Bickering Browns to battle Bills

Published 12:06 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Browns are infighting, there’s hand-wringing taking place in Buffalo, but at least Langston Walker hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Asked if Buffalo’s three-game losing streak had a sobering effect on the team, the Bills offensive tackle, with a smile and a wink, said: ‘‘I didn’t think we were drunk.’’

Rodney Dangerfield couldn’t have put it better in regards to two hard-luck franchises that are, yet again, not getting much respect. At least they’re providing interesting copy in preparing to play at Orchard Park on Monday night in a game being billed as ‘‘The Battle of Lake Erie.’’

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But it better resembles an eerily familiar faceoff between two underachieving teams expected to be contenders by this point of the schedule.

The Browns (3-6), who have made the playoffs once this decade, are unraveling at a Drama of The Week pace. The latest episode features running back Jamal Lewis accusing some teammates of quitting during a 34-30 loss against Denver last week.

The Bills (5-4) are at least maintaining a stiff upper lip in the face of a sudden skid that’s negated any momentum the team established by getting off to a 5-1 start. The slide is stunting high expectations that Buffalo might finally be on track to end an eight-season playoff drought, the longest in franchise history.

‘‘I don’t think it’s a sense of desperation, but certainly a sense of urgency,’’ Bills receiver Lee Evans said. ‘‘We’ve let some opportunities pass us by. But we’re still in a good spot. So now is a good time as any to get back on track.’’

The mood is much more troubled in Cleveland, especially now that Lewis is suggesting the Browns lack a certain maturity in comparison to his days with the Baltimore Ravens, where the running back spent seven seasons and won a Super Bowl.

‘‘We had a lot of grown men around there that handled themselves professionally where … we didn’t have to be told what to do all the time,’’ Lewis said. ‘‘But that was Baltimore.’’

Lewis added: ‘‘It’s a team sport, but at the same time, you have to do your own job and do it your best, and that comes with maturity. … I think, if everybody took that approach we’d be all right.’’

The Browns have been inconsistent at best. How else to describe a team that can knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and win at Jacksonville, and still be three games under .500?

Lewis’ latest critique came after he met privately with coach Romeo Crennel this week concerning the running back’s suggestions some of his teammates might have quit.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Crennel, who’s already on the hot seat. The latest flare-up follows a stretch in which the team suspended — and then unsuspended — tight end Kellen Winslow for disparaging comments and behavior. And after quarterback Derek Anderson was benched in favor of Brady Quinn, who will make his second career start Monday.

Crennel disputed Lewis’ comments, saying his players competed to the end of the loss against Denver.

‘‘I think he wished he would have worked around it in a different way, rather than using that particular word,’’ Crennel said after his talk with Lewis. ‘‘The team is not dead in the water when you have a chance to win in the end.’’