Benjamin, Ward spark Browns to third win in a row

CLEVELAND — After an injury to Brian Hoyer that silenced the crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium, Travis Benjamin brought the crowd back to its feet. Benjamin had a record-setting night, but it took an interception return for a touchdown by T.J. Ward to seal the deal.

The Browns scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, after spotting the Bills a 10-0 lead. On his first return, Benjamin took a punt from Shawn Powell and raced down the sideline appearing to be heading to the end zone. However, Powell was able to angle him off and push him out of bounds at the Bills’ 31. The offense stalled and Billy Cundiff kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 10-3.

“Yeah, first time I let him push me out of bounds, so I came to the sidelines thinking I can’t let the punter tackle me,” Benjamin said. “So, the second time when I came to him I just cut back inside and I knew he missed the tackle.”

With 2:41 to play in the first half, Powell had a 52-yard punt, but Benjamin fielded the punt and Benjamin raced to the sideline and was spun around by a defender, but kept his feet and was able to get to the end zone for a 79 yard touchdown.

“It was a  wild punt return for us,” he said. “We knew that he just wanted to kick the ball out of bounds and kick it away from me. I knew once I caught the ball that I had a great special team blocks and they were going to get me a crease.”

Rob Chudzinski said Benjamin’s return jump started the whole team.

“It was fabulous,” he said. “It was a huge play in turning (the momentum).”

Benjamin had a 13-yard return in the fourth quarter which set a new Browns franchise record as he totaled 179 yards. The previous mark was held by  Eric Metcalf, who had 166 yards and two touchdowns on Oct. 24, 1993 against the Steelers.  Metcalf had touchdown returns of 91- and 75-yards to defeat the Steelers.

“It means a lot, knowing that I can come in an give my team great field position and make that play,” he said. “Be a game changer to put my team up on top.”

For all of Benjamin’s heroics, it was Ward who capped the win when he stepped in front of rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel and returned the interception 44 yards for a touchdown with 1:44 to play to make the final score 37-24. Prior to the interception, the Browns were hanging on to a 30-24 lead and the Bills were driving to try and take the lead. Tuel was filling in for E.J. Manuel, who was injured earlier in the half. Tuel was trying to hit Robert Woods.

That was obviously, a huge play (by Ward),” Chudzinski said. “He’s doing everything right. He’s playing physical, showing leadership and he came up with the big play.”


Hoyer Hurt: QB Brian Hoyer injured his right knee with 11:33 to play in the second quarter. Chudzinski said it was a sprain, but NFL Network reported that the Browns feared he tore ligaments in the knee.

“I don’t want to be too premature,” Chudzinski said. “It’s disappointing, but let’s wait until (Friday).”

Chudzinski said that Hoyer will have an MRI on the knee on Friday.

Hoyer was injured on the team’s second series. He was injured as he scrambled and was hit as he went down near the sideline by LB Kiko Alonso. He walked to the locker room, but did not return. He was 2-of-4 for 25 yards when he was hurt. He had a run for 11 yards

Weeden Relief: QB Brandon Weeden came in when Hoyer was injured and led the team the rest of the way. Weeden came in with 11:03 to play in the first quarter. Weeden had missed the past two games with a sprained right thumb. He led the Browns on a 14 play, 74 yard drive that took 7:10 to tie the game at 10-10 with 3:52 to play in the first half.

“The long drive, I started getting in a rhythm, more in sync,” Weeden said.

Weeden came back and hit WR Josh Gordon with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 5:35 to play in the third quarter to tie the game at 24-24. The score was set up by a 47-yard completion to WR Greg Little just one play before.

Weeden led the Browns on two drives in the fourth quarter that resulted in field goals to give the Browns the lead. Weeden had two big throws to keep drives alive as he hit Gordon for 18 yards and a first down on third-and-18. On the next play, he hit Little for 16 yards.

Weeden finished 13-of-24 for 197 yards with a touchdown and a rating of 95.3. Weeden was sacked five times.

“That’s what I expect from him,” Chudzinski said. “It doesn’t surprise me about him.”

Chudzinski said he decided on Wednesday that Weeden would be the backup to Hoyer. QB Jason Campbell was inactive.

Rush D: The Browns bottled the Bills up in the first half as RB Fred Jackson had 12 carries for 42 yards, RB Tashard Choice had two for 11 and RB C. J. Spiller had just two carries for 3 yards. However, on the first series of the second half, Spiller broke loose on a 54-yard touchdown run. The Browns gave up their most rushing yardage as they allowed 155 yards on 31 carries (5.0 avg.). Spiller finished with 66 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown, while Jackson had 17 carries for 53 yards and two scores.

