Bills are Browns’ latest chance to get win

Published 1:18 am Monday, December 19, 2016

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The one thing Joe Thomas hasn’t lost so far during the Browns’ winless start is his sense of humor.
Mention snow Buffalo’s forecast this weekend, and Cleveland’s tackle said: “The ski slopes are happy.”
Bring up the Browns being in danger of going 0-16, and Thomas didn’t miss a beat.
“Well, we wouldn’t be the first team,” he said with a distinct laugh.
In 2008, the Detroit Lions were the first — and so far only — NFL team to not win during a 16-game season. The Browns (0-13), who play at the Bills (6-7) on Sunday, are in contention to double the list of futility.
The best way Thomas knows how to deal with avoiding that possibility is preparing as diligently as he can and leaning on humor as a coping mechanism.
“Definitely this season you have to cope with the difficulties of not winning a game,” the 10th-year veteran said. “It could be overwhelming when you think of a whole season at one time and trying to avoid being 0-16.”
The Browns are running out of opportunities.
What’s worse is Cleveland has actually lost 16 in a row, dating to a 24-10 win against San Francisco on Dec. 13. Yes, the Browns haven’t won in a calendar year.
This year’s struggles are the result of yet another top-to-bottom upheaval, this time under Hue Jackson, their fourth coach since owner Jimmy Haslam took over in October 2012.
Difficult as it might be to accept in the short term, Thomas supports what the Browns are doing by attempting to stockpile draft picks and build through youth. The key, he said, is sticking with a commitment to establish a semblance of continuity under Jackson.
“Part of the reason we haven’t been able to turn it around is instability leads to poor performance,” Thomas said. “But that’s why I’m so optimistic in our future because I think Jimmy Haslam has finally committed to this organization, this management team and coaching staff.”
The Bills are no strangers to revolving doors at coach, general manager and quarterback. It’s a key reason behind why they’re in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 years.
And more change could be on the way with questions being raised about Rex Ryan’s job security after just two seasons.
Receiver Sammy Watkins rallied to Ryan’s defense in saying he has no interest in Buffalo changing coaches.
“I don’t want to keep going through all this craziness,” Watkins said. “That kills a player and a team and an organization.”
As a result, losing to the Browns is not an option.
“We can’t let that let that happen,” Watkins said. “It’ll look bad on everybody.”
What else to look for Sunday:
TRAILING: The Browns have not had a lead in 13-plus quarters, dating to a 7-6 edge at halftime in a 28-7 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 10. Cleveland also squandered a 20-0 lead in a 25-20 loss to Baltimore on Sept. 18, and a 20-7 halftime lead in a 31-28 loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 3.
FADING: Buffalo is coming off a 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh , in which running back Le’Veon Bell had 236 yards rushing to set a Steelers franchise record, and a Bills franchise record for most allowed. A week earlier at Oakland, the Bills squandered a 24-9 third-quarter lead in a 38-24 loss at Oakland.
Aside from a 16-0 win over a New England team minus quarterback Tom Brady (suspension), Buffalo’s five other wins are against teams with a combined record of 17-46-2.
SNOW CROW: Browns running back Isaiah Crowell grew up in the South, but he runs like he’s from the Midwest. Despite slippery, snowy conditions, Crowell gained 113 yards on just 10 carries last week in a loss to Cincinnati. He wanted more opportunities, but Cleveland fell behind 13-0, which changed the game plan. Crowell, who has three 100-yard rushing games this season, feels his running style is perfectly suited for the cold.
“I really feel it’s natural,” he said.
Informed Bell had 38 carries on a snow-covered field in Buffalo last weekend, Crowell said: “I’d take that.”
MEMORIES: Two of Thomas’ favorite games are wins over Buffalo. There was the Browns’ 8-0 win played during a blizzard that hit Cleveland on Dec. 16, 2007. And then there was the 6-3 victory at Buffalo two years later in which Cleveland starter Derek Anderson went 2 of 17 for 23 yards and an interception. Cleveland won on Billy Cundiff’s 18-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining, and set up by Buffalo’s Roscoe Parrish muffing a punt at his 16.
“Two completed passes, an NFL record,” Thomas said. “One of my many records in the NFL that I’m proud of.”
ONE MORE YEAR: When asked if two seasons are enough to judge a coach, Buffalo’s Ryan smiled and said: “I think three years is better.”
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