All it took was a nod from Phil Dawson, and the Cleveland Browns put their recent turmoil in the rearview mirror.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — All it took was a nod from Phil Dawson, and the Cleveland Browns put their recent turmoil in the rearview mirror.
Dawson kicked a career-long 56-yard field goal with 1:39 remaining Monday night, and the Browns escaped Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 29-27 victory over reeling Buffalo when Bills kicker Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute.
"On the spur of the moment, you've got to be confident," said Dawson, who missed what would have been a career-long 54-yarder with 25 seconds to play in a 14-11 loss at Washington in October. "I kicked six field goals one time and we lost, so I'll take five and a win anytime. I want to make kicks to help this team win. I've been here a long time and I just want to see this team win."
The drama in what turned into a wild finish wasn't quite over. Despite throwing three interceptions in his first six pass attempts that helped the Browns to a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter, Trent Edwards guided the Bills back.
Edwards scored on a 1-yard run with 2:25 left to put them up by a point, and after Dawson's go-ahead kick, Edwards hit Robert Royal over the middle for 22 yards to help move the Bills into field-goal range.
The Bills (5-5) figured their three-game losing streak was about to end. Lindell holds the NFL's longest active streak of consecutive field goals made inside 40 yards with 47, is 8-for-11 from beyond 50 yards and has 10 game-winning field goals in his nine-year career.
The Browns (4-6) prayed they weren't about to squander a 13-point lead for the third straight week, and when the kick sailed wide right they celebrated.
Suddenly, they had something to feel good about after being on the verge of unraveling.
"It was very satisfying," said running back Jamal Lewis, who had questioned whether his teammates had quit during a 34-30 loss to Denver on Nov. 6. "Yes, I think this does count as a finish."
Backup running back Jerome Harrison scored on a stunning 72-yard run on the first play of the fourth to put the Browns up 23-13.
The Bills have lost five of six and look nothing like the team that started the season with four straight wins and was 5-1 atop the AFC East in mid-October.
"It's not where we want to be," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "Your heart bleeds for them."
Especially for Edwards, who started his second season with such poise and confidence. Over a 10-quarter span, including the first quarter against Cleveland, he threw eight interceptions, lost two fumbles and gave up a safety.
"It's frustrating," said Edwards, who finished 16-of-26 for 148 yards and a touchdown. "Right now, I don't really have any good answers."
"I would say that as a young quarterback, it's got to affect you when things start to slide a little bit and go downhill," Jauron said. "We have to live through some of these issues when you're playing a young quarterback. You saw him at the end. He took us right back to where we needed to be to have a chance to win it."
Brady Quinn earned his first victory in his second career start and first on the road, going 14-for-36 for 185 yards and no turnovers. Still, he was critical of his performance. The Cleveland defense limited the Bills to 334 yards after surrendering 993 in its previous two games combined and the offense generated only two field goals off the interceptions of Edwards, keeping the Bills close.
"I was frustrated in the first half. We weren't getting it in," Quinn said. "Any time the defense is playing that way for you, you're not taking advantage of that momentum as much as you can."
Cornerback Brandon McDonald picked off an Edwards pass and forced a fumble to atone for being burned on Eddie Royal's 93-yard touchdown that sparked the Broncos' comeback victory 11 days ago.
"I definitely wanted to come back strong," McDonald said. "I told everybody last week. I apologized for the problems that I had. I vowed to myself and my teammates that I was going to come back strong."
At least the Bills rushing attack found a groove. Marshawn Lynch had 119 yards, his first 100-yard game of the season, and also had 58 yards receiving, including an 18-yard touchdown.
Leodis McKelvin also scored on a 98-yard kickoff return for Buffalo immediately after Harrison's touchdown run, and Joshua Cribbs had a 2-yard TD run for Cleveland.
And yet it all came down to a nod and a missed kick.
"When Rian was jogging out on the field, I was afraid that our best effort would be in vain," Dawson said. "But you kick long enough you're going to have days like that. I had mine in Washington this year."