CLEVELAND -- For the first time in 12 years, the Cleveland Browns are above .500 after five games.
All it took to get there was a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night in a game that turned into a duel of backup quarterbacks.
Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was knocked out of the game with a right knee injury on the second series of the first quarter, and Bills starter EJ Manuel exited after hurting his right knee in the third quarter.
The injuries left 2012 first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden in charge for the Browns (3-2) and undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel piloting the Bills (2-3).
A Tuel pass intended for Robert Woods was intercepted by safety T.J. Ward and returned 44 yards with 1:44 left to ice the game.
"It was just a misread on my part," Tuel said. "I didn't see the safety flying down. Just a screw-up on my part."
Neither starting quarterback returned to action. Both were diagnosed with sprains, though the NFL Network reported the Browns fear Hoyer tore knee ligaments. Hoyer will undergo an MRI exam Friday, while Manuel will be re-evaluated.
Weeden completed 13 of 24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception but was sacked five times. He said it was the most satisfying win of his career.
"I said (in the huddle), 'Let's do this, let's go win a football game,'" Weeden said. "I saw Brian. It happened right in front of me. This football team was relying on me whether or not I played the last two weeks. The guys around me played really well tonight."
The game went back and forth until Billy Cundiff broke a 24-24 tie on a 24-yard field goal with 12:31 to play. On the drive, the Browns failed to cross the goal line after having first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line.
Cundiff kicked a 44-yarder with 2:19 to go, increasing Cleveland's lead to 30-24 ahead of Woods' clinching score.
Hoyer was 2-for-4 for 25 yards before leaving.
Manuel threw for 129 yards on 11-of-20 passing. Tuel finished 8-for-20 for 80 yards with the one interception.
What the Bills said
"There are ups and downs in this game. We had to deal with them. We are playing at an opposing stadium where they are going to feed off their crowd." -- Running back Fred Jackson, on the Bills losing a 10-0 lead.
What the Browns said
"It was a good team win. We have a lot of talented players, and we play well together as a team." -- Left tackle Joe Thomas
What we learned about the Bills:
1. Running back C.J. Spiller can play hurt. Spiller was hampered by a sore ankle that limited him in practice, but he showed speed on a 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to tie the score at 17. He thrived against a Cleveland run defense that allowed an average of 2.9 yards a carry going into the game. Spiller produced an 8.3-yard average on eight carries.
2. The Bills' defense can get after the quarterback no matter who is standing in the pocket. Buffalo sacked Brandon Weeden five times. Mario Williams, matched up against the Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, led the way with two sacks.
What we learned about the Browns
1. Wide receiver Josh Gordon possesses a short memory. He dropped a pass on the first series that he said should have been a touchdown. Gordon said he was determined not to be the cause of the Browns losing, and he made up for his drop with a 37-yard touchdown catch with 5:31 left in the third quarter.
2. Running back Willis McGahee is finding his game. McGahee played for the third time since being signed after the Browns traded Trent Richardson to the Colts, and he rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries Thursday. The yardage total and carries were his best efforts with Cleveland.
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