Super Mario: DL Mario Williams had two sacks on Weeden, to give him 7.5 on the year. He came into the game ranked third in the NFL.

High Water Mark: The Browns are 3-2 and are above .500 for the first time since 2007. They also are currently ahead of the Ravens and Bengals in the standings by percentage points in the AFC North.

McGahee’s Mark: RB Willis McGahee carried the ball 26 times for 72 yards (2.8 avg.) and a touchdown.  He had a long run of 16 yards. McGahee carried the load almost exclusively after RB Chris Ogbonnaya left the game with a possible concussion.

“Willis gave us a spark,” Chudzinski said.

Big Catch: WR Josh Gordon led the Browns with four receptions for 86 yards, including a 37 yard touchdown. WR Greg Little finished with three for 71, including a 47 yard catch that set up Gordon’s touchdown. TE Jordan Cameron had three catch for 36 yards. Gordon dropped a potential 80-yard score on a quick slant on the second play of the game.

“It’s a great turnaround for this city,” Gordon said. “It’s exactly what we’ve been striving for, for people to just notice us as something else. We’ve been wanting to turn that page in this city and I think that’s exactly what we’re working for.”

Manuel Down:
QB E.J. Manuel was injured in the third quarter after scrambling for a first down. He was hit near the sideline by DB Tashaun Gipson.  He was replaced by rookie QB Jeff Tuel as Manuel did not return. Manuel finished 11-of-20 for 129 yards. He was sacked twice and had a rating of 74.8. Manuel had one rushing attempt for 14 yards on the play he was injured. Tuel was 8-of-20 for 80 yards with an interception and he was sacked twice His rating was just 31.2.

Cundiff Kicks: K Billy Cundiff made all three of his field goal attempts, including the go ahead score from 30 yards out and a 44-yard attempt with 2:19 to play. His other kick was 24-yards. He also handled the kickoff duties after P Spencer Lanning did so the previous week.

Injury Update: Besides Hoyer, RB Chris Ogbonnaya left in the first half with a possible concussion and didn’t return. He caught one pass for 7 yards. DL Desmond Bryant was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for shortness of breath.

Bad Start: After WR Josh Gordon dropped a skinny post that would’ve gone for big yardage, the Browns punted. Jim Leonhard returned the punt to the Browns 32. After a short run, the Bills ran a flea-flicker and WR T.J. Graham threw deep to WR Stevie Johnson and CB Joe Haden was called for pass interference in the end zone to give Buffalo the ball on the one. RB Fred Jackson went in for the score on the next play to give the Bills a 7-0 lead with 13:19 to play in the first quarter.

Sack Men:  The Browns totaled four sacks. DL Ahtyba Rubin sacked Manuel in the first quarter. Rookie DL Armonty Bryant got his first career sack at the Bills’ three-yard line to force a punt. DB Buster Skrine had a sack on a blitz and LB Craig Robertson had the fourth.  LB D’Qwell Jackson led the Browns with 11 tackles

Jim Brown Honored: The Browns had a huge tribute to Jim Brown at halftime of the game. Video highlights of his career were played and banners were unveiled listing his accomplishments.

“It’s great to be back,” Brown said. “This is where I should be. I am always going to be a Cleveland Brown. I love this city and I love these fans. We have the greatest fans in the world, so here I am.”

Brown said he appreciates the Browns fans.

“Well, I’ve never lost touch with them,” Brown said. “They’re great. They’ve gone through some lean years, but they always remembers the ’64 championship team and I’m happy to be back here. Boy, these young guys are playing good and, if we can just get a victory tonight, all of it will be worth it.”

Chudzinski awarded the game ball to Brown.

Lauvao Active: OL Shawn Lauvao was active for the first time this season. He started but Oniel Cousins alternated with him.

Mingo Start 2: LB Barkevious Mingo started his second-straight game in place of LB Jabaal Sheard (knee). Mingo separated the ball from WR T.J. Graham on a third-and-7 to force a field goal. On a third down later in the first quarter, Mingo forced Manuel to throw the ball away on third-and-2. Mingo had three tackles and four quarterback hurries.

Brown Out: The Browns wore brown jerseys and brown pants for the first time in history.

Inactives: For the Browns: QB Jason Campbell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, LB Quentin Groves, OL Patrick Lewis, OL Martin Wallace, DL Billy Winn and LB Jabaal Sheard. For the Bills: K Dustin Hopkins, CB Stephon Gilmore, FS Jarius Byrd, CB Ron Brooks, G Sam Young, WR Marquise Goodwin and TE Chris Gragg. The Bills started Jim Leonard at SS for Aaron Williams and Williams moved to right cornerback for Gilmore and Da’Norris Searcy at FS for Byrd.