Published October 03, 2013
CLEVELAND – Brandon Weeden, forced into the game by a knee injury to starter Brian Hoyer, threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in the third quarter Thursday night to pull the Cleveland Browns into a 24-24 tie with the Buffalo Bills.
With Buffalo leading 24-17, Weeden found a streaking Gordon down the left sideline and the wide receiver made a juggling catch with 5:53 left in the quarter.
It was Weeden's first TD pass since Week 1. He missed Cleveland's last two games with a sprained thumb, but was back on the field after Hoyer sustained a potentially serious right knee injury in the first quarter.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski told NFL Network he feared Hoyer has torn ligaments. A Browns spokesman could not confirm if Hoyer will undergo an MRI.
C.J. Spiller scored on a 54-yard TD run and Fred Jackson had his second 1-yard score as the Bills, who gave up 17 straight points and trailed 17-10 at half, took a 24-17 lead in the third.
There were several major injuries on both sides.
Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel took a helmet to his right knee in the third quarter and had to leave. Manuel attempted to get his knee loose on the sideline before jogging to the locker room. The Bills said his return was doubtful.
Also, Buffalo lost leading wide receiver Stevie Johnson to a back injury in the first half. He did not return.
Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant was taken to the Cleveland Clinic in the third quarter after experiencing shortness of breath.
After allowing the Browns to erase a 10-0 lead by scoring 17 straight points in the second quarter, the Bills needed a spark and Spiller gave them one.
Just a minute into the second half, Spiller took a handoff to the left, found a huge hole in Cleveland's defensive front and sprinted untouched for his TD to tie it 17-17 all. Spiller had missed practice time this week with an ankle injury, but he seemed as fast as ever while outracing the Browns secondary for his first TD this season.
Travis Benjamin scored on an electrifying 79-yard punt return in the second quarter to give the Browns a 17-10 lead at halftime.
The Browns trailed 10-0 before tying it with 3:52 left in the second quarter on Willis McGahee's 1-yard TD run.
Cleveland forced a punt and the speedy Benjamin caught it at his own 21. He immediately broke to the left, weaved through traffic and picked up a few blocks as he neared the Browns' sideline. With only punter Shawn Powell in his way, Benjamin broke through the tackle with ease and raced into the end zone with 2:20 left before leaping into the Dawg Pound section to celebrate with fans.
Weeden came off the bench to replace Hoyer and rallied the Browns to a field goal and McGahee's TD to tie it 10-10.
Hoyer injured his right knee on a scramble in the first quarter and the Browns turned their offense back over to Weeden, who had lost his starting job after spraining his right thumb in Week 2.
With the Browns trailing 7-0, Hoyer took off on an 11-yard run and was sliding after picking up the first down when he was hit from the side by rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Both of Hoyer's knees were bent awkwardly on the hit in front of Cleveland's bench, and several players and coaches yelled for a penalty to be called on Alonso. Hoyer stayed on the ground for several moments before he was assisted to a trainer's table. After he was examined, Hoyer limped unassisted to the locker room for tests and treatment.
A lifelong Browns fan and Cleveland native, Hoyer was attempting to become the first quarterback in team history to win his first three starts. Hoyer's first pass was dropped by wide receiver Josh Gordon, who may have been able to break it for a long gain.
Cleveland also got a 30-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff to cut Buffalo's lead to 10-3.
Jackson scored on a 1-yard TD plunge and Dan Carpenter kicked a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter as the Bills jumped out to their 10-0 lead.
The Bills needed just three plays to take a 7-0 lead on Jackson's short run.
After a 25-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard put the ball at Cleveland's 32, the Bills tried a trick play with wide receiver T.J. Graham attempting a long pass to Johnson. He was interfered with in the end zone by cornerback Joe Haden, giving Buffalo the ball at the 1. Jackson scored on the next play.
The Bills had both Jackson and Spiller back after they missed practice time this week with injuries.
At halftime, the Browns honored former star running back Jim Brown, one of the greatest Browns of them all.
Cleveland's career leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, the Hall of Famer skipped a 2010 ring of ceremony because of a rift with former team president Mike Holmgren. However, Brown was welcomed back to the team by new owner Jimmy Haslam and hired in May as an adviser.
Brown said he's touched by the tribute, which will acknowledge his contributions on and off the field.
"It's great to be back," he said before kickoff. "This is where I should be. I'm always going to be a Cleveland Brown. I love this city and I love these fans."
The famed No. 32 is excited about the Browns' fast start this season and believes the Browns could contend.