3 game ball. Three touchdown passes and zero turnovers in leading his team to victory.
Follow John on Twitter: @PFF_Castellane