Niagara Gazette

Sports

October 3, 2013

Bills, Browns

Niagara Gazette — CLEVELAND — When the NFL announced its TV schedule, the Bills-Browns matchup on a Thursday night in October didn’t figure to shatter any ratings records.

It still won’t, but it’s much more watchable than it figured to be.

The Bills and Browns (8 p.m., WBBZ-TV Ch. 5, WGR 550 AM Radio) are two of the league’s early surprises at 2-2 under first-year coaches. Buffalo and Cleveland have been sparked by opportunistic defenses, and one team will emerge from a short week and with momentum before the leaves drop and the weather along Lake Erie turns harsh and unforgiving.

The chance to play in the national spotlight has Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor revved up.

“Oh, yeah, the whole world is watching,” he said. “Every little thing you do, you know everyone is going to see it.”

Two weeks ago, the Browns seemed ready to slide into a hole and disappear. After dropping to 0-2, they traded star running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis, a stunning move that had some Cleveland fans ready to storm the team’s training facility with pitchforks and torches. But just when things seemed bleakest, quarterback Brian Hoyer, a lifelong Browns fan himself, rode to the rescue.

Displaying poise and leadership he learned as Tom Brady’s understudy in New England, Hoyer has been a revelation for the Browns, and now must deliver again. He kept the starting job this week despite Brandon Weeden being cleared to play after spraining his right thumb.

“As a competitor, you want to be the guy out there on the field, so I’m obviously excited about that,” Hoyer said.

For the Bills to keep making progress, they’ll need more consistency from rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. He passed for just 167 yards last week against Baltimore, but Buffalo’s defense intercepted Joe Flacco five times to win.

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