ORCHARD PARK — The outlook was bleak for the Buffalo Bills offensive line coming out of last week’s loss in Minnesota. Knee injuries to starting center Geoff Hangartner and fill-in guard Kraig Urbik depleted a unit that was often overmatched when everyone was healthy this season.
In Sunday’s sloppy slugfest with the Cleveland Browns, the reupholstered line paved the way for a Buffalo victory.
Centered by the returning Eric Wood and platooning an undrafted rookie, Cordaro Howard, with a practice-squad call-up, Chad Rinehart, at right guard, the Bills rushed for 192 yards and possessed the ball for 36:10 in the 13-6 win.
The line was particularly effective during two long drives: a 14-play, 89-yard jaunt in the second quarter that produced the game’s lone touchdown, and a nine-run clock-killer over the final 3:15 of the game.
“I thought they did a phenomenal job controlling the line of scrimmage and that really showed up on that last drive,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
“They did a great job opening up holes for me considering it was a little bit of a shuffle up there,” said running back Fred Jackson, who rushed 29 times for 112 yards. “I could only make plays with those guys. The tight ends, fullbacks and receivers blocking, they all showed up and made some plays for me today.”
Rookie C.J. Spiller picked up 33 yards on eight carries, and Fitzpatrick scrambled four times for an additional 49 yards, while taking just two sacks.
“Fitz is a difference-maker,” Wood said. “He makes us look really good.”
Wood returned after missing two games with an ankle injury, and shifted over to the position he played in college.
“I felt good out there,” Wood said. “Whenever Geoff comes back, I’ll be ready to hop out to guard and give him his spot back. But, for the time-being, it does feel pretty natural to be in there.